The One Person This Autistic Boy Can Easily Make Eye Contact With Is His Sister With Special Needs

ADVERTISEMENT

Lauren Casper adopted her 2 children, Mareto and Arsema, from Ethiopia almost 4 years ago. And like most decisions when it comes to raising kids, it was the best thing she and her husband John ever did. In her blog, Casper talks about the challenges and the joy that comes from having a son with autism and a daughter with her own special needs. Below is a quick snapshot (pun fully intended) of what their family life has been like over the past few years.

Lauren Casper

Read More

“We lost our first baby on September 16, 2006. That loss shaped so much of how I view life and family and love. My husband John took this photo on one of those anniversaries. I like how everything is a little out of focus because that’s how I felt for a long time after losing our baby.”

Lauren Casper

“We flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the first time in January 2011 to meet our son, Mareto. The next month we flew back to bring him home. I woke up one morning in the hotel to see John holding Mareto by the window and was just struck by how beautiful that moment — and our lives — was, so I snuck a photo.”

Lauren Casper

“When Mareto was about 18 months old we took a vacation to Topsail Island with my whole family. As we were walking back up the dunes John turned around to see if I was coming and I saw this incredible silhouette of my husband and son with the sun setting behind them. So I yelled, “freeze!” and took a photo. But when I look at this picture what I really remember is that this is when we started seeing signs of autism in our son. It was during this vacation and this season of life that we realized something was going on, even if we didn’t have a name for it yet.”

Lauren Casper

“Mareto loves trains and always has. If he’s having a hard day or getting panicked or having a meltdown, he can usually calm himself by watching train videos or playing with his toy tracks. One Thanksgiving we traveled to Illinois to see my grandparents and the trip was tough on Mareto. John found this train station and took him every single afternoon to watch the trains arrive.”

Lauren Casper

“We flew to Ethiopia in July 2012 to meet Arsema and spent every day of the week at the compound she lived in. It was the beginning of the rainy season and we had to stay inside most days, but whenever it wasn’t rainy we took her for walks around the yard. I love the way John cherishes our children and I think you can really see that here.”

Lauren Casper

“We brought Arsema home in October of 2012 and were expecting our lives to be a bit shook up for a while. Mareto has just recently been diagnosed with autism and we didn’t know how he’d adjust. Adding a new baby into any family can rock the boat for awhile, but we were amazed by how smooth everything was. Mareto was immediately attached to his sister and life fell into a rhythm pretty quickly. We spent a lot of mornings snuggled in bed all together just reading and chatting and giggling. John took this photo just two days after Arsema came home”

Lauren Casper

“Mareto and Arsema have had a special bond since the first night she came home. Some people on the autism spectrum can have trouble making eye contact, and we definitely notice that in Mareto. But it doesn’t come out with his sister. He can interact and talk with Arsema easier than anyone else on earth, and he has no issue with looking her right in the eye. I think she’s his safe place — he feels most comfortable and at ease with her.”

Lauren Casper

“Mareto and Arsema do better when they are together. Arsema keeps Mareto calm and relaxed and Mareto makes Arsema laugh. I snuck this picture from the doorway of Mareto’s room just a week or so after Arsema had a big surgery. She’d been miserable and we struggled with pain management for awhile, but if she was with Mareto she was mostly happy. Neither could talk yet but they knew how to communicate with one another anyway.”

Lauren Casper

“Arsema was born with amniotic band syndrome, a condition that caused the loss of some fingers and toes in utero and also some webbed digits. When we brought her home the doctors were skeptical that she would be able to stand or walk without surgery and physical therapy. But she stood up and started taking steps the week of her first birthday — 3 weeks before she ever had surgery. I took this photograph on her first birthday — we cheered ridiculously loud for her every time she stood.”

Lauren Casper

“Arsema is just about the happiest child I think I’ve ever met. The night after we first met her in Ethiopia, John and I sat in the hotel room talking about her name. We decided to keep both our children’s Ethiopian names, but we chose a middle name for them. I turned to John and said, “What do you think her middle name should be?” He smiled and said, ‘Joy.’ It is a perfect fit.”

Lauren Casper

“We are happiest when it’s just our little quartet doing something ordinary — hanging out on the slides at the playground, walking by the river, going for ice cream. I don’t take those moments for granted because I’m acutely aware of how close we came to never getting them at all.”

Lauren Casper

“When Mareto was 3 years old he grabbed my camera off the kitchen counter. For some reason I didn’t stop him. I watched silently as he moved around the house snapping photos and set the camera carefully on the floor when he was finished. I ran over to see what the photos looked like and was blown away by the gift we’d discovered. I told him he could use my camera any time he wanted. One morning he took this picture of Arsema with the sun coming in through the blinds. It’s breathtaking.”

Get Fatherly In Your Inbox