The Wave: Siblings Our Greatest Teachers

Written by Kathleen Carney at age thirteen. She is sister of Neil Carney, who was then five years old and has autism.

Have you ever worked so hard for something and finally got it? That’s what happened to Neil and my mom.

Neil is my 5-year-old autistic brother and we live in Wichita, Kansas. Autism is a disorder in which most cases it is hard for autistic children to do the simplest tasks. They can’t understand things as quick as you and I can.

My brother, Neil, goes on a bus to his school daily. His bus driver, Jeff, and my mom work very hard on trying to make him wave appropriately, but he never would do it by himself.

“Wave by, bye, Neil,” Mom called. “Oh, he’ll wave someday soon. We’ve worked for a long time and it will pay off”, soothed Jeff reassuringly. Off on the bus he went. Day after day, they did the same routine and he never waved. He would just stare blankly into space. Often times all of us kids, Zach, Martin, Tim and I would try and coax him to wave bye, bye but it didn’t work.

Neil would occasionally say some words. Usually repeating what he heard Mom or one of us kids say earlier. But if we could just get him to wave, it would be a gigantic step in Neil’s life. It would mean he could understand when people where leaving and then maybe he could understand pictures, books and so on.

When Neil got home from school, he would do his normal tearing up of the house and get into every source of water in the house.

Day in and day out when Neil was going to school on the bus, we would wave bye to him. But he never waved back by himself. Nevertheless, we kept working with him and months went by with still no sign of improvement.

Then something extraordinary happened one day. Neil was just about to depart. “Wave bye, bye to Mommy, Neil”, I shouted. Then finally, there was just the slightest, swiftest wave you’ve ever seen. But he DID IT! Mom gave me a big hug and we started crying. We ran into the house to tell my brothers about the big event and we all started to clap and cheer. Mom telephoned my dad at work and was so choked-up she could hardly tell him to big news. She cried a very joyous cry.

Now everyday Mom waves to Neil as he leaves on the bus. Sometimes he waves and sometimes he doesn’t. THE WAVE was such a minute step that made so many people feel incredibly blessed. Each little step Neil makes is such a huge trump for our whole family. Neil still has so far to go. It seems like the mountain we’re climbing will never end and we will never reach the summit. But for now, our family is content on helping Neil progress in any way we can.