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Preparing autistic brother for the wedding

Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My daughter is getting married in a huge wedding, 300 guests. My son is autistic and attending this wedding is going to be a big deal, likely with at least one meltdown.

My daughter wants to hire a service to mind her brother during the wedding and wants a few test runs beforehand. My daughter’s fiance’s family is better off financially, and I know they can afford it. But it makes me uncomfortable, like she wants to hide her brother away for the day and pretend he doesn’t exist because his behavior doesn’t fit with a big, traditional wedding. My husband is not forthcoming with an opinion one way or another.

My daughter is really pinning me down for dates to introduce the caretakers to her brother and I’m hedging. What do you think?

— Uncomfortable

I think she has come up with a way to include her brother fully by meeting his needs. More important even — by absorbing some of the stress so he is less likely to melt down. She’s obviously not just throwing a bandage on things, either. Planning test runs suggests she is committed to his care.

Please work with her, especially since that gives you some say in vetting this service.

More important, stop assuming the worst of her intentions. I get a whiff of harrumphing at the “huge” wedding and the future in-laws’ wealth. Please stop.

Re: Wedding:

Perhaps your daughter is making these arrangements so that YOU can enjoy her wedding with less stress. Perhaps your daughter would like for YOU to include HER at her own wedding, as well as her brother.

— Anonymous

The first thought crossed my mind, thank you for expressing it. The second one didn’t, and it’s so insightful.

Re: Wedding:

I too have a son (15) with autism and we are going to a wedding tomorrow. Please, your daughter is doing everything correctly. What you see as a test run is really the equivalent of a social story preparing him for everything that will happen that day. She is setting him up for success, not failure.

If our son has a meltdown — rarely happens, but could — one of us will have to leave the wedding with him and entertain him elsewhere. By hiring help, your daughter is insuring that you and your husband will be able to enjoy your daughter’s wedding fully, and so will she. She won’t have to worry about her brother, which she probably does a lot. Siblings take on a lot when they have a sister or brother with autism. She’s doing the right thing.

Please accept this help and move forward. Life is too short to quibble.

Plus, you, your husband and your daughter deserve this nice day, and your son deserves to participate to the best of his abilities. And when those abilities fail — maybe they will, maybe they won’t — he deserves the peace of being where he needs to be, even if it’s with a caregiver in a hotel room on the property.

And, for what it’s worth, I have prepared my son for six months for this wedding.

— Prepared

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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