The Mighty Quinn

7 years.  Where did those seven years go?  I am sure that every mother does this when her child has a birthday.  Where did the time go?   I know, cliché…it seems like just yesterday that I was the mom of a toddler, and then this new baby popped into our lives and forever changed our family.  It is like this for all families, right?  New baby, family dynamic changes a bit and we march forward with life.

Except THIS new baby was special.  Yes, all babies are special but this one was different.  Somehow I just knew this from the beginning, from the moment I held this beautiful creature.  Here’s the thing…this baby would become a sibling of a child with autism, something I didn’t have a clue about when I met my bundle of joy. Now, at the age of 7, he is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.

When Quinn was born, Rob was not yet diagnosed with autism.  They are almost exactly two years apart. Rob was developing typically, engaged, joyful and happy.  But something changed over the next few months that gave us pause.  We started seeing some odd behavior and we became a bit concerned.  The diagnosis process had begun.

Our path had been altered.  We landed ourselves on the autism road.  Our beautiful baby would not know life without autism (YET!).  He would not remember being a newborn and his brother sharing his toys by piling them up all around him in the bouncy seat.  He will not remember his older brother wanting to hold him.  There is no memory of a brother that wants to engage with him.

Part of the beauty of growing up this way is that for years Quinn didn’t see anything different about his brother, and therefore accepted him completely.  He didn’t know anything other than our family dynamic so he just skipped along, happy and talkative and energetic and loving everything about life.  Everyone who has ever met this child can tell you that he is a remarkable soul and oozes charisma.  He is polite, funny (like seriously funny…has had a sense of humor from the womb), kind, thoughtful and extremely socially in-tune.

Then came the preschool years.  We had some decisions to make.  How do we handle autism?  Do we tell him about Rob?  Do we wait?  We knew he would be in class with other kids and develop relationships with them in ways that he had not been able to with his brother.  They would play with him in ways that his brother would not.  The last thing in the world that I wanted was for Quinn to think that Rob wasn’t playing with him because he didn’t like him, so we made the decision to start talking about autism when he was three.  I am glad we did.  I think it helped Quinn understand that he is loved by his brother, even if Rob isn’t always able to express it.


But how do you parent these two completely different children?  I am not proud to say this but Quinn has definitely gotten the short end of the parenting stick.  Here we have this child who is the whole package…kind, smart, social, athletic, funny, talented, well-behaved…and we should be celebrating him!  But that is just not possible to do in the traditional way in our household.  Rob’s needs have always demanded a bit more of our time and energy than our easy going, piece of cake NT son.

We had to change the way we encourage in our home and move away from automatic ‘praise the outcome’ type parenting.  We do not acknowledge accolades in our house the way that most people do.  We have become much more process/journey based in our acknowledgement of a job well done. Quinn scored 3 goals in the soccer game?  I say to him, “I am so proud of what a good team mate you were, cheering on your team and passing the ball.  Did you have fun?”  Quinn gets all the problems correct on a math assignment? “You worked hard and made sure you finished your assignment. Nice job”  We had to change what we value here so that both of our boys can be capable of receiving the same type of praise from us.  We value manners, team work, kindness, working hard, and respect for others.

Quinn has missed out on a lot growing up with our family dynamic.  He doesn’t have a typical relationship with is brother.  He has not had typical parenting from us.  We are just not a typical family. There have been many, many times where his needs were overlooked and flat out not met because we had to meet the needs of his brother.  Most of the time he graciously accepts it, and some times he does not.  Is any of it fair?  Not really.  Does he know he is loved?  A million times over…YES!  I am certain of one thing.  When Quinn faces a disappointment in his adult life he will have the skill set and the ability to cope with it, and will do it with grace and dignity.  He does this already at 7.

The hardest part about watching my boys grow up is seeing the longing that Quinn has to play with his brother.  He wants it so desperately.  He craves it and does everything in his power to engage Rob.  I am grateful every day that he works so hard to draw Rob out and to bring him into his world.  Quinn truly brings out the best in him and often can get Rob to do things that no one else can.

He said to me just recently, “Sometimes I am bored because I want to play with Rob and he just doesn’t want to.”  I had to reply that yes, I understand his feelings.  BUT, Rob is starting to play more and more with him, so we highlight the progress.  We try to show Quinn all of the positive things about his brother and their relationship.  First and foremost that Rob has shown him nothing but love, and deserves that in return.


Dearest Quinn…we are fighting like mad to give you what you want.   A more typical relationship with your brother.  We work toward that every day, for you and for him.  You both deserve the moon, the stars and every ounce of our efforts.   Thank you for always supporting your brother and looking out for him, at home, at school, on the playground and on the bus…(We know you do it even when we are not watching). Thank you for your patience through countless hours of doctor visits, blood draws, therapy, and eternally boring waiting rooms. Thank you for sharing a room with your brother and letting him have the top bunk. Thank you for eating a special diet and doing it with a smile and understanding why. But most of all…thank you for supporting us when we need it, by simply making us laugh, dancing like a fool and never taking yourself too seriously…we love you more than you will ever possibly know, Dad and Mom


I know that Quinn is who he is because of Rob.  Rob has helped shape the way that Quinn views the world and how he interacts with it, always with love and kindness.  Quinn is continually shaping who Rob is by being the best friend, therapist and champion that he will ever know.  They both have changed who my husband and I are.  I can not imagine a world without these two beautiful blonde boys by our side.  We are so blessed that seven years ago today we were able to welcome the most incredible child into our lives.  A special child who would become a sibling of a child with autism and the heartbeat of our family.

Quinn, you are so very loved.  Happy Birthday!  This one’s for you…

This post is dedicated to Quinn and the thousands upon thousands of amazing children like him who are champions for their siblings with autism. Please know that we love you with all of our hearts and souls.

~Sunshine ☼

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33 Responses to The Mighty Quinn

  1. Donna Cordia says:

    Meg, this is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read from a mom to & about her child. Since I met Quinn, I always felt he was a special child. No matter what mood I may be in, when I see him, he makes me smile. After reading what you have written, I will see him as the same little boy but in a different light. He will always take care of your beautiful Rob because that is what you & Jon are teaching him. Hugs & kisses to both of your amazing children.

    • Sunshine says:


      Your comment brought tears to my eyes…thank you so much for being such a supportive friend. You are always looking out for my boys, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. AND you are raising sweet, caring, loving children who are always so kind and thoughtful…especially toward Rob. That does not go unnoticed either. Thank you for being part of my village!


  2. Professor says:

    The mighty Quinn indeed. <3

  3. Cat Jameson says:

    What a beautiful post about a fabulous boy! I’m so glad we got to meet The Mighty Quinn and the brother he protects so fiercely.

    We need to meet up again…soon!
    xoxo, Cat

  4. Maryann of Matthew's Puzzle says:

    Our middle son is very similar. He is always bouncing back and taking it all in stride. Amazing how much we learn from our children.

  5. Ana Maria Abba says:

    Happy Happy Birthday Quinn; you are an amazing boy! Ryan is so lucky to have such a wonderful brother.

    Sunshine what a sweet post! I could not even finish as I was getting so emotional reading it. I have a young daughter who just turned two and she is also getting the short end of the stick 🙁 I am so thankful though that she is well and able to show my son how to talk and play. My son who is 4 just started to recognize her and finds her so funny! Its so cute to watch. They are starting to be able to play together and it just warms my heart.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and sweet piece.

    God bless,

    Ana 🙂

  6. lori says:

    what a beautiful story about your mighty quinn. it sounds like he is the best brother rob could have. i am the mother to a quinn, and we named him after “the mighty quinn.” we play the bob dylan version of the song for him whenever we can.

  7. savage TMR says:

    I just fell in love with those pictures!! What beautiful boys!! Um, Maggie Mae we’re gonna have to fight for Quinn because I’m currently arranging his marriage to my own lovely daughter. I really want her to have a kick ass mother-in-law 🙂

  8. shannon says:

    Over here my HFA guy gets the short end of the stick because his older brother is “half aspie” and raging ADHD. Will the guilt ever end?

  9. Maggie Mae says:

    Can my Megan marry Quinn please? Together they could rule the universe, spreading knowledge as only an older sibling could. Beautiful. I can’t wait for Meg to get off the bus so I can hug her….

  10. Marcella says:

    Amazing post. Reading through tears. Our children are such wonderful teachers.

  11. Melinda says:

    This one made me cry … Happy Birthday Quinn! You indeed are a special little man … Your love and kindness to your brother will not be overlooked…. but rather one to be honored. You join in this walk your brother is taking with grace and humility and your love shines through for all to see. Hope your birthday is full of great blessings … you deserve it! My son also has two such special sisters. It is not easy to be a sibling of a brother/sister who struggle … but you guys make it look like it should … A joy.

  12. Diana Gonzales says:

    Oh how the guilt has torn apart my very soul. To knowingly neglect many times my 7yr old daughter to attend to her 6yr old brother. She is so over it now. She has become Mom#2 and loves her role in his life. I catch myself apologizing to her and she ALWAYS tells me its okay. She will continue to fight when I no longer can. She tells everyone her dream is to be a Dr. so she can help her brother, stop Autism from happening to other babies, and fix Mom’s heart! I’m a single mom but we are all together in this and she never lets me forget! I know in my heart, she will make a difference someday!

  13. Jaimie Condon says:

    Beautiful! My son Karter is 3 and diagnosed with PDD-NOS in January. My other son Jaxson is 4 and they’re exactly a year apart. What did you say to Quinn or how did you explain to him about Rob’s autism. I want to be able to talk with Jaxson about his little brother Karter but I don’t know how to start the conversation or what to say to him in a way that he can understand. Thanks for writing this it was very beautiful and helpful.

    • Sunshine says:

      Jaimie, We started out very simply. Explained that Rob’s brain works differently than other kids, and sometimes it is difficult for him to play or to talk in the ways that other kids do. We constantly reinforced the fact that Rob loves Quinn and found lots of ways that we knew it was true for Quinn. There are a lot of great books out there too. Since We are Friends is a good one, and My Brother Charlie. You will do a great job…and thank you for reading!

  14. B.K. says:

    Oh, Sunshine! Tears! Thank you for this beautiful post. I wish L had a Quinn in his life. Happy Birthday Quinn!!

  15. Kerri says:

    Happy Birthday Quinn. And thanks for doing the best for your brother. You are a special fella. Being the brother of a guy in autism recovery is the “toughest job you´ll ever love”. Mom and dad are amazing. You will grow into a sensitive man and change the world around you.

  16. Gabriella says:

    Love the Quinns and Xanders of this world. xoxox

  17. Jeanette says:

    What an amazingly inspiring post, Megan- it brings tears to my eyes reading about the love you have for your boys. They are so lucky to have you as a mom just as you are to have them. Lots of love from the Brennans! Happy birthday, Quinn!!

  18. Blaze says:

    Tears! The siblings will save The World! Watch them go! Happy Happy Birthday Amazing Mighty Quinn!!!

  19. Poppy TMR says:

    Happy Birthday, Quinn <3 Your mom made me cry with this post xo

  20. LaTisha says:

    Thank you, Megan, for sharing your beautiful boys with us. Thank you for being such a wonderful example of parenting and love. Oh, and thank you for making me cry FIRST THING in the morning!

  21. Susan says:


  22. Lisa F. says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Quinn is lucky to have you as his mom and You know how lucky you are to have him :-)…I have a child daughter like Quinn and your note meant so much to me.

  23. Nicole says:

    Absolutely beautiful! This post brought tears to my eyes.

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