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How we live together: the mother and son caring team

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Max has severe learning disabilities and autism. It’s like having a two-year-old in a teenager’s body

Sat 12 Oct 2019

I am a single parent with two sons, Lev, 10, and Max, 13, who has severe learning disabilities and autism. We must be with him at all times because he needs assistance with everything: getting dressed, eating, going to bed or taking off his shoes. It’s like having a two-year-old in a teenager’s body. I work full time, and if it wasn’t for Lev I don’t think I’d cope as well.

Max isn’t interested in regular games, so Lev has to get creative. Max likes playing with hair, he likes the way it feels – it’s all sensory with him – so the boys play catch with a wig.

In Finland, where I live, there’s a strong belief that everyone is entitled to an independent life, and I get a lot of support – free after-school clubs and a taxi service for Max. But as he gets older and stronger, I need Lev more. I worry that he doesn’t have the life of a usual 10-year-old. On the plus side, he’s much more mature than his peers.

I like looking after Max. I feel that it makes me a better person and a better brother, but sometimes he can make me feel stressed. He pulls my hair and makes me cry, but he doesn’t mean it; he doesn’t know how he can affect me.

Sometimes he can throw himself on the floor and kind of lock himself in. This can be in the middle of the street, and me and my mum have to pick him up, which can be pretty hard.

The house can be noisy and chaotic, but it’s OK and we do have fun.

The best thing about having a brother like Max is that it makes me understand how people like him need help.

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