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Our family is big on making and celebrating moments. It’s one of those weird things when you’re growing up, and you hear people constantly taking a beat to encourage you to soak in what’s taking place.

It usually means a lot of crying. Usually points to plenty of reflecting. Some morbid talk about funerals sneaks in. Then the glasses full of merriment continue to be poured and the fun continues.

This whole experience is heightened in the summertime. Vacations, graduation parties, birthdays, just your average weekend get together – are all heightened by the draw of warmer weather.

But there’s a constant, there’s a pull away. Usually, these summer celebrations are taking place with my sister away from all of us. Focused on her favorite activities – watching a mammoth pile of DVD’s on repeat, doing word searches or waiting for her moment to ask to jump on the iPad or computer.

Kelsey was diagnosed with autism when she was three years old. In the early 90’s, it felt like there wasn’t nearly as much understanding or information as there is today and my understanding of how that would progress was limited, to say the least. I’ve described it to people that in a lot of ways, my sister is this forever 5-year-old who happens to just be in her 30’s.

That’s not to say her absence from our family gatherings is an all-the-time occurrence – and the draw of creating an activity is a bit of a forcing mechanism for my sister to join us. We all know it’s out of her comfort zone. She’s usually quiet and you could easily assume that she’s in a state of deep reflection and meditation.

She’s there. I know that’s what counts, and we know that’s what counts.

But how do you define or pursue summer fun activities with a sibling that will never verbalize if they’re actually enjoying the moment? It’s selfish – there’s no doubt about that. But, going in with the self-awareness of what these moments will mean years from now can be well worth the payoff for the minor self-indulgent notes that you may be thinking of now.

Give each other grace

This is an easy one, but should still be called out. Each person brings to any social interaction what they can. And even the most defined and planned out activities don’t necessarily mean that all of us are always bringing our best selves to them. The same goes for your autistic sibling. That barrier to understanding may be higher, but give each other the room to know that perspective is a wonderful thing.

Make space for the routine

My sister and I have had essentially the same back and forth now for over 30 years. It’s a teasing routine and it can feel tiring to go through the same patterns. Even when we’re on a boat and enjoying the views, it’s important to know that in those moments with me, that’s how she’s expressing her enjoyment. Remember not to isolate or make barriers to that.

Don’t over plan it

Each of us takes the smallest moments from our summer memories with us forward. They were never about the big production, how fancy the location was – rather – it was about the people, the funny incidents and joy that came from those. With my sister, we’ve found that bringing simplicity to our planning allows for the routine and the lack of overplanning to live harmoniously.

When you put it all into practice – it makes for keeping that happiness, that joy, that bliss that we all feel through the summer months, in the perfect place for everyone to take memories from.

Erik James Rancatore is the Agency PR and Media Relations Director for Bader Rutter. His career has spanned marketing, communications, branding and public affairs, where he has helped shape and lead campaigns from the recreational boating industry to nuclear science and state government for well over a decade. He holds a M.A. in Media and Communications from Northeastern Illinois University.

He and his wife Megan have been together for over 18 years, and they have two children that they adore, Flynn (6) and Poppy (2). Of course, he’s also the proud big brother of Kelsey.