Moms and Maids

Autistic Sister-In-Law

Hi Knotties!

I have a slight dilemma and am need of really clever advice.

My future sister-in-law is autistic, 26 years old.  There was a falling out with another family member over the fact that the bride in a previous wedding said that her wedding "wouldn't be perfect" if she went along with including my future SIL.  Of course, I want her to be involved in my wedding and to wear a bridesmaids dress.  I don't see her walking down the aisle without having a melt down, and I don't want her itching her crotch on the altar either, but I want it to be known that I want her involved in other ways. What are some ways I can do this and SAY this without coming off rude or insensitive?

As always, thank you in advance for your advice!


Re: Autistic Sister-In-Law

  • edited June 2013
    The crotch grabbing is one of those things that your FSIL can't control, so you'll have to be the one to make some adjustments. I've been to many weddings where only the MOH and Best Man stood with the bride and groom during the ceremony. The bms and gm sat in the front first row. Your FSIL will also be holding a bouquet (or whatever the bms are carrying), which will keep her hands occupied. Plan on your FSIL walking down the aisle, but if she's in meltdown mode the day of your wedding, she can sit with her parents and still be listed as a bm in your program.

    The only other honors that I can think of would be ushering or doing a reading, but I'd imagine that either of those honors would be more stressful for your FSIL.
  • kmmssgkmmssg mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    edited June 2013
    Yes, I too, think the first question should be does SHE want to do this?

    My son's has Asperger's Syndrome, but he is fortunately "High-functioning."  I detest that term and wish I could think of a better one.  Autism looks different on each person it affects but I still hate that term.

    He was 10 when my oldest DD got married.  We talked about it and he decided he would be comfortable being my escort for the wedding.  Now he is 18 and would be able to stand in a wedding just fine.  Back then?  No way.

    As Maire said, you will have to be the one making some adjustments to things like crotch grabbing.  Hopefully if she is holding flowers it won't be a problem.

    How prone is she to meltdowns and do you know what her usual triggers are?  Are crowds a big trigger for her?  Emotionally, how old do you feel she is?

    If you have her for a BM, I would have a backup plan in case she sees all those people and decides she can't go down the aisle.  She could just sit down in the nearest pew and the next BM could start down the aisle.

    I really am curious what you know about her triggers and how her family handles this.  Are you being pushed by FMIL to have her?
  • My two sons and my father were to walk me down the aisle. With my one son, on the autism spectrum, we discussed this many, many times and I described it for him many times over the year-long engagement, and expressed how great it'd be if he did this. At the beginning he stated he in no way wanted to participate. Then it went to how he was going to be there, but would just be sleeping during the wedding. Several modifications later, he said he'd walk down the aisle, and nicely, but then he'd go straight to his seat and not listen to the wedding. (lol) I told him I'd be delighted with that. Even the day before and day of, I was still prepared that he might have a meltdown sort of day and there were plenty of family/friends willing to help us out with that.
    He ended up walking down the aisle wonderfully, and sure enough ended up with a chair to sit in (in line with the others, who were all standing up; it was very cute actually), and was actually the best-behaved child there. The point is, I'd give here a "role" in the wedding as bridesmaid if you like, put her name in the programs if you order them, and if she's overwhelmed that day and doesn't walk, and people ask where your other bridesmaid is, I'd say "oh she had to sit down" or whatever and not worry about it :)

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  • Gypsy79, that's a cute story. I'll bet he stuck to his word and didn't listen to your wedding.
  • Oh man, I totally get what you're going through. My brother is a "moderately functioning" 21 year old with autism. (kmmssg, I also HATE that term!)

    FI and I talked to him about what he would feel comfortable doing. We described each role with him, and what it would entail. He decided he wanted to be an usher. Ok, fine. 

    Is your FSIL verbal enough to understand what the different roles are in a wedding, so you could maybe ask her what she would like to do?

    Also, I loved MairePoppy's advice to you about having the MOH and BestMan standing up with you, and have everyone else sit in the front row. How good is your relationship with her? Or your FI's? Would she maybe feel more comfortable standing close to him? Or sitting closer to her Mom? (I'm assuming she's the primary caregiver... I could be totally wrong...) Have you talked to the primary caregiver about what they think she's ready for?

    Also, has she been to a wedding before? If she has the social anxiety issues that sometimes goes along with Autism, she might be totally intimidated by being surrounded by that many people, and even more so by having to walk down the aisle. It might be helpful to figure out a place where she can chill out for a minute if she does have some kind of a meltdown... especially if you're going to have a lot of music at the reception. Over stimulation can wreak havoc. Gotta love sensory processing disorder! (I deal with that a LOT as an elementary school music teacher)

    I'm sorry. I don't think I really helped you at all, did I? Just gave you some more things to stress about! Which is so not what you needed! Those were just the questions and thoughts that I dealt with when we were figuring out how to involve my own brother. I hope it's helpful - you're very very sweet for wanting to come up with a way for her to be involved that will make everyone happy :)
  • My sister has something called Jacobsen Syndrome.  It's impossible to describe it, but the closest thing I can relate it to is Down Syndrome.  People ask me all the time about her level of "function" or what "age" she REALLY is, and those are the most obnoxious questions.  They're impossible to answer.

    My sister is not one of my bridesmaids.  She isn't exactly capable of understanding what that means.  She doesn't know what marriage is, in the same sense that the rest of us on here would talk about.  She just knows that my FI is someone who's now in her life, and is most closely associated with me.  Then again, she's more aware of what's going on than we realize, as her expressive abilities are severly lacking.  Anyway, my point is that it didn't make sense for her to be a bridesmaid.  She's going to be ushered in by my brother right before the ceremony starts.  She'll be the last person escorted to their seat before the mothers.  Do we know how she's going to act that day?  Nope.  But we know all the possibilities, and we're ok with that, because that's who she is.  If it makes anyone else uncomfortable, then I was wrong to think that they're close enough to my family to be invited to the wedding.

    Well, I wrote more than I was planning.  I just wanted you to know that you're not the only person on here who's been in this situation.  Only you and your family can decide what is best here, because you're the only ones who know her.  Everyone has different levels of "functioning".  If you're able to have a conversation with her, I would definitely talk to her about it.  Either way, talk to her parents/caregivers to see what they suggest. 

    Good luck!

    [Deleted User]
  • Is this something she wants to do? That she would be ok with? This is very important. I agree that you should speak with her parents/caregivers to see what level of participation would least induce a meltdown/anxiety attack.

    Some options that I can think of:
    Have the BP sit (as pp's suggested)
    She can sit with her parents after the processional (if that's what she wants, but don't force her)
    She can wear a BM dress, but stay a guest
    She can walk with someone down the aisle (maybe FFIL?) wearing either a BM dress or a different dress, and sit down
    Or she can attend as a guest in whatever dress she wants.

    You have lots of options, and considering that you think she might not be able to handle it well, you may want to just list her has a BM, wear the dress, and not process, or have her walk down with a relative she is close to and sit down with family.

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  • definitely talk to her mother or someone to see if this is something she is comfortable with.  Her being there as a guest and included throughout the process is special enough, but if she will have a melt down then it probably is not her best interest to put her through that--what is your FI's opinion?  Its sweet of you to make it work, so as long as her family is OK with supporting her and helping her out then its definitely do-able.  But its ok to not include have her as a "bridesmaid" and still keep her included in the wedding.

    I taught autistic young adults for years-- they were "high functioning" and all they wanted was to be "normal" (as they would say).  They would do fine in this situation--one of my students was his dads "best man" at his dad's second wedding.  He was so excited for it.  I was invited to the wedding to help my student throughout the ceremony/reception (they just had him arrive 1hr before for some pictures) and it was so cool to see him being so happy and feeling so important.  He gave a toast (which was awesome) and when he was ready to go, we left, which was right after dinner.     

  • LAM524LAM524 member
    100 Love Its 100 Comments First Anniversary First Answer
    Just remember your motive for wanting to include her. She is who she is. I understand your concerns but so what if she grabs anything. Its the heart that matters and it seems that you have a heart for her. Accept her potential and the possibilities and let it go. Stand by your decision and be proud of her...she is your FI's sister. Be proud of yourself...she will be your sister in law...and in the matters most. It would speak volumes to me about you, if I was a guest. Don't punish her for something she may not be able to control especially if she wants to be a bridesmaid.

    What a beautiful gesture of acceptance on your part.

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  • DD was in a wedding where the MOH was the bride's severely autistic 33 yr old sister.  Mom and caregiver worked with her in the year leading up to the wedding to explain what was going to happen, going to the church so she was familiar with the building and practice walking down the aisle. On the wedding day she walked down the aisle beaming with pride and sat in the front pew with her mom.  She wore the BM dress, had her hair done and had her make-up done.  Although she is non-verbal, you could tell she was happy to be a special part in her little sister's wedding.  The bride would have been happy with whatever her sister was comfortable with, but was thrilled she was able to be a big part of the day.

    Moral of the story is to talk to FSIL, her mom and/or caregiver and figure out what she would be comfortable with and then take the time to prepare her for the role.  All of your guests will understand if she is standing at the altar and does something inappropriate.
  • My FI's brother has cerebral palsy. He is being a groomsmen. He is in a wheel chair, has no speech, and basically the brain of a 2 year old. What we are doing is having a bridesmaid push him down the aisle, but then his dad is going to come up and move him next to the pew, rather than leave him up there the whole time. I do realize that I will have 7 BM standing, while he just has 6 but that's okay. I'm happy to have him be a part of the wedding and that's what us and his parents agreed would be best because he can get very agitated easily. If he's by his parents, it'll be easier for him to be calmed down, rather than a scene begin in the middle of the wedding. 

    This could be an option for you. Have her walk down the aisle, and be seen up in the front for a bit, but just have her know that after she does that, she has her "special seat" by her mom/dad. Maybe tell her that when "x" song starts, that's her cue to go sit with her parents. Make her feel special, she deserves that! :)
  • First and foremost, I didn't want a picture perfect wedding. I wanted a wedding that was perfect for US. Our perfect wedding was about family. The day wasn't really just about the bride and groom and that's what we wanted.


    My brother-in-law has Asperger's. Originally he was the best man, but asked to be a groomsmen instead because he didn't want to give the speech in front of everyone. During the year prior to our wedding we "coached" him about his behavior. We continually reinforced what was acceptable behavior and what was not. He was fantastic at the wedding. He was the life of the party and socialized with everyone!

    Another note. When my husband and I first started dating, my husband told me that his brother was "different". Within 20 minutes of meeting BIL I knew he has Asperger's (I'm a teacher). My husband was impatient and sometimes mean to his brother, until he understood what Asperger's was. Now that he knows about autism and Asperger's, my husband is more patient and kinder to his brother. They have a much better relationship now.

    Education/Knowledge is SO important.
  • I have an autistic brother and I agree with all the PP. Talk to her, her caregiver, and your FI to decide how best to include her.

    I am going to have a really small family wedding. Originally when I thought about having a bigger wedding, we thought he could be in charge of the guest book or helping pass out programs because he would have enjoyed that.

    My other advice would be see what she wants. Treat her as the important person she is and discuss with her what she would like to do. Be patient and remember it may take several times of discussing it with her to get the answer that will work best for you guys.

    I applaud you for wanting to include her in your special day. Best of luck as you plan how best to do that.

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