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Donna Walker
Donna Walker

Autistic and Loved: A Brother's Hero

Mar 07, 2018

Oaklee Wren was five years old when in his words, “the missing puzzle piece in his life” came to be.  It was on January 29, 2013 that Oaklee’s world became complete and his hero was born. Tripp, Oaklee’s younger brother, may have joined the Wren family with relatively short notice, but his arrival was met with great fanfare, excitement and joy.

Chris and Lindsey Wren were elated to welcome their new son Tripp into their family. Adoption was nothing new to them. After all, they adopted Oaklee and, shortly before Tripp’s arrival, the family endured a heart-wrenching failed adoption.

Yes, Tripp’s birth was a bright ray of hope for the Wren family.

The new family of four bonded within Tripp’s first 24 hours at the hospital. And even as doctors shared the news that Tripp was born drug dependent due to prenatal exposure to opiates, cocaine and alcohol, the Wrens remained steadfast and determined in their resolve to be Tripp’s forever family.

“Oaklee was five when we had to relinquish rights and experienced a failed adoption.  He was crushed. It was like living an emotional death in the family,” mother Lindsey recalled. “So when Tripp was born, Oaklee was over-the-moon happy! He got really attached to his brother. He called his brother ‘Trippy his real life hero’.”

Around 12 months, Lindsey noticed that Tripp was experiencing some developmental challenges.

“Tripp wasn’t talking. He was screaming and melting down so often that I personally felt like a failure. He wasn’t potty trained, he wouldn’t allow anyone to touch him, and he would have frequent meltdowns when out in public.”

When Tripp was 15 months old, he diagnosed with Autism with Sensory Processing Disorder, along with Developmental Delays, Gross/Fine Motor Delays, Behavioral Delay, and Expressive and Receptive Speech Delays.

The Wrens immediately began researching ways they could help their child succeed. They enrolled him in various early intervention therapies including occupational and speech therapy. Lindsey quit her job to focus on parenting her two young sons, and on helping Tripp.

Nearly two years after Tripp’s diagnosis, with lots of hard work and daily therapy, the meltdowns became less frequent and Tripp began talking. His personality began to blossom, offering his family kisses and telling them he loved them. Today he is a happy 5-year-old who will soon be enrolling in mainstream kindergarten in the Moore Public School system.

But that’s just the beginning of the story.  

From the day Oaklee first laid eyes on Tripp, his devotion to his younger sibling was undeniable and their bond was and continues to be unbreakable. A sensitive, loving boy, it broke Oaklee’s heart to see the way people reacted to his baby brother’s behavior. He disliked how some kids would avoid playing with Tripp and he grieved over his sibling’s challenges.

“With any special needs kids there are all these different things they struggle with. Tripp has a lot of sensory issues as well. We would walk into Target or Wal-Mart, and I don’t know if it was the lights or the big space, but he heard things we could tune out, and he would freak out. People would just stare at us,” Lindsey explained. “It really made Oaklee sad.”

After lengthy heart-to-heart conversations, Oaklee asked his mom to help him write a book to share Tripp’s story. With his mom’s guidance, he hoped to help kids his age better understand his brother and others like him. And on June 22, 2016, on Lindsey’s birthday, the book “Autistic and Loved: A Brother’s Hero” was published. 

The charming 24-page children’s book is one of acceptance and the unconditional love between two siblings, including one with special needs. Lindsey and Oaklee are passionate about helping others gain an understanding of the possibilities of special needs individuals rather than focusing on their limitations or differences. They hope to show kids that while Tripp and others like him may not speak as clearly at times, they like to play outside and have fun just like other kids.

Lindsey said the book has been an incredible tool to share with Oaklee’s classmates and peers to help them understand that it’s okay that everyone doesn’t talk or act the same. She said Oaklee’s friends think it’s pretty cool that he’s an author. They love Tripp and Tripp loves them. In fact, he thinks they are his friends, not just Oaklee’s.

“I was really excited and honored to do the book with Oaklee. Oaklee loves recklessly and has a huge heart. I just thought how awesome it was that he wanted to do this for his brother.”

Lindsey didn’t have huge expectations that the book would be a big seller; she simply relished in the moment and celebrated her eldest son’s love and compassion.

“I was just so excited to publish with my son.  I thought it was just a really unique and fun journey together.  It is my passion, as well as Oaklee's, to help others see how worthy life can be when you help others in need.”

While his book may not top the best seller’s list, Oaklee has garnered some local attention.  Friends, families of special needs children and teachers have enjoyed the reading, and many folks have ordered it on Amazon.

And at Oaklee’s school, a new tradition was started a couple of years ago. Every April in recognition of Autism Awareness Month, Oaklee brings the book to school to share Tripp’s story and recite the words to his classmates. Oaklee’s works have brought awareness to Autism in their own special way. 

The most important critic of all considers the book to be Pulitzer Prize-worthy.  Tripp gives it thumbs up. In fact, he loves the book so much he’s often found toting it around with him, and he loves to have Oaklee read it to him. He was especially excited when he recognized himself in the illustrator’s renderings before the book went to print.

Lindsey has benefitted since co-authoring the book as well. She has met many families with special needs. She’s had opportunities to share her thoughts and educate neighbors on how to interact with special needs kids.  She has made some great, new friends along the way.  

The biggest benefit is the lessons she learned from a compassionate little boy who wanted the world to love his brother as much as he does, and a little brother who loves without bounds.

“Sometimes we go through things we don’t understand. I feel like it gives me a different perspective on things in life. These experiences have taught me to love unconditionally, to be forgiving and to give grace more freely,” Lindsey said.

“Tripp has a brother that has locked arms with him and joined him in the battle of life. Together those two boys have a bond that cannot be shaken and I am forever thankful for the heart Oaklee has and the love he is willing to give and the understanding and compassion he gives daily.”

In a world where we often hear stories of brother versus brother, and daily headlines that are full of less-than-positive news, how refreshing it is to be reminded of the simplicity and hope found in the love among siblings.

How wonderful our world would be, if we lived a life as if through Oaklee’s eyes. As he shares in the final pages of his book, “I find Tripp to be fascinating and I am so excited to help others see the world from his perspective. I think if Tripp did not have autism, our world would be so boring. I bet if you ever have the chance to meet Tripp one day you will fall in love with him, too!” – Oaklee Wren.

You can find “Autistic and Loved: A Brother’s Hero” on Amazon.

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