Instead of taking the magical route, I went with the technological approach. Our children, after all, are pretty up to speed on the latest technology these days. So I informed him that there was a webcam in the snowman's head and it would Skype a live video feed back to Santa at the North Pole. This answer was sufficient for him and for the most part we saw drastically improved behavior leading up to Christmas.
Our youngest son did not understand the concept of being good for an upcoming day. As everything for him is happening right now and he can't even really grasp the idea of tomorrow, much less behaving well for a month in order to have a reward of presents. Evan absolutely loved all of the Christmas decorations, but the concept was lost on him. He most loved trying to take every single ornament off the tree and throwing the countdown snowman on the floor a hundred times a day.
This worried our oldest son...A LOT! "Mom, Santa is not going to bring Evan any presents, he sees him throwing this snowman down over and over again. He is going to be on the naughty list for sure!" I tried to explain to him that Evan doesn't quite understand consequences yet and really does not even know that throwing the snowman down is a bad thing, he is just very excited by all of the decorations and doesn't quite know how to handle it. I assured him that Santa would probably understand.
So this had become the normal conversation every time the snowman was tossed to the floor. Until one day our oldest instead said, "Oh, Evan, I know you don't know why you do that, but Santa knows you have autism, so I hope you get presents anyways."
Just in case Santa did not already know, he then took it upon himself to prop up the snowman and explain Evan's situation to Santa. It was one of the sweetest big brother moments I have ever seen. Almost like he was defending his little brother's case. "Santa, Evan just has autism, he doesn't always know what he does and he does stuff before he thinks most the time." For a just turned 4 year old I thought this was a rather accurate analysis.
He does not overcomplicate Evan's issues, but he frequently has to overcome boundaries that autism presents to our entire family. He tries to play with Evan and wants to engage him, but Evan will misinterpret his signals and thinks he is trying to take the toys he is holding. So Brennan's prompting for play is often met with him getting hit by a dinosaur. It doesn't stop him from trying though and he rejoices in Evan's successes right along with my husband and myself.
The innocence behind his questions and comments about his brother's autism will melt your heart and for me, they have taught me more than I could ever read in any book. The other day, Evan said a wonderful sentence and asked outright to watch a very specific movie, even naming the characters. Brennan jumped up and down and exclaimed "Evan, you know their names, you know about the movie, you're starting to not have autism anymore!"
He asked for power rangers for Christmas and made an extensive list of toys just like every other kid. But a few days before Christmas he walked up to the snowman and said "All I really want for Christmas is for Santa to take my brother's autism to Never Never Land so he will never have to deal with it again."
All of these comments and with all of the attention we sometimes have to direct to Evan, I know he wishes it was different. He asked if his sister will have autism when she is three or if she will be able to understand him and play with him. It moves me that no matter how much he gets ignored or chased away, he will always ask Evan to play with him and there are moments where he breaks through, like only a sibling can. That little boy lives for those moments. He tolerates listening to screaming at night and usually just turns over and covers his head. He tolerates having to give up a toy he had first if his brother desperately wants it and cannot be consoled. He usually stays very calm when his brother destroys a city he's made out of blocks. He may not completely understand, but he gets it and has matured a lot because of it.