In honor of April’s Autism Awareness, today I refrain from my usual short stories. With this blog I’d like to give you an insight of how life was growing up with an autistic brother. My younger, and only, brother had gotten diagnosed with autism at the age of three, I was five. My parents’ wondered why my brother’s developments weren’t as mine had been at that age. He had only said mama and papa a few times, however there came a day where he said nothing at. He would make mute noises rocking back and forth covering his ears as to block out any disturbing sounds. My brother also was very active having a high tolerance for pain, he was fearless, sort-of-speak. I remember when he would jump off the tall entertainment center, popular in the 1990s ,that held the television and stereo landing on his feet like a little cub. However, I never thought of my brother as “sick”, he was only unique to me, one of kind for sure. He was always a happy child, laughing and giggling to whatever joyous world was built inside his head. Unless, it was one of those frustrated moments when our mother or father couldn’t understand what it was he wanted, one of his tantrums was equivalent to ten of mine. I remember sometimes he would even fight with me just like any other sibling would, though he would pull my hair, I never felt any kind of resentment towards him because to me it was simply a normal dispute.
My parents did an amazing job when it came to demonstrating an equality of love and affection towards us. Even at en early age I understood my brother just needed more attention than other children in general not just me. I understood some of the challenges my parents faced, in particular my mother. The unique care that was required from her had limited her in the work field. I remember one time she came home early from work and didn’t return the next day or the next. When I was older she had told me about an employer who had requested for her to place my brother in an institution claiming that he took up to much time from her work. You see, my mom was an assistant and her boss wanted her to take up extra hours. However, she worked enough and the audacity that someone would ask her to choose between her child or her career not once but twice set my mother in a rage. It was absurd! Of course she would choose her child, what mother wouldn’t.
There had always been an extinct of protection towards my brother. When I was about eight I remember how upset my cousins and I would get whenever other kids would make fun of him on our summer visits to the playground. How defensive we would get when they’d laugh at him because he couldn’t speak and he made “weird” noises. Not realizing they were only ignorant children who weren’t as privileged to recognize a special child. I remember wanting the push the bullies away from him, but my mother would say they can’t hurt him with their words. My brother would always just be happy to be outside enjoying the weather truly he didn’t understand when he was being teased, but it did hurt me.
As we got older our bond just grew and we eventually discovered our own way of communication. My brother knows little sign language so by identifying expressions and body language it made it somewhat easier to understand what he wanted. From the time of his diagnoses to the time he was sixteen, he attended a wonderful school designed to tackle disabled children with all sorts of conditions. Change was difficult for him and til this day my mother tries to avoid any significant changes. However, High School was a change we couldn’t avoid when we relocated to another city. Through frustrations and hard work he did it though. Being placed in spacial classes, after six years he gets to graduate this June, class of 2016, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Today the love I have for my brother is greater than what any sister can ever feel. Thanks to my brother I grew up to be someone of compassion and patience. It’s easy for me to put myself in others shoes because along with my parents we have been my brother’s voice. It must be unbelievably difficult to not be able to express your wants and needs. Having to depend on others to get it right. Though I flew the coop awhile ago, now raising a beautiful family of my own, whenever my brother and I reunite the smile on his face is worth more than all the fortunes in the world. He simply lights up not only the room but your entire heart with his innocence, he will be twenty-two this summer, my mother forever his caregiver as she would never turn her back on her baby boy. And when she is no longer able to care for him, my brother and I will once again share the same home.