Having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is usually associated with disabilities, speech delays, motor skill disabilities, behavioral issues, etc. Although it does entail all those characteristics fairly often, ASD can affect individuals in a plethora of ways.
Even though ASD is more common in boys than girls, and the cause remains unknown, ASD has become a lot more prevalent over the last few decades. People on the spectrum are usually classified into two main categories, high and low functioning, meaning that low functioning individuals are more severely affected by ASD than high functioning ones. This is why autism is referred to as a spectrum; there are a lot of different ´levels´ of autism an individual may have, and no diagnose is the same as another.
Sometimes the word “autistic” is used as a synonym to either ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid,’ which is completely ignorant and highly offensive to not only individuals on the spectrum and their families, but also to educated people who know what autism really is. As the sister of a 12-year-old boy under the spectrum, I feel it is my duty to spread autism awareness so that my brother, Gabriel, as well as the rest of the ASD community is accepted by an educated society.
My life has revolved around occupational therapy, speech therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, social skills groups, and many other services for my brother ever since I can remember; Gabriel was two years old when he was diagnosed with autism. I was five at the time, and since then, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and challenges for him and our family.
We moved to the United States seven years ago, primarily for his well-being since a lot more services for individuals in the ASD community are offered in the US than in our home country of Guatemala. My parents have always done everything possible to ensure that my brother gets the best help possible to make it easier for him to succeed in our stereotypical society. It has not been easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Gabriel has changed the way I see life; to him, everything is pure and innocent, just like he is.
The struggles I have had to endure have made me appreciate everything I have, especially my hard-working dad who provides for our family and holds us together; my mom, who is my best friend, my rock, and is always there for me when I need her most, and my one-of-a-kind little brother, Gabriel, whom I admire more and more every day.
Despite all the suffering it causes me to watch my brother struggle with daily tasks, I am so proud of the boy he has become. He is extremely intelligent, funny and the most kind-hearted boy I have ever met. I am so proud to call him my brother, and to this day, still wonder how I got lucky enough to be his sister.
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To anyone who has a relative under the spectrum: I know what you have lived, and I know how hard, scary, exciting, and joyful it can all be. Appreciate them, take care of them, advocate for them, and know that even if they do not show it, they love you unconditionally and are just as grateful for you as you are for them.
This article was featured in Issue 94 – Daily Strategies Families Need