What I Wish People Understood About Autism
Growing up, I always knew he was different, different from other people around us. But I still could never understand why, why him? When we went out in public, people would just stare at us for such long periods of time it was almost uncomfortable—it was as though they were judging us and him just for the way he was.
Having a sibling with autism, you have to learn that sometimes acceptance from others takes a lot longer than you perhaps expect or want—and you get used to the uncomfortable looks when people meet your brother for the first time. You begin to realize his needs are more important than your own and that he’s special, but not everybody will understand his conditions due to a lack of awareness.
My role as the sister of someone with autism consists of being crazy every day and constantly expecting the unexpected. It’s stressful when you’re wanting to study for your exams or you have a particular dance show you need to practice and your brother is needing your attention or having a meltdown that you need to deal with beforehand. During this, you begin to grow up very quickly and view life a lot differently than others. You begin to feel so passionately towards equality and the way some people treat people with special needs that you begin to get angry. You stop worrying about or wanting your parents to allow you to stay up later, as it seems almost insignificant when your sibling is struggling with basic life skills.
If only they knew—if only they knew the person I know —the real truth about the person I’ve come to love and be able to call my brother. All they see is a boy in public doing something out of the ordinary…flapping his hands and making loud screeching noises. I understand how at first this can be a lot to take in and pretty overpowering and that people often don’t like to witness something that’s seen different or seen to not be ‘normal.’ But what’s normal?
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So how do you understand this disability known as autism? That’s exactly it…understanding is key. Understanding that some people are different and sometimes people with autism just need some extra love, help, time and attention…so what I ask is: ‘Why does a disability have to define a person or make their self-worth any less than our own?’ Autism is tough and provides us with some scary emotions and will often force us to evaluate certain key factors. But most of all, having a sibling with autism often builds you as a person.
So what exactly is autism? Autism is a lifelong condition that causes some people to view the world differently than others. People with autism often see, hear and feel the world and surroundings completely.
There are many key factors that I wish people knew when having a sibling with autism:
1. Not all people with autism are the same, everybody on the autistic spectrum is different.
2. Just because my brother isn’t the same as someone else they know on the spectrum, then he’s not really autistic.
3. People with autism are the most loving people you’ll meet, and just need a bit of extra guidance and love as well as understanding.
4. Understanding is key.
5. When my brother is making noises or flapping his hands, it’s usually because he’s excited. Feel free to look, but why people stand there with their jaws practically hitting the floor I don’t know.
6. Please accept them the way you expect us to accept you.
Although children with autism may act differently from what we’re familiar with, they are normal. Filled with love, emotion, and happiness.
This article was featured in Issue 60 – Sensory Tools For The Future