Having a Brother on the Spectrum

The moment you have been waiting for! To close out April aka Autism Awareness Month, I'll describe what my life is like when living with an autistic person.

Autism … offers a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of ...
My brother has autism, is nonverbal, incapable of functioning independently, has a strict diet because of his autoimmune/digestive disorders, and cannot walk flatfooted. He used to have sensory problems, but grew out of it. After his diagnosis, our lives were forever changed. Autism was still new, so insurance didn't cover therapies or medical treatment. My parents couldn’t afford the bills, so my dad worked in New York for an additional two years, while my mother stayed home with my siblings and I, taking care of us and the house. She would have to take my brother to speech/occupational therapy 4 days a week, 45 minutes both ways. Those were hard days. Things got easier once my dad moved here. I hate when people say I'm "entitled" because my family is well off and Republican. Supposedly, I come from an "always-been rich family who never worked hard." If you knew what my family went through to get to where we are today, you'd eat your words. I was the "envy" of my classmates because we could afford certain luxuries, even though we're Indian and have a disabled child. But enough of my rant.

An autistic child does change everything. It's no longer about yourself, but about someone else. Instead of living on campus, I commute to school (which is an hour away), so I could be home with Joshua. Why? He doesn't understand why his sister is gone, and doesn’t like it. People on the spectrum aren't good with change. Do you know of anyone who would do this for their sibling? Probably not. In high school, when my classmates were going to the movies or the beach, I wanted to go, but I was needed home to help with Joshua. Same goes for the present. I can’t begin to explain how much I would like to hear him speak. To hear him say my name, or an “I love you.” Going out to eat with Joshua, we have to order for him, make sure he doesn’t grab food, and feed him. It’s usually my dad and I on each side of Joshua. Thankfully, I had two wonderful parents who ensured my sister’s and I’s happiness, so 1) we'd stay close to our brother, and 2) because they feel guilty to know when they're gone, we will have the weight of responsibility with our brother.

^^My first tattoo
I matured quickly compared to my peers. They don’t have to think about their sibling’s future, if something is physically/mentally wrong with their sibling, if he/she should be in a group home in the future, who you'll choose to marry/if they will accept your brother, or if something happens to your parents tomorrow who will care for him (financially, making medical decisions, providing for him). I think of these things. You become a “parent” to that sibling with autism. I constantly worry about Joshua. You do everything you’d do for a baby. You also see how bad the world can be. There have been a number of occasions where people gave my brother dirty looks because of his “annoying” behaviors. 

Since I was 2.9 years old (according to my mom), I’ve been close with my brother. Even when he was diagnosed, nobody said that something was "wrong" with him, but my parents said I knew instinctively. People see how close we are, and two stories come to mind. The first was when I was volunteering to throw a Christmas party for a school of disabled children/adults with my high school. Ironically, the party was held at my brother’s school. I got to meet his gym teacher, principal, vice principal, his homeroom teacher and aide. They were shocked to see how well I cared for Joshua at the party. The second story was when I was at SAS. I met this girl named Giselle. Allie Stuckey discussed why conservatives should have big families. I said, “Not gonna happen.” Giselle asked me why I don’t want a big family, so I told her “My brother has autism, and will live with me, so having a big family might be hard.” She thanked me for what I said, because she was so impressed that I would do something like this. Click the first image where you can see my principal from high school discussing my personality and my brother.

I'm not sure if my brother understands the brother/sister relationship, but he recognizes me. My grandmother told me when someone calls her, Josh will hang up on them. If I call, he answers it and hands the phone to my grandmother. I’m always proud of his accomplishments, big or small. My brother is very social. He loves to hug, high five, or kiss everyone. He knows when he does that and says 'please' in sign language, I’ll do whatever he wants because I’m a softie. People ask me if I wish Joshua were normal. There are some aspects to life I wish he could experience, but I wouldn't change a thing about him. Autism has taught me:

  • Don’t be so quick to judge someone by their behaviors.
  • Be compassionate and kind.
  • To not care what others think.
  • Be selfless.
  • Love doesn't need words.

My brother has made me the best person I can be. As hard as it has been, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love my brother. That’s why I hate eugenics or when someone says they’re sorry for me. Josh is the most important person in my life. This is what my life is like with an autistic sibling. I’m grateful God he gave me someone like Joshua. In closing, please remember to not judge someone who’s acting "weird," because they might be like my brother.

What did you think of my testimony? Comment down!!

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