Why Autism Is Important To Me

Image credit: Kerry Magro

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Well, technically it was Autism Awareness Month, but it changed to Autism Acceptance Month and World Autism Acceptance Day. Don't ask me why they changed this. If you don't know, autism is an important topic for me. My youngest sibling (aka my brother) is severely autistic and nonverbal. This is something I have lived with for 18 years. So, most of my life. I thought I could share my journey with autism for today's holiday. 

My brother was diagnosed shortly after we moved to Florida, before his 3rd birthday. That was a hard day on my entire family. Things changed that day. All of my parents' original plans for the future were erased, in an instant. 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 the bad old days. Even after my dad came back, we still had our challenges. But at the end of the day, my relationship with Joshua was always tight.

My parents told me when my mom was pregnant with Josh, they got me a doll to show me that I was getting a brother, since I was old enough to understand. Once Josh was born, and they showed me him, they asked me "Who's this?" And I replied, "Joshua." I was about 3 at the time. Then there was the time I tried to carry him. Once Josh was diagnosed, things changed for he and I. I was almost 6 when we got the diagnosis. My mom said when she was crying to her mother about Joshua, they never flat out said "Joshua's disabled." She said that I instinctively knew something was wrong with Josh, and since then I've been closer with him. 

I wrote this last year, but I wanted to share it. 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. An autistic child does change everything. It's no longer about yourself, but about someone else.

What autism has taught me is how to be selfless, not care what others think, be genuine, and love doesn't need words. Joshua shows he loves me in many ways, and even though I may never hear him speak, I can live with what he does for me. He has brought my family closer than we possibly would've ever been. Having a brother on the spectrum isn't a curse. I hate rhetoric like this. People like my brother are unique persons. I kid you not. Joshua won't even know the song, but he can recognize a Chris Tomlin, Tobymac, or Blake Shelton song on the radio. He also has a crush on all the pretty girls in country music or Bollywood, which is always hilarious because he will only watch their songs/movies. He's a blessing, and I love him.

If you have any questions about autism, please comment them! I'll answer them to the best of my ability! And check out my other autism related articles!

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