I normally tend to stay away from talking about my family because I feel that some things are better to keep close to your heart. I share so much of myself with others when it comes to my personal struggles so I am weary when sharing issues when it concerns the ones I love. Today I had a change of heart when I saw my friend Ineida post about Autism Awareness Month on her Instagram page. I took that as a sign to share my own experiences as it relates to autism in hopes that I could help others who are struggling.
I have an older brother named Alan who was diagnosed with autism around the age of 2. My mother told me that up until he was 18 months, he would talk and laugh and seemed to be developing normally but all of a sudden, he lost the connection he had with family. He wouldn’t make eye contact and didn’t say much and my mom knew something was wrong. She thought he was having difficulty hearing at one point because he would touch his ears a lot (something he did well into his adolescent years) but it turns out that he was showing signs of autism. As a child, I didn’t understand that my brother was different until I started to compare him to my friends’ siblings. I didn’t have to worry about him teasing or hitting me because he stayed in his own world and didn’t say anything to me. We didn’t play together because Alan wasn’t into playing games like tag or house. He would just sit around and watch cartoons and play with his puzzles. In many ways, I felt like an only child because of the lack of connection between us. There is one moment that happened when I was around 4 or 5 that lingers in my mind to this day. I was looking for Alan for whatever reason and couldn’t find him. He wasn’t watching television or playing with his puzzles so I resorted to looking under the bed and in other rooms to find him. Something told me to look in our bedroom closet and there he was sitting inside of it but he was doing something that I’ve never seen him do before that day or since then: cry. I didn’t know what to say or do because I had never seen him cry in my life and it broke my heart. I tried to console him and he stopped and came out of the closet and started doing his normal routine but from that day on I realized that I had to be there for him in any way I could even if I didn’t understand what was going on completely because even though he couldn’t vocalize it, my presence will always be needed.
My mother is an angel because she has so much patience with Alan and all of his little quirks. He has to drink from the same cup and eat with the same spoon or he will go crazy! Routines and rituals are habits that many autistic children crave and need to function properly. He also has OCD because every door and drawer needs to be shut and every object needs to be in its proper place for him to feel secure and relaxed. Even though I have been around him all of my life, there are many things I still don’t understand about him and autism in general. That is why I am so happy that there “Autism Awareness Month” exists because there are so many that don’t understand what autism is and the tips and tools out there to help people with this disorder as well as to help loved ones who are having a difficult time with the people who have the disorder as well. For more information about autism and “Autism Awareness Month”, be sure to check out the website (http://www.autism-society.org )and be sure to get involved!
I have learned that even though life circumstances may not seem fair or make sense to us, God has a bigger plan for all of us and even though we may see these struggles as broken pieces, all of them fit in the bigger puzzle of our lives and it is up to us to figure out how to unite to connect them back together. We have to do it for all those who struggle in a world that they don’t completely understand. I have to do it for my big brother who may not have tears running down his eyes like he did when we were younger but still needs me now more than ever.