Autism has never been a secret in our house–it is something we talk about regularly with the kids. We talk about Jack’s various symptoms, how old he was when he got his diagnosis, and what his future may or may not look like.
Yet we rarely touch on the topic of what it feels like to have a brother with autism, and all the ways it makes their lives harder or more complicated. So this week, when 10-year Charlie asked if he could write something for my blog, I jumped at the chance to see what he had to say.
I asked him a few questions to get him started, but aside from a few grammatical changes, the words are all his.
My name is Charlie. I have three brothers and one sister. My brother Jack has autism.
Having a brother with autism is no different than having a normal brother. Well, besides the fact that he might act a little different. Jack is your average 7th grader except he learns differently. He goes to a school that just helps him learn from a different view point. And there is absolutely nothing I mean nothing wrong with that! He may learn a little differently but that’s OK.
On the first day of his school it was sad because he didn’t want to go. He laid down on the front porch and cried. I hated seeing him like that but then he got up and walked down the driveway. I think he was very brave.
The thing to remember is Jack won’t hurt you even when he gets very mad. And if he scares you by throwing a fit he really doesn’t mean to. He sometimes repeats things over and over again and even I get annoyed with it but I just have to remind myself that’s just the way his brain works. He also jumps around all the time. We call that his zoomies.
Going places with Jack can be fun for the most part. When he doesn’t get his way however, the tables turn. Like when we go out for dinner and the server forgets French fries for jack’s meal he will either yell “Where are my F****** French fries!”
When we go to Disney or something Jack’s on what I like to call his good side. He’s not throwing fits and everyone’s in a good mood and to me he’s just like my friend coming to an amusement park with me for a fun day.
Sometimes I wonder if he will be able to have kids. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like with Jack as a father.
My brother Joey wonders if he’ll be able to drive a car because of the jumping. I don’t think that will be a problem. He will control it.
One thing Jack and I have the same is we worry a lot. We both have a hard time sleeping. He sleeps in the bunk bed under me and I can hear him in the middle of the night. He rolls over and rocks until he falls back asleep.
My mother always tells us that everyone has a piece of autism in them. She says autism is like a jelly bean jar and we each have some of the candy. My jellybean is my worry. In my head I picture it the color red.
Our family has started a new tradition we like to call “Adventure Sunday.” Most of these turn out to be very fun like hiking in the woods, going to see a show, and much more.
My personal favorite was when we went tubing down a river called the Saco River because it was slow and we were all hooked together in a circle with our cooler tube free floating in the center. But the good part is it was just us as a family telling jokes and laughing and smiling. We stopped for lunch on a small bank in the shade. We ate sandwiches for about ten minutes and then floated down the river for about 100 more feet until we reached the rope-swing that swung us into the water. I loved it and so did Jack but it would take him a while to jump. He would stand there and walk to the rope and back up again and again because it made him nervous.
There were lots of people standing in the water watching and they started to get a little mad. They shouted stuff like “Just go already!” and “You are holding up the line!” That made me mad. And sad for him.
Mostly I felt embarrassed for those adults. They were setting a bad example. They should know to be nicer to a kid like him, and not only to a kid like him but to anyone. He was trying so hard.
After about tries he finally jumped. I felt so happy for him that I jumped up and down and clapped. I know it took all of his courage especially with people yelling that way.
If you have a brother with autism I want to tell you it will be OK. You just have to make sure other people don’t make fun of him and you have to love him for the way he is because he will always be your brother and he’s important.