My twin brother Jack has autism. Autism is a developmental disability and it affects people in varying degrees. No matter how much a person is affected, there are challenges. Challenges may include dealing with loud noises, crowds, and communicating with people, to name a few. We can’t stop the noise in our world, for example, but we can become more aware of the people around us and in tune with those who need a little extra help, care, and patience. I don’t expect everyone to become Autism experts and I don’t expect everyone to be able to recognize someone with Autism. However, I do hope people will become more tolerant and respectful of differences.
I don’t claim to know everything about autism. Each individual affected is different. They are all individuals. They are all unique, just like the rest of us. And, just like the rest of us, individuals affected by autism are entitled to the same rights as others. They have the right to enjoy being outside, going places, doing things, having fun, and laughing, without being judged. That is what I do know.
Jack is not odd, he is not weird, and he is certainly not stupid. Jack may not interact the way other people do and he has trouble verbally communicating, but he knows what’s going on and he finds ways to let us know what he wants and needs. When Jack is unable to verbalize his needs, he writes them. He has great penmanship and he’s a good speller. He’s very observant and has a great memory. Jack is also a talented artist. He spends hours every day drawing and painting. Some of his works are framed and hanging in our home. I’m very proud of his talents. I know there are many others out there affected by autism who have amazing talent and things to share.
Autism affects our entire family. While Jack has the diagnosis, all of us deal with his symptoms. But that’s ok. I get it. I understand Jack didn’t choose to have autism. As a result, I’ve never been angry with Jack. This is the life he was given. This is the life we have been given. What’s the point of getting angry? It won’t change anything. Anger won’t cure Jack. Instead, I have tried to do what I can to raise awareness for autism and to help others understand it. I hope that by doing so, the world will be kinder and more accepting of those with Autism and of everyone who is “different.” This is what I can do for Jack. After all, this is not his fault. This is the only life I know. This is my life.
When I was in elementary school, I started an Autism awareness campaign. I had been noticing people staring at Jack, judging us and sometimes even making nasty comments. It was hurtful. This is when I decided to try and make things better for Jack and hopefully for others, too. Through the years, my campaign has been extremely successful across the community and included schools, businesses, and organizations. For example, three years ago, I was inspired by Jack’s love of art to launch “Artfully Abled” which is an art exhibit featuring works by individuals affected by autism. While the main focus of my efforts is awareness, I think it’s also important to highlight the talents of those affected by autism. I want people to understand this disability and to see these individuals’ abilities, too. My autism awareness efforts and “Artfully Abled” are my way of helping Jack and my way of helping others to cope with autism. There’s no point in being angry about it. I want to change things for the better. Most importantly, all of us are coming together to make our community aware, kinder, and accepting.
Having a brother with autism has made a significant impact on me. I think because of having Jack in my life, I am patient, tolerant, and respectful of others; I am accepting of differences. Autism has made me strong. Don’t get me wrong, I wish Jack didn’t have it, I wish he could know life without it. Since that is not a possibility, I now wish that people wouldn’t judge others, distracted by their disabilities. Instead, I’d prefer they accept people like my brother Jack, accept him for who he is and appreciate his abilities.
This Siblings Flaunt has been published in partnership with the fabulously flaunting organization, Siblings with a Mission.