In honor of Autism Awareness, I thought I'd do a more personal, non-beauty post today. If this is not something you're interested in, sit tight and wait for my next post on something more along the lines of my typical blog posts.
For those of you that follow me, you may or may not know I have a younger brother that is moderately to severely special needs. He displays many of the same characteristics to the behaviors and characteristics we often associate with Autism, with the exception of the fact that he is very social. He was born when I was 10 years old (my 3rd sibling). We have no family history of anything on either side, so when he was diagnosed "Globally Developmentally Delayed" at 3, it was a shock in many ways. He was unable to talk until he was around 4--before that we didn't know if he ever would. Most early days were filled with screaming, tantrums, self-stimming, etc. It is hard to understand the family dynamic of a family like this, unless you grow up with a child or sibling that is severely special needs. Your entire family and life revolve around this one person in many ways. But at the same time, we were never bitter about it. When people stared or whispered or women walked by huffing because they assumed my brother was merely a "problem child" I shot them dirty looks right back (I was only a teen at this point lol).
We (mostly my parents and I--my other 2 siblings were too young) were all trained in ABA at home (Applied Behavior Analysis) to some degree so that we could help my brother have a consistent environment between home and school. By the time I went to college I knew I wanted to do 2 things--write and work with children that were special needs--so I pursued both :) It took years of OT, PT and Speech in addition to a number of other services to get him to where he is today. There have been some major bumps along the way (some devastating and some more typical), but life goes on and you keep pressing forward. Watching some of my much younger siblings (my parents took a break between one of my siblings and I and the rest of my much younger siblings), I often notice how much having my special needs brother as a sibling doesn't affect the way they act towards him. They invite him out to pizza with their friends, weight lift with him, take bike rides around the small town I grew up in with him, and of course fight with him ;) I'm so impressed and pleased by the way my younger siblings friends (mostly high school and college age) related to my special needs brother. They are kind, say "hey" with enthusiasm when they see him, skype with him, and even recently celebrated his birthday with him by taking him out with just the guys.
I wish the world was more like this. Thinking about the struggles we've undergone with him and continue to go through (I'm very actively involved in his education and life as he's only 19 and still in school), it makes me wonder why these young people can be so much more open and lack the prejudice and misunderstanding I often see from people my age and older.
One of my own son is currently undergoing testing for something unrelated to my brother, and I see the way certain people within my extended family, people at his school, etc. look at me when I have to explain why he's seeing so-and-so for an evaluation.
Why can't people recognize the struggle without judging it? Why can't people accept that someone is in fact "different" without it meaning someone is less of a person? My brother lives in a world that was not made for him and he works every day to adhere to its set of rules and requirements. Why can't people understand that and go about their day?
Anyway, that's a very brief window into my thoughts and experience on the subject. I wanted to do more than just sport a blue mani today (which I am), I wanted to share a little bit of my brother's story. I hope that as each generation matures and becomes adults that they'll succeed where we've failed, especially in this area. Awareness is so important, which is why a day like today is something I'm proud to take part in!