For Autism awareness day I decided to share a story from a girl in my work place. I actually also have an older brother that is severely autistic.
"When people ask me the fairly innocuous question, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I reply with some trepidation, “Yeah, I have a younger brother but he’s autistic”. I anticipate the next probing and potentially awkward question: “Does he talk?” “Umm, actually… no. He’s severely autistic have an older brother that is severely autistic'
It’s a hard situation but I’d rather people ask me this than assume my brother, leads an almost normal life.
There are so many myths about autism perpetrated by its portrayal in modern culture that it is perfectly understandable that people are unsure about the basics. A clear definition of autism is expected – like for any medical ailment - when in fact the spectrum is so wide and multi-faceted, there simply isn’t one.
Autism was perhaps first brought into the limelight in recent times in the Oscar-winning movie, Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond, displayed the classic signs: inability to make eye contact; a literal interpretation of the world; descent into ‘meltdown’ if routines are broken. Andrew is pretty much like that - autism can be characterised by little or rudimentary social skills and a regimented approach to life. If structure is taken away, it can feel to an an autistic person as though their world has caved in.
However because of the way autism is portrayed in some modern culture, there are traits which people wrongly associate with autism; Raymond (as well as other famous autistic people such as Einstein and the boy from A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) has genius-like mathematical ability - Andrew isn’t a maths prodigy by any means, but he does have talents in escape arts and has been known to surreptitiously climb out of his ground floor bathroom window and make it into the car park at 2am. People also believe that autistic people cannot love or be affectionate, wrong again; Andrew shows his affection by playing and sniffing your hair!
Going back to the first question about autistic people and speech, not everyone can talk like Raymond – he is known as high-functioning. Since Andrew is low-functioning, he can only communicate sounds, not words.
Although I am grateful to movies, books and plays for making autism mainstream, I would like to emphasise how complex the spectrum is that one cannot take the facts learnt from popular culture at face value. World Autism Awareness Week, which runs from 27 March to 2 April this year, will help change this situation and bust those myths surrounding such a unique and fascinating condition."
There you have it guys, my brother is very much like Andrew in that he has no speech and loves routine, but the dear Lord blessed my family with him and for that am forever grateful, my mum used to blame herself but with awareness you realise so many people live with autism 1in 50.
Thanks for getting all the way here!
***disclaimer the story of Andrew is not my story and has to used to spread awareness of autism. I do not take any credit for the writing***