Autism Awareness and the Sibling’s Perspective
April is World Autism Month!
Last week, Ashley Elrod, OTA, shared with us the role of Occupational Therapy in the lives of children who have Autism. This week we have another great way to celebrate Autism Awareness Month!
We have asked 10 questions to four different people, who either have a family member or work with a child on the Autism Spectrum. We hope the insights from a sister, mother, ABA therapist, and Au Pair give a unique perspective on what their experiences are loving and working with a child who has ASD.
It is said, “if you meet one person with autism, you have met one person with autism,” and we believe this is so true!
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Since Autism is a spectrum disorder each individual has their own set of strengths and challenges, they can range from high functioning to severely challenged. Some may require significant assistance while others may be more independent and in some cases living on their own completely.
Did you know?!
AUTISM AND SGF
Two of the families gifted by Specially Gifted Foundation have a child who is on the Autism Spectrum. Read the Wilson Family’s Story or Malautea Family’s Story to hear about their journey with the sweet boys Waylon and Noah.
Additionally, a Speech-Language Pathologist and Occupational Therapy Assistant offer great resources in our Facebook Group, Specially Gifted Parent Resource Community, every third Thursday of the month. Currently, there are two videos that cover Early Signs of Autism and therapy services offered by the school systems in Georgia. Please join and invite others who could benefit from asking questions to these knowledgeable professionals!
Read more about Therapy Thursday here.
AUTISM AWARENESS AND THE SIBLING'S PERSPECTIVE
1. What is your sibling’s name and describe his personality to us?
His name is Braydin and he’s 15 years old. He’s rather outgoing around most, but he can be withdrawn and timid in certain situations. He’s generally in a good mood and actually prefers company.
2. How old were you when you started noticing the unique qualities of your sibling that were different from yours?
I was older when he was born – 14 – so I was able to notice and understand more than if I would have been closer to him in age. Eye contact was the first indicator and then as certain ages came about that he was “supposed” to be hitting certain milestones, he just was not. His speech was delayed, as well as his gross motor.
3. How old was he when diagnosed? What was your response to the diagnosis?
He was diagnosed when he was 2, almost 3 years old. Because I was older, I understood what it could mean. At that time, I hadn’t heard too much about ASD, but I was mature enough to hear what I was being told and look into it myself. Originally, I thought the worst and feared for how life would be for him, but as I aged and gained more knowledge on ASD I found that there are resources and it’s not a diagnosis that had to stop him or us from living a life we loved.
4. Did you guys spend much time together? What activities did you share?
Because of our age difference, we were obviously in different stages and had much different interests. He’s also my half brother so we spent time away from one another while with our other parents. I believe I’ve done my best to immerse myself into the things he was doing in order to maintain our relationship. He’s very into motor vehicles and video games that have to do with building/driving them. One thing we did and still do, is play video games together. He’s so proud of the vehicles he builds or collects and loves showing me how to do it and educating me on them.
5. What was the biggest obstacle you've overcome in his life being his sister?
One thing I’ve personally had to overcome, is forgiving myself for not being everything he’s needed. The age difference lead to space between us. I was off to college when he was just 4 years old. I tried to be around more for support, but still felt it was never enough. He lives 3 hours away from me now, but when we do see each other I do my best to give him as much time and attention as possible.
6. What is the biggest obstacle he has overcome in his life from your perspective?
Braydin is rather social and I feel that to him that connection to others his age or not has been difficult. He’s dealt with others not understanding him or his situation, and has been exiled. He’s surrounded by family similar in age that he’s been blessed with for that connection he needs, but I do know it’s been hard for him to connect with peers in school.
7. What has your brother taught you?
Aside from ASD, Braydin has many other health issues. With those health problems AND ASD, Braydin has always had to be tough and put up with many doctors appointments, many medications, many absences from school, and just extremely hard days. Through it all, he always seems to start another day with a fresh attitude and outlook on how the day will go. He definitely gets in bad moods and can feel down, but he always bounces back. It’s one thing I do admire about him and is something I should be better at doing.
8. What advice would you offer to siblings who have recently become a part of the ASD club?
Be supportive, be an advocate, and make sure they know they can count on you when they go through tough times. Don’t shy away from speaking up for them.
9. What is your favorite part about being his sister?
My favorite part about being his sister is feeling his unconditional love. He’s very forgiving and even when I feel guilty for lack of proximity, he makes me feel like it’s all good and just wants to show me his new collection of vehicles he’s collected on his game, haha! One moment I’ll remember forever, was when I was visiting him years ago. I sat in on a speech therapy session and she had worked on the “L” sound. That night, when I was telling him good night I used her technique and helped him say “love you.” It was the most precious thing and that’s when I knew I wanted to work with children with special needs… (I’m a behavior therapist).
10. What would you like to tell the world about Autism?
Keep walking. Don’t stare. Don’t pass judgement on behaviors you see. Education is key. Learn and SHARE your knowledge about ASD – especially with your children, if you have them. Teach your children to be accepting of those who may seem different than them.
In conclusion, feel free to add any additional information or comments.
Overall, there are no 2 people with Autism who are the same. Don’t assume things about them. Be open and accepting and they can be some of the coolest people you meet! If you’re a family member or sibling, be there for them.
As told by, Lindsey Williams.
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