A Blessing Disguised as a Curse

December 29, 2008
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It seems that every day you hear a child has been diagnosed with Autism. It’s the catch-all, trendy term. My brother Lee was diagnosed when I was four years old. Then, we didn’t understand what it really meant, only that it would have a profound impact on our family. We learned to embrace Lee’s disorder which ultimately made me and our family stronger.
It is years later now and Lee has grown into a well-adjusted young man or “teenager” as he prefers (he thinks it makes him seem more mature). As an outsider looking in, it isn’t obvious Lee is different; however, he keeps to himself, possesses some funny quirks, and doesn’t know how to act in certain social situations. For instance, Lee is brutally honest to a fault. I remember one night while in Maine, my family and I ran into an old neighbor. He was smoking a cigarette, and Lee stomped towards him and said, “Don’t you know smoking is bad for you?” Our friend was startled and hastily put out his cigarette. Now, this was an extremely blunt and unusual response, but Lee didn’t realize his actions were unorthodox—all he did was state his feelings. Sometimes I wish I could be that honest. It doesn’t surprise Lee that he’s different. Despite knowing about his Autism, he doesn’t sulk and wonder why he got dealt this hand; instead he embraces it. I’ve yet to encounter anyone with an attitude like Lee has towards life. He wakes early every morning with a smile, say he “doesn’t want to waste his day.”
Growing up with Lee caused me to mature faster than others my age. I remember in middle school, many of my peers were intolerant and often cruel to anyone unusual. At my school there was a boy with Down syndrome, and a few students would laugh at him for no reason. While I watched with disgust, I could only think of Lee. I didn’t want him treated this way which gave me a new understanding of those different than me. For the past two summers, I’ve worked as an aide for children with special needs. My work has been both frustrating and rewarding, but my understanding and patience with these children stemmed from only one person: Lee. One of the children I worked with was a tiny eight-year-old who always aspired to do the impossible. I remember him staring intently during basketball practice and his squeaky voice crying, “Let me try!” I took him to the court once and he threw the ball desperately towards the hoop, but always missed. He looked at me quizzically so I lifted him up; together we reigned victorious over the net. As he pranced around over his win, images of my brother flashed before my eyes. I was overwhelmed with the same feeling as seeing Lee overcome obstacles, realizing that no matter the challenge, there are always ways to succeed. Though once we only saw Lee’s Autism as a curse, it has become a blessing in disguise, keeping us all aware of what understanding truly means.

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JerseyGirl716 said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm
Have you been reading my diary? I could have written this. 5/5!
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