He is not like anyone I know. It is not just the factthat he is my brother. Andrew is different. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a form ofautism where you don't have delayed speech, but restricted interests anddifficulty with social interaction and other activities.
I never think ofhim as having a disease, though, but as a person whom I kid around with, screamat, and love all at the same time. That is not what others see, though. They seea 17-year-old boy who doesn't act his age. They point, stare and laugh when allthey need to do is just ask. I would gladly tell them what makes Andrew act theway he does.
What makes him feel the need to shift from one foot to theother? Why does he fidget constantly? Why doesn't he look you in the eye when youspeak to him, and why does he get mad so easily? Why does he scream and slam thedoor in your face? People don't understand the difficulty of living with someonewho is autistic. Those who surround people like Andrew have to try to keep theircool so he won't lose his. Autistic people tend to blow things way out ofproportion because they don't see things the way we do. A simple word can triggeran eruption of emotion or violent behavior.
Sometimes, I stare at Andrewand wonder how he feels as he reads one of his many books, pausing to tell acertain fact to anyone sitting nearby. His hand, as dark as cinnamon, reaches upto scratch his head as his eyes move around in a frenzy. Sometimes I stare athim, without him knowing, and smile. I am so proud of how far he has come. Thatfeeling of pride, though, can be easily destroyed.
Some people are justtoo ignorant to look past the surface. My brother is a wonderful person. He'sextremely bright. People who give him a chance focus intently on him when hespeaks. He has important things to say. He taught me how to read when I wasthree. His knowledge intrigues me when he tells me that the little plastic thingat the end of a shoelace is called an "aglet." Or when he names the order of thepresidents backwards in less than a minute. If people just took the time tolisten to him, they wouldn't be confused.
It saddens me when I try totell friends that my brother is autistic and they reply, "He's artistic?" I justshake my head. I think everyone needs to be educated on this to preventdiscrimination. If everyone knew the truth and saw people for who they areinside, the world would be a lot easier for people with disabilities and forthose who live with them.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.