My little brother is autistic. Meaning that he has been diagnosed with complex disorders having to do with brain development, which cause him to have difficulty interacting and communicating with people, whether it be verbally or nonverbally.
We didn’t know it at first. We didn’t worry about him. He was a very active two year old who loved Thomas the Tank Engine and found entertainment in meticulously ripping apart pages of his coloring books. He knew all his ABC’s and 123’s by heart and spent hours singing them at the top of his lungs every single day. I guess it should have worried us more that he still hadn’t said his first word, or that he seemed to be in his own world most of the time, or that he cried easily. He was a late bloomer, that was all.
Things began to change when we took my brother to the hospital for his general check-up. The doctor had given my parents a questionnaire asking questions about his communication skills. I could see my parents’ expressions get more and more discouraged as they filled it out. After looking through the information, the doctor told us that my brother was not up par for his age level in terms of communication. My brother had a speech delay.
So what? All that meant was that he was going to learn how to speak a little later than all of the other kids. That was nothing to be worried about right? Fast forward to January 2014, when my mother received a phone call saying that my brother had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I knew that we had all been expecting it. After the day our doctor told us that my brother had a speech delay, we had many other tests done, and my brother had been going to a special needs school for a little over a year. Nevertheless, my mother started crying after hearing the diagnosis. To be honest, I wasn’t upset. In my mind, all the diagnosis had done was put a label on my brother. He was still the same. He wasn’t like the other kids, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Many people have the misconception that autism is caused by bad parenting. Now, this way of thinking really irks me, mainly because I see firsthand all of the hard work that my parents put in to make my brother’s life as comfortable as possible. Autism is not caused by bad parenting or anything like that. Rather, it is caused by a combination of rare gene mutations and environmental factors.
Another misconception about people with autism, is that they are incapable of being artistic, or intelligent, which is simply absurd. Many of the great thinkers in our world were autistic (or showed signs of autism). Many psychologists say that if Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were alive today, they would probably be diagnosed as autistic. Daryl Hannah, a famous actress, was diagnosed with autism as a child. This shows that people with autism are capable of achieving just as much or even more than non-autistic people. People need to understand that people with autism do not have lower level of thinking, but a different way of thinking. Dr.Temple Grandin, an adult who is on the autism spectrum, says, “I think in pictures, I don't think in language.’’
I feel extreme sadness for my brother. It isn’t fair for him to have to live in a world where he can never be completely content. And I also feel sad that other people don’t get to see him the way that I see him. They only see his diagnosis. They only see him as the kid who is a slow learner or the kid who is prone to having meltdowns.
If somehow, in the future, someone found a “cure” for autism, would we use it? The answer is no. Taking away my brother’s autism is like taking away what separates him from every other five year old in this world. And as difficult as it is to cope with, autism is something that is necessary. The world needs all different kinds of minds. And as Temple Grandin says, “Different…not less.”
“Famous Autistic People.” autismmythbusters.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
Howe, Jeffrey. “The Language of Autism: Disease or Difference?” parenting.blogs.nytimes.org. The New York Times, 14 May 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.
Veronica. “Celebrities and Autism.” Autism Has My Child. N.p., 20 Jan. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
“What Is Autism?” autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.
“The world needs all kinds of minds.” ted.com. TED Conferences,, Feb. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.