A Twin’s Journey into Autism | Teen Ink

A Twin’s Journey into Autism MAG

November 15, 2014
By KrisKat BRONZE, Ridgewood, New Jersey
KrisKat BRONZE, Ridgewood, New Jersey
1 article 1 photo 1 comment

I am one of those rare people who has the good fortune to be a twin. My sister, Isabella, and I share many traits, tastes, and opinions, but there is one important difference between us: Isabella is autistic.

Autism affects one in 88 children. It is diagnosed more frequently than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined. Thousands of families are affected, including mine. The special care and services an autistic child requires can place a significant financial burden on families. Isabella has received occupational, physical, and speech therapy, as well as applied behavioral analysis. People who don’t have firsthand experience with it may view autism in a negative light. Some ask ignorant questions about my sister and make hurtful comments.

For instance, we were shopping for shoes once when Isabella picked up another customer’s water bottle and drank from it. The owner of the bottle screamed at my sister and accused my mother of raising a teenager with no manners. She yelled, “What’s the matter with her?” I stepped in and apologized, explaining that my sister is autistic, and my mom gave the woman money for a new bottle of water. The woman then quipped, “Well, she looks normal.” I told my mom later that I struggle to understand how people lack tolerance and why they react with such vehement anger. She told me that I shouldn’t judge because I really do not know anything about that stranger.

I still struggle at times – it is hard to view intolerant people with compassion, especially when they mistreat your loved one. But I am starting to understand that teaching others about autism is ultimately more powerful than reacting in anger.

Because I want to share my family’s experiences, I volunteer with a number of organizations that help people with autism, including the Autism Theatre Initiative, Pony Power Therapies, and the Brooklyn Autism Center. I have also spoken about autism at a number of local groups. I urge people to be kinder and try to teach them that those with autism can lead successful lives too.

My latest endeavor is a collaboration with the Alpine Learning Group (a school for children and adults with autism) and a bake shop called Baked in a Cup. We created a specialty cupcake called the Alpine. Every time one is sold, a portion of the proceeds goes to the school.

Last fall, my mom and I volunteered with a local 4-H Club to clean up a local cemetery. We were hesitant to bring Isabella into this unfamiliar setting, since changes to her routine and new faces can overwhelm her. But, we decided to give it a try, and Isabella had a great time. She enjoyed being outdoors, exercising, helping, and socializing. She participated by raking leaves and picking up garbage. She laughed and did several of what we call her “happy twirls,” where she turns around in a circle one time with a big smile. She never looked scared or overwhelmed. She posed for a group picture with the other 4-H volunteers and held up her fingers to make a “4.” We make an effort to include Isabella and take her out to community activities as often as possible.

On my journey through life with my twin sister I’ve gone through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. At my high school, there are several sets of twin sisters, and I have felt envious of their close relationships and their ability to participate in typical teenage activities. I’ve felt angry that Isabella can’t always share the same experiences as me. However, I am now gratefully experiencing a new stage – acceptance.

I love my sister, and I love having her in my life. I have grown to accept and appreciate her for who she is. Just last night, I was studying for my math mid-term and she came in the room at just the right time and said, “You’re awesome.” She is kind and never judges. She hugs me, kisses me, and shows me genuine emotion and love. She makes me laugh so hard. She loves the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and when we play it, she dances with abandon. She is fearless, and as a result is a much better ice skater than I am. She continues to better herself by writing in her journal every day.

Yes, I wish I had a twin to equally share all of life’s experiences, but Isabella gives me so much, just in a different way.

The author's comments:

When my incredible twin sister, Isabella, was diagnosed at an early age with autism, my family realized that not only would she have special needs, but we made a commitment that she would also have a special life.  As I grew into the young woman that I am today, the road has had challenges, but I can honestly say that my journey has been more rewarding than words can convey.

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This article has 5 comments.

on Mar. 15 2015 at 6:35 pm
Allen. PLATINUM, Palo Alto, California
32 articles 9 photos 525 comments

Favorite Quote:
[i]No matter how much people try to put you down or make you think other things about yourself, the only person you can trust about who you really are is you[/i] -Crusher-P

Very, very well written and touching. You give a clear look into life with an autistic family member.

on Mar. 5 2015 at 4:12 am
Eleanor4 PLATINUM, Christchurch, Other
21 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
- Oscar Wilde

I have a beautiful identical twin. She has epilepsy, which was possibly caused during my mums C-section as we were a rushed birth and she may have bashed her head causing scarring on her very fragile brain. Obviously this theory is not conclusive but is what doctors suspect. I understand the challenge of feeling like you need to always take care of someone with what the world considers a 'disability.' What you have gone through shows how amazing and strong you are, it can be really hard at times. But our sisters give both of us so much and I wouldn't trade her for the world. Much love xxx

impulse said...
on Mar. 4 2015 at 5:24 pm
I have a form of Autism myself. In my case, I was the older sibling biologically but my younger brother actually had to play the role of an older sibling for most of my life. Thank you for being loving towards your sister. I wish my brother reacted the same way as you did.

Beila BRONZE said...
on Feb. 17 2015 at 10:08 pm
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

I, too, have found incredible rewards in volunteering with special needs kids and am forever grateful for the chance to be a part of the incredible special needs community. As the oldest of five, thank God, healthy children, I am inspired and awed by the strength and character of siblings like you. Thank you for sharing your personal journey.

on Jan. 26 2015 at 8:35 pm
CNBono17 SILVER, Rural, South Carolina
5 articles 0 photos 250 comments

Favorite Quote:
Lego ergo sum (Latin—I read, therefore, I am)
The pen is mightier than the sword—unknown
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity—1 Timothy 4:12

Well done! I've met a few kids with autism; in eighth grade, there was an autistic boy at my school who won homecoming king. Wicked smart, really nice, liked NASCAR. I was reminded of him as I read this. This piece is an excellent display of commitment and character and true life change. I love it! Excellent, excellent, excellent job! :)

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