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 Article of Interest - Siblings

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Our Special Siblings: A Sister Explains
by Adelle Jameson Tilton,
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Often we as adults try to imagine what it must be like for our children who have a brother or sister with autism. We read books to help them, we send them to support groups, and we go out of our way to keep life as normal as possible for our kids. But hearing it from a child who has a brother with autism sheds an interesting light.

Recently I asked Hannah how she felt about Jonathan being her brother and how autism had affected her life. She is less than a year older than he is. She asked if she could write it out rather than attempt to answer that big of a question quickly. Three days later she handed me the text below. I thought it would be something to share with my readers. This is from a 12 year-old girl and it is completely unedited. Yes there are some grammatical errors but I think changing anything would be taking away from the message.

Autism, what and how do people get it and how do you deal with it? I don’t know how to explain it but I know one thing and one thing only, my brother has it and it is really hard to deal with it. I mean, you feel excluded from all of the “popular” kids because they have a normal brother or sister. But they don’t know how normal he is. He is a human being, not a mutant, not a monster, just a kid who can’t talk or go out by himself. People laughed, and I would get embarrassed, but now I act like a dog or a wolf protecting her pup.

Some of the things that I have to deal with, for example, if he can’t get what he wants, he gets upset and throws a hissy fit. Another example is that when he throws something, it will break. Also, he doesn’t know that he can’t invade someone’s room. Sometimes they see someone else’s clothes, for example, like a girl. On Halloween a bunch of boys dressed up as girls and he saw that and he started dressing up as a girl.

Another thing is that he wants something and you don’t know what he wants. One time Jonathan asked for “help” by sign language. Then, I didn’t know what that meant, so I was confused, but now I understand him. That is one reason a parent should know how to do sign language. Another reason that family members should know how to do sign language is so that they can talk together. And third you can get to play games in sign language. And let me tell you, that is a lot of fun!

Autism, what is it and how do people get it and how do you deal with it? I hope that you can answer that for me because I can’t answer it for you. I also hope that if you meet someone with autism that you will treat them like a human being and not like trash. The hardest thing to deal with when you have an autistic brother or sister is you see regular kids and you go “Man, my bro would be just like them.” It is because of my brother I am going to become a doctor and a scientist to stop autism. So, I encourage you, to help autistic children and not make fun of them at all.

I know that none of the readers of this site ever would belittle a child with autism, but I found it of interest that this is a pressing concern for Hannah. She is of course much more in touch with what other children say than I would be, and she told me that it is something she deals with quite often. To think that is still a problem in our politically correct era is disturbing.

All of us must remember that our children interact with other children regularly at school and many other places. Not all children are being raised the way we raise our kids. As we raise our children with autism, it is important that we raise our other children to handle the verbal insults of people when they feel the need to ridicule a disabled person. Perhaps it makes the “teasing” child feel more important or perhaps it is how they see behavior in their home. Whatever the reason, our kids are dealing with it and we need to remember to give these special siblings a lot of support as they go to bat, in their own way, for the cause of autism.


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