Our Special Siblings: A Sister
by Adelle Jameson Tilton, about.com
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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
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.