As a child, I was super embarrassed of my brother Marc and never once brought him up. He would sing and dance in public, mumbled to himself loudly, and stuttered excessively. Unless someone specifically asked how many siblings I had, he didn’t exist. I’ve actually been accused of making him up. Autism isn’t my personal battle, it is my brother’s, but it was still something I really struggled with as a child.
It wasn’t until I was older that I truly realized what an amazing gift Marc has given me. He taught me, above all else, to be compassionate. It forces me to always be conscious of the little tendencies that people on the Autism Spectrum can have and why they are the way that they are. The annoying quirks your type-A friend has, maybe aren’t all her fault (she might be crazy but it isn’t ALL her fault).
People always ask me if it was hard having a brother with autism and I always say no. Yes, sometimes it was embarrassing as a kid, but I usually forget that I have an autistic brother. It’s pretty much just normal for me now, and I would never want to use my brother as a crutch.
This is actually what has inspired me to write this post. Autism isn’t a disease and it isn’t a crutch. I have seen so many posts about people saying that they are “on the spectrum” or that they have “autistic tendencies”. In fact, many highly gifted people probably fall somewhere on the spectrum. It really isn’t something to be embarrassed about. However, the problem is that we use this word as a crutch. We say we “cant work with others” or were an “asshole” because “we have autism”. You aren’t an asshole if you have Autism, but you might be if you use Autism to act like one. This is such a skewed picture of what it looks like to have autism, and frankly, its a gross insult to those who suffer daily with their autism.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, and I ask you to be conscious of what it means to have Autism. Have some damn compassion. Austism is nothing to be ashamed of, but don’t let someone else’s struggle be your excuse.