How I Support My Brothers on their Amazing Paths | Organization for Autism Research

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I have two autistic brothers that I love beyond comprehension. Being their older brother is perhaps the single greatest and rewarding experience that I have in my life. It is a position that I would never change or alter in any capacity, for being their brother is what makes me… well, me.

As siblings, we are in such a unique position to support our autistic siblings as they move forward along their amazing paths. We can be anything and everything to our siblings. We can be a best friend, a voice of optimism in a period of worry, and of course someone to enjoy the beautiful things in life with. In my life, I am still learning how to be the very best brother I can become, but here are some tips that I have learned that help me every day.

 

Learn To Accept and Appreciate

If you have recently just learned that your sibling has been diagnosed with autism, you perhaps may be angry or sad. You must understand that nothing has changed in them. Everything you love about your sibling is still unequivocally there and always will be. The only thing that has changed is that you are now just learning more about them. You have new opportunities where you can support your sibling in more impactful ways. With your love and new understanding, you both will undoubtedly achieve amazing things together. Take comfort in this.

 

Engage in Your Sibling’s Topic of Interest as a Launching Point

Autistic people often become extremely focused in select topic areas. They are beautifully passionate and immerse themselves in the things they love. To enter and embrace your sibling’s passions allows you to lay down a foundation of trust and cohesiveness that will last a lifetime. For example, one of my brothers has an passion for geography. To engage in my brother’s passions, I often ask him how I theoretically would travel to random locations that pop into my head. Sure enough, he often will give me the answer in seconds. I cherish these moments, for they are living testaments of just how beautifully unique my brother is. With every opportunity where I get to learn more about what he loves, I learn more about the very person I love the most. For my brother, he says that he just simply enjoys my love and support within these moments. That means everything to me.

In addition, engaging in your sibling’s topic of interest can also effectively serve as a launching point to other new and exciting passions. For example, I realized that my brother would perhaps love to connect his passion for geography with history, specifically the historical significance of these major geographic locations that he is so interested in and visits daily through google maps. Thus, we started to visit museums and watch documentaries, learning as much as we can about these locations and regions. He now enjoys connecting his new passion with his oldest one. And as a result, our relationship has never been stronger. We now have more opportunities to spend time together. More opportunities to laugh and rejoice together. We are growing our friendship and brotherhood with every new exploration. Finding branching points from your sibling’s passions into new experiences or your own personal passions is a fantastic way to explore our world while further deepening your bond with your autistic sibling.

 

Finding Supportive Friends

Oftentimes, especially when you are young, you may feel the urge to separate different areas of your life. You may be incredibly protective of your autistic sibling. Fearing that your friends may just not understand, you may be at a point where you’re completely shielding your sibling from them and other areas of your life.

However, I implore you to think of what could happen if you reverse this thinking. When I was young, I had so many friends that had not the faintest idea of what autism is. Some of my friends would even use the word itself as an insult. My heart would break every time I heard this ignorance.

One day, I had enough, and I decided that I would stimulate conversation if an opportunity was available. When able, I would explain how I felt and challenge my friends to be the amazing individuals that I know they are. I implored them to seek out answers from the right sources and to initiate honest discussion whenever they see an opportunity to learn. I told them that anyone can very much see and hear the true reality of autism simply through interacting with autistic people.

The ones that listened to me are still some of my closest friends. Their support and companionship are extended just as much to my brothers as to me. They instill a spirit of openness everywhere they go. They have put an end to bullying so many times through directly denouncing it and then subsequently taking responsibility to start enlightening conversations with the bullies. They also provide friendship in the purest capacity for my brothers and their fellow autistic classmates.

I personally will never forget a specific moment when I discovered that six of my friends unexpectedly surprised one of my brothers at his basketball game while I was away in college. I ended up finding out several days later through some pictures my mother sent me. Apparently, a simple conversation between my friends inquiring if I was home and how my family was doing turned into a full-fledged conversation about my brother. One of them ended up texting my brother to check in, and the conversation shifted to basketball. They attended his game to simply spend time with him and support him because they love him. This was a special moment for my brother because even though our friends are moving forward on their own paths, they reminded him that he forever will be loved and thought of as their own brother.

 

Overall, you and your own sibling truly deserve to feel supported. Educating your friends and introducing them into your siblings’ lives can bring forth so many opportunities for all parties involved. With comfortability and understanding, there will be happiness.


Michael Wright is a recent graduate and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Bachelor’s of Neuroscience and is presently working within a research lab studying the relationships between sleep and substance use disorders. He hopes to attend medical school in the near future. Above all things, he enjoys being an older brother to his autistic brothers and helping them navigate along their own unique and exceptional paths. His passion for advocacy for the autism community grows from these experiences. He overall hopes to aid in the efforts of creating inclusion and acceptance.


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