College student Bailey Geehring not only shares her insights and personal experience growing up with a sibling with ASD, but also what she has learned to appreciate in hindsight.
Dear fellow siblings of a brother or sister with autism,
Today I am speaking to you not as a parent or a school counselor who thinks they know what you’ve been through; I am speaking to you as a sister of an older brother with autism.
I know the sacrifices you’ve made- all the playdates you reluctantly said “My mom said no” to because you were afraid your friends would think your sibling is “weird,” all the social events you didn’t even ask to go to because you know how hard it is for your mom to get your sibling dressed and ready to go with her to take you, all the times you were late to school activities or sport practices because it took your sibling an extra 10 minutes to get out of the house due to OCD.
Not only has your sibling’s disability affected their life and your parents’ lives, but it’s affected your life too. And sometimes, it feels like nobody else recognizes that.
I see you. I know you’re there. You are not alone, even when you feel like the whole world revolves around *insert sibling’s name here*
But there is no denying that your experiences have transformed you into the child, teen, or adult you are today. Even though you feel overlooked yourself, you are the kid in school who makes friends with those who feel like everyone passes them by. Even though you may have felt like you don’t get enough attention at home, you are the one who pays attention to others.
Because you’ve lived a different life.
You didn’t grow up knowing the sibling who would protect you from bullies, you were the one protecting them. You didn’t grow up acquainted with the sibling who would be forced to drive you places when your parents were busy, you were the one helping them get ready to go to school in the mornings. You have taken on responsibilities not many other siblings have had to endure from a young age. And you’re mature well beyond your years because of it.
Your life was and is different.
And you’re going to make a difference in this world.
There is a special bond between siblings. All siblings. Ours is just a little different, not weird, but different. It might not be the conversations held in a fort made by blankets and couch cushions on the living room floor at 2 a.m., but it’s the smile that glimmers when you play their favorite television show. It might not be watching them go off to college and turning their bedroom into your own personal oasis, but it’s being there for them when they progress in a daily living skill they’ve been working on for months. It’s hearing them say your name correctly for the first time. It’s seeing them go through their different phases, whatever that means for you and your sibling, and accepting them for them. Every individual on the spectrum progresses at different rates and has their own unique personality and capabilities, and you get to be there to experience these things with them. We’re not all going to have the same types of moments in life…but that’s what makes it special.
You possess a deeper understanding of the value of life in all its forms and varieties that not many people can say they have. Help them see what you see in the world and in others. Change their perspectives. You have so many experiences with your sibling that reveal not only their true character, but the nature of all individuals with disabilities, so share them. Get them to know what you know.
One inspired woman with great hopes for the future of the ASD world and the next generation
About the Author
Bailey is a sister to 24-year-old Bradley who was diagnosed with autism when he was a little over 2 years old. She attends college at California University of Pennsylvania where she is studying Communication Disorders to one day become a Speech- Language Pathologist to help other individuals with disabilities.