A Sibling’s Thanks

What up, blog land? I’ve been on hiatus the past couple weeks. Consequently, I missed both the start of Autism Awareness Month (April 1st) AND World Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd).

Bad autism blogger, bad!

Though I didn’t get around to making a blog post in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, I did post the “Meet Dude” page to my personal Facebook along with this message:

Monday, April 2, 2012 at 9:57am

Today is World Autism Awareness Day!!! Did you know that autism affects 1 in 88 children in the US? Autism is a lifelong diagnosis that requires lifelong support, understanding, and acceptance.If you’re one of those people that likes to put a face and a story to something as big as autism, I encourage you to read about the person who has had the biggest influence on my life trajectory: my brother.

Many of you “liked” that status update. Even more of you chose to click on the link and learn about our family’s version of autism.

Thank you.

Thank you for caring, or educating yourself, or coming here in need of a laugh.

You, dear readers, are my awareness campaign. I don’t need to raise money or run a 5k (both of which I have done) if I can reach you here. And let me tell you, every single time an acquaintance, friend, or best friend from some part of my life sees me and says, “Hey, I read your blog. Your brother is awesome!” it warms my heart. It warms my heart in the homemade chicken soup, Norman Rockwell, sitting by the fireplace kind of way. It solidifies my conviction that Dude has left and will continue to leave an indelible mark in this life.  I say that with the utmost sincerity and certitude because I have seen it happen. I have seen people become better versions of themselves because of him.

When I started writing this blog a year and some months ago, it was mainly for the benefit of my family’s close social network. I wanted to create a central space where I could keep track of Dude’s “isms,” progress, and major milestones.

However, over the past year and some months, it’s like I’m seeing my brother with new eyes. Since I’m constantly on the lookout for “good blog material,” I’m noticing things that escaped my attention or that I took for granted before. His great, big belly laughs. The joy that lights up his face when I repeat his gibberish with the same tone and inflection. The sensitivity of his hearing and ability to pick out and mimic the faintest bird call during a walk in the park or the most obscure harmony in a song.

For the longest time, I took for granted that he’s smart. A different kind of smart. But smart. He is a master of observation. A far cry from the toddler who seemed to have no awareness of or connection to his environment. Sometimes I watch him, sitting at the table, paging through a circular, seemingly oblivious to the conversation going on around him. But there’s a smirk that plays on his lips. A smirk that says, “Just you wait.. I’m going to surprise you.”

And surprise us he does. In my posts over the last few months alone, there has been a pronounced pattern of growth in Dude. He’s initiating more on his own, he’s making more attempts to express himself, he’s trying new things. It’s invigorating. It’s heartening. It’s what I need to read on days when autism is sad and stressful and scary.

Let me be very clear. It’s not my brother’s autism that makes me sad. He has a unique, uncomplicated, and joyful perspective on life that I delight in. The thing that makes me sad is that we live in a society that is woefully unprepared to support children and adults who are like my brother. The rate of those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders is up to 1 in 88 children. Even with those statistics, states like mine are STILL looking to cut the funding that supports the programs these kids and their families desperately need. That’s what makes me sad and scared on days when I’m vulnerable to being sad and scared.

So on those days, I cling to the progress, to the hilarious memories, to the knowledge that people are better for knowing him, and to the person that my brother has become.

Happy Autism Awareness Month, everyone. Thanks for reading.

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