Weird. Socially Awkward. Retarded. Slow. Stupid. Unfortunately, these are some of the words that are used to describe individuals with Autism. However, these words are far from the truth when it comes to people that are autistic. Words like HAPPY, CARING, CHARISMATIC, RESILIENT and INTELLIGENT comes to mind when describing someone that’s autistic.
Unfortunately, Autism has become more and more common over the years. This “disABILITY” has impacted many families around the world, including my own family. At the age of 2, my little brother, JC, was diagnosed with Autism, particularly Asperger’s Syndrome.
Early on, we knew something was “different” about JC. He walked and talked later than the “normal kids” (I really hate that phase btw) his age. He would flap his hands a lot. And he would even plug his ears with his fingers when the noise around him was too loud. A few of the common symptoms for an individual with Autism. Eventually, JC stopped flapping his hands and stopped plugging his ears. And eventually he started walking and talking like the “normal kids.”
To be honest, the early years were tough on us. This was the first time that Autism had impacted our family and we were clueless on what to do. It definitely took a toll on us and worried the heck out of my mother. Just like any mother, Mama Steph (my lovely mother) is a nurturer and worries about her children, especially JC since he has Autism. She thought that JC would never talk and was concerned that society wouldn’t accept him because of his “disABILITY.”
Words of Encouragement from Mama Steph – “If you have a child with special needs, don’t be ashamed and don't be in denial because that hinders your child’s progress. When you realize something is different about your child’s development, please don’t ignore it. Make an appointment with your pediatrician and contact your local developmental disabilities agency for assistance. They can help guide you through the process to ensure that your child gets the necessary help.”
JC is now 16 years old and he is a sophomore in high school. He is currently in a program through his school, where he works at Walgreens and they help him to enhance his social skills and allow him the opportunity to balance school and work. SUPER DOPE program if you ask me. Additionally, my mama got him in all kinda things, like attending summer camps, going bowling with some of his friends, and being involved with Empower Sports (LINK), where JC plays on a basketball team with kids that has similar “disABILITIES” as he does.
One thing I really love about my brother is that he hasn’t let his “disABILITY” define who he is. Yes, he has some quirks…don’t we all??? He is full of personality and always has a smile on his face. He truly enjoys watching and playing basketball as well as EATING everything in the refrigerator. LOL
I’m looking forward to see what the future has in store for JC and how he will make a lasting impact on this world. I’m confident that JC will be well off after he graduate from high school and more than capable of living an independent lifestyle when he becomes an adult.
Lastly, for anyone who is reading this and Autism has impacted your life, please continue to support your loved one as well as seek out the endless amounts of resources out there for autistic individuals. Autism Speaks is a great place to start (LINK). And if your loved one is in school, continue to hold the school system accountable and ensure they have the best interest of the child.
And ALWAYS REMEMBER….Autism isn’t a disABILITY!!!