In light of Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to take the opportunity to write about my own experience with autism. I have two brothers with autism, and it has had an enlightening impact on my life.
The most important thing to understand is that no two people with autism are the same. A prime example here is my brothers. My older brother needs help with his communication skills, but has had access to an SEN school for his entire life, which gave him years of support in terms of helping him learn the skills to function in society. He has obsessions - from childhood, he has been obsessed with Pokemon. What is remarkable is the way his mind works - he can recount all of the names and statistics of hundreds of Pokemon. He can draw them perfectly. I grew up listening to him re-enact Pokemon battles in his room! He has ancient games consoles that he still keeps, using the old adage "If it isn't broken, why replace it?" He's very sensitive to other people's moods. He's also sensitive to sound, and listens to a lot of calming music. He doesn't like hectic environments, and enjoys his own space.
With the help of his SEN school, he was able to gain two GCSEs in Geography and ICT - he was the first in his school to gain such qualifications. He currently volunteers in his community and enjoys his work.
My younger brother is obsessed with science and time travel. He watches Stephen Hawking documentaries and has said he would love to be his assistant! He is always ruminating on what the future holds in terms of scientific discovery. He loves Doctor Who and science fiction, but what he loves even more is talking. He's one of the most sociable people I know. It's sometimes hard to steer him away from talking about space and time, but whenever I speak to him, one of the first things he asks is "How are you?" He's a hugely caring and sensitive individual. He is currently in a residential setting where he has support from full time staff, as he has additional needs beyond his autism that need caring for.
Growing up with two brothers who have autism has been a unique experience. It has been difficult at times, but it is also incredibly rewarding. I am hugely supportive of all efforts to raise awareness of autism, as it is a subject that people may not know much about. One of the biggest things I have taken away from growing up with my brothers is that, despite their additional needs and the extra care it can take to look after them, I know two men that, to me, are the most loving people in the world.