It would be a lie to say that growing up with an autistic sibling was easy. Our family’s life revolved around Jack’s needs and routine. There were times when I wanted the ground to swallow me whole, especially when Jack would have a tantrum in the supermarket aisle (he was 14).
Jack was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old, and as you can imagine, this was news that devastated our whole family.
One in 68 people are born with autism and it is one of the most complex mental disorders on this planet. Every person who you will meet with autism, will be different to the next. The autism spectrum is so vast, that one person with autism could be the next Einstein and the next person, might not know how to even communicate.
Jack couldn’t speak until he was five years old. His speech slowly developed because of the constant speech therapy that we implemented in his life. We still to this day continue with therapy to keep Jack stimulated. Although Jack (now 22), can communicate basic things, he still struggles with every day life. He doesn’t understand the concept of money, nor will he ever be able to learn to drive a car. All the things that we take for granted, and we, as a family, can only dream for him to have.
Having an autistic sibling has been difficult over the years, but the one thing that I learnt from an early age, was that Jack taught me to value life. As cliche as it might sound, having a sibling with special needs has been a gift in itself. I would’t change Jack for the world. I love him, for who he is.
Here are some reasons why growing up with an autistic sibling is the best life lesson:
Only Pigs Are Ignorant
There have been plenty of times that I’ve had to hold my tongue when people have called Jack a ‘retard’, not knowing that he is in fact, autistic. I feel sorry for people who are born in this world and grow up to be so unaware of other people.
If anyone is to be mentally disabled it’s the people who cannot accept those with special needs.
I am grateful to be the open-minded and empathetic person that I am. I never judge anyone, purely because you never know the difficulties that they themselves, or their loved ones, are going through.
Despite growing up with a sibling, it actually felt like I was an only child in my early years. Jack never wanted to interact or play, not because he didn’t want to, but because he couldn’t. This made me more independent and imaginative as a child, which thankfully, has worked out pretty well in my adult years. My whole job is based around creating ideas and sometimes working on my own.
Of course, having an autistic sibling also meant that you needed to have the patience of a saint. Your life revolves purely around their routine and although this was difficult to accept when growing up, I am so grateful now, because it has made me the laid back and independent person that I am.
An appreciation for parenting
People say having kids is hard, but imagine having a child with a disability! I remember at the age of 7 realising how bloody difficult parenting was, because to some extent, I mothered Jack! Looking after my brother 24/7 was something I had to accept from an early age. Jack will always be my responsibility, even when I have my own children!
Not giving a f***
As you may know from previous blog posts, I don’t give a f*** what anyone thinks about me. I have to say, this is partly to do with Jack’s life mission statement: Ignorance Is Bliss
Jack doesn’t know he’s autistic and that’s the great thing about him. He just does what he wants and says how he feels – even if it’s socially awkward. One time, we were in the supermarket and the cashier serving us had major facial hair. Almost beard -length. She turned to Jack and asked him if he was having a nice day, in which he replied, “Yes Mrs Wolf!”
Jack also used to love lifting his shirt up, to show his round stomach to the people he had just met.
He’s hilarious and he knows it. If people have a problem with him, then that’s their problem!
I’m so thankful to have someone like Jack in my life, who can teach me and plenty of others how to appreciate and live the one life that we have.
I am running the 2016 London Marathon for the National Autistic Society. My target is to raise £500 which will help towards supporting those with autism and their families.
Thank you xx