HERMANO AUTISTICO "Your Brother isn't like Other Brothers"
Updated: May 23, 2021
VIEJO GRUNON was sitting on his usual bench by the sea in his home city of Salou, as he always did in the evenings. The old man sat in his shorts with his legs crossed, one sandal-bearing foot swaying from side to side to the tune playing in his head. His hands were clasped together and resting on his belly, thumbs twiddling, skin dark and leathered by years of basking in the sun. He looked out at the horizon thoughtfully, thanking God for all the wonderful years and pondering what the new millennium would bring… THUMP!
His peaceful moment was interrupted when something heavy landed on his head. The shock made the impact seem worse somehow, almost painful. He felt the frightening force clasp tighter around his favourite wicker hat then lift up into the air, revealing his balding scalp. Viejo covered his head and wailed; “¿Qué haces, estúpido turista inglés?!”
Looking up, he saw a young boy, younger than ten, pale and white with too much sunblock on his face. He was just standing there, holding his hat up in the air and admiring it from different angles, humming happily to himself.
Viejo hesitated. There was something ‘wrong’ with this boy…
“Sorry!” the boy’s father ran over to them and handed him back his crumpled hat.
“¡Mira el estado de mi sombrero!” Viejo ranted and raved, infuriated by the state of his hat.
“Sorry! Yhm… ‘autistico’! Autistico!” the boy’s father tried to explain in a thick northern Welsh accent. Then he took his son by the hand and led him away.
You have to keep your wits about you when walking in public with an autistic brother. That incident on our family holiday back in 2000 is just the tip of the iceberg when considering how many times my brother has trampled all over society’s conventional rules and expectations while we’re out and about.
He loves hats, you see. He’s fascinated by all the different kinds, and he likes studying them from various angles- up close, moving them slowly into his peripheral vision without moving his eyes, bringing them over his head and around the side of his face, like he’s imagining an opening scene from Star Wars but the large spaceship has been replaced by a giant wicker hat. He’ll keep a hat by his side when he’s watching television, he takes one to bed with him and will even take one with him on long car journeys for ‘entertainment’. Hats are Life.
So, when he saw the Delight that was sitting on top of that old man’s head that day in Spain, he just HAD to have a closer look, and for him, social boundaries are essentially non-existent, and there is no such thing as ‘rude’…
I remember the day Mam told me that my brother was autistic. I was about five or six, and was sat watching an entourage of Nineties Saturday morning kids’ shows on Fox Kids and Nickelodeon- Kenan and Kel, Pokemon, Goosebumps… it was one of those seemingly endless school summer holidays, when six weeks seemed like six years and the sun actually shone when it was meant to.
She came up to me, asked me to mute the telly for a sec, and sat down beside me. She said something along the lines of “Your brother isn’t like ‘other’ brothers…” and handed me a small pamphlet entitled something similar to what she just said, along with the subtitle ‘How to live with your autistic sibling’, or something like that.
Mam seemed hesitant, and on edge- perhaps she was expecting upset and confusion, but I remember being intrigued by it all- I wasn’t mortified, wasn’t angry, wasn’t ashamed and I wasn’t apathetic towards it. By all accounts, I took that pamphlet and I read it all in one sitting, wide-eyed and full of wonder... my brother was “special", and I wanted to know more!
It told me that my brother would never ‘love’ me in the conventional sense, that he would never make eye contact with me, that he would never want to be hugged or make friends, he would never have a love life, would hate crowds and loud noises, and might be exceptionally gifted in one area.
That pamphlet was wrong about a lot of things. As such, I have decided to write my own ‘guide’ to having an autistic brother; 'BRAWD AUTISTICO' is my witness statement- a full account of what life is really like with an autistic sibling. There will be heart-warming anecdotes that will make you smile, and sad ones that will pull at your heartstrings, but the main aim of this blog is simply to educate people on the realities of autism, as well as put to rest a few myths.
This is life with an autistic brother…
Thanks for reading.
If you, or anyone you know have autism in your lives in some form, please leave a comment below and tell me about your experiences- the good times and the bad!
In relation to this post in particular, are there any parents out there with stories about breaking the news to their other child? Or is there anyone out there with an autistic sibling who remembers being given the news, and how they reacted?
I hope you enjoyed.