April is Autism Awareness month! Happy Autism Awareness month to all of you affected by Autism. But a special "Happy AAM" to my little brother, Sammy! I am so thankful for everything you have taught me and for everything you have brought into my life and given me the experiences that I have had the honor of being a part of. You are an amazing young man and I love you so much!
I am thankful for Camp PALS - if it wasn't for my brother, I probably would never have became a part of this organization (or other ones like it) and would have never met some of the incredible people I meet and consider to be some of my closest friends - this has brought so much love and joy into my life and I don't know where I would be without it!
I wish the world would be more aware of how much Autism takes a toll on not only the individual, but the family - think about this the next time you stare at the family with the child who is tantrumming in the store - maybe there is something more to it, offer a hand instead of judging!
For spring break, I got to do one of the best things I could think of. Since I have moved to Baltimore and gotten my job, I have spent very little time at home - unlike when I was attending Bloomsburg. So, for a whole week, I was able to spend it with my family. We didn't go anywhere or do anything spectacular - but I was able to just be at home and hang out like old times. It was something I will always be thankful for.
As I'm sure some of you know, the last few months, for me personally, have been extremely hard. I've had constant battles with my housing and my landlord, spent tons of money on plumbing and towing, and would even go so far to say I've experienced a broken heart. Even though I usually like to approach life with a tough and strong, unbeatable attitude - I found myself drowning. Not only did being home do great things for my mood - because my family always cheers me up - but it made me look at things in a completely different way.
Sitting there with Sammy and reflecting upon my first few months of 2014, I realized - Will Sam experience getting his car towed - will he learn to drive? Will Sam ever experience housing issues - will he ever live independently? Will Sam ever experience a broken heart - will he ever meet someone who he loves and they love him in return? Those are questions that will be left unanswered - but will constantly haunt me.
So, even though I really do hate feeling sad over guy, spent hours arguing with a landlord and plumber, or spent money (I didn't have) on towed car -- I have to seriously take a step back and realize, some people will never experience these things. Not because their first crush is their lifelong partner, notbecause they have tons of money to pay for household fixes, not because they have a driver and don't have to worry about parking -- NOT even because they don't want to experience any of these negative things. Everyone wants to fall in love. Everyone has problems with their house. Everyone wastes money. But will Sammy?
Even these upsetting experiences are a blessing in disguise - because at least I could experience and learn from learn. Sure he'll learn life experiences in different ways - but will he get to feel the butterflies in his stomach when his crush texts him, will he have the joy of celebrating his driver's license, will he experience his first kiss, will he have a party with a bunch of his house mates? All of these are great, once in a lifetime experiences, but they also come with not so great experiences - being broken up with, getting a speeding ticket, etc.
With the Spread the Word to End the Word Official Pledge Day being tomorrow, March 5... I found it really interesting that the lecture we had in my American Studies class oddly related. We have been talking about the "Melting Pot" and how different races, religions, etc. were isolated, treated unequally, etc. when America was first settled in. We always talk about how America is made of immigrants -- then why is there all this prejudice? discrimination? Not just then, but ever.
Who is an American? Who is normal? When did we decide that Americans were superior than all others? I'm proud of my country, I'm proud of being an American, I support my troops -- but does that mean I don't respect those who are not from here? that I don't want to understand other cultures? No. Is that what America is about though? I don't have to agree or practice what everyone else believes in or participate in how they live their lives -- but who am I to try and take that away from them? Who am I to say that they are wrong? Just because I am American?
This goes hand in hand with the way we treat those "different" than us today. We call it the "minority." Why is that? Just because theres a few less of them than there are whites? How do we know that we aren't the minorities? Who came along and said we could make the rules? Now, please, don't get me wrong -- when I say these things, I am strictly referring the disrespecting people who are "different" from yourself. We call non citizens, "illegal aliens" -- isn't an alien from another world? Isn't that calling the person less than human? These are what these words mean. They make people feel less than human. Whether its the "n-word" or the "r-word," we are humans. Not labels.
Why do we need to make everyone the same? I know that we have all grown up with the lesson of "be yourself." So, why are we so pushy to make others like us? Why are we so judgmental of those who do not assimilate -- who do things differently? My brother wakes up every morning with a smile on his face and treats everyone equally. Some days I wake up with hate in my heart, feel worthless, or maybe I'm happy -- what makes me better than him? I'm not, in that case -- he's better than me! Maybe we should all try to be like those around us, that we consider "different or weird" -- would it be THAT bad if we tried to see their point of view? Sammy goes through a million more things that I do in the first hour that he's awake than I'll probably experience in an entire week. Yet, I still think that I have the right to not respect liars and cheaters -- or feel depressed or give in to despair. But then again am I contradicting myself? Sammy may struggle, but that's his life. Who am I to say that it is anything easier or harder than mine or anyone else's? That is his normal. What is normal though? There isn't one.
Autism from a sibling's point of view...
My name is Paige and I am 24 years old. I graduated from Towson University with a Psychology Bachelors Degree. I am now working towards my Master's in Education of Autism and other Pervasive Disorders at Johns Hopkins. I am also a Behavior Data Specialist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Neurobehavioral Inpatient Unit. My younger brother, Sammy, is 19 and has Autism. He is completely non-verbal, unaware of safety, is not toilet trained, cannot get himself dressed, and has difficulty with everyday activities that we all take advantage of. He works harder every single day of his life than anyone I know and he always does it with a smile on his face. He is my true hero and inspiration and because of him, I have dedicated my life to advocating and creating opportunities for individuals with Autism. I hope that I can make him proud and this blog is just a small part of the awareness I hope I can create about Autism and support other siblings impacted by Autism. I love you Sammy - thank you for everything.