Wow, its been awhile. For the past two weeks, I have been away at Camp PALS -- the greatest place on earth. At this camp, tons of volunteers come together to have the best week of their life with individuals with Down Syndrome. As much as this changes my life and warms my heart, I always come away from it a little sadder than the previous year. I am always sad that it ends, because when entering camp -- there is no judgement. Everyone is friendly and accepting. It's a nice "check out" from the reality of the world that we live in today where everyone is judgmental, rude, and selfish. This isn't the only reason it makes it hard to leave, it hurts because I am happy 24/7 when I am there and I hate leaving the great friends I had made during camp. But in addition, I return home to see Sammy. As much as I missed him while I was gone -- it breaks my heart that he may never experience what I just returned from. Making friends, being accepted, and having a great time with amazing individuals.
Will Sammy ever have friends? Will he ever have the opportunity to go to a camp like this? Sammy can't go to these types of things because he is unable to dress himself and isn't toilet trained. Even if there were great opportunities for people with Autism like Camp PALS, his Autism would hold him back. How is that fair? He already deals with the painful differences and struggles everyday, but now he isn't entitled to make friends or go to camp like every other individual? It's not that I believe that people are prejudice and won't allow people with Autism to go to things like PALS because there are opportunities out there for those who are higher functioning. It's the fact that Autism is holding him back from some of the smallest things in life that we all take advantage of and enjoy.
I made amazing friends this week, had a great time, and will be forever changed positively because of PALS. Not only do I not know if Sammy will ever experience something like this, but I can't even express to him exactly what it was like in hopes that he will understand. But do I want him to understand? How would I know if I am making him sad or jealous of the opportunity I got to participate in?
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.