When you think of a holiday, most people think of their family sitting around, playing games, and laughing together. But lets be real, although all holidays end up to be perfect in their own unique way -- holidays are usually full of siblings bickering, grandparents shouting because they can't hear, mom freaking out because dinner isn't ready on time, etc. For us, holidays are just like this, except we don't really have any family. It's just me, my brothers, and my mom. So the "freak show" of a holiday that every family experiences has seen nothing yet -- come to my house for a holiday and you'll see Autism runs the holidays.
We try to have as much family time as possible during the holidays. We feel guilty when we have to put Sammy in his room -- but sometimes its necessary in order to get the house in order and get meals prepared. We usually have our one set of cousins come over for dinner on Easter and Thanksgiving -- so while my mom is trying to juggle the housework and preparing dinner, she also has Sammy right under her feet. Totally unaware of danger -- putting his hand on hot pans or sticking his hand inside boiling water. He enjoys mixing drinks so he'll take anything -- dirty dish water, apple juice, soapy water, cleaner, etc. that sitting out and dump it. And half the time he misses, creating a huge mess. He eats like a goat so if we try to distract him from bugging our mom with a snack, we chews and half of the food ends up on the floor creating an even bigger mess. Then, if he decides its time to eat, he will pull on my mom while she's cooking and pick up plates off of the made table. Basically, getting dinner prepared with Sammy is a shit show. He loves food and damned if he will miss out on any of the preparation.
This year, in addition to all of this, while in church, we were forced into the overflow area because you know, people who never go to church all year are there today. So, in the cafeteria, we kind of let Sammy wonder thinking it would be easier for him. But what happens? We look back and he's turning the "stop light" on and off that the school obviously uses during lunch time. Then, when I was standing with him and actually trying to pay attention to what the priest is saying, I miss that Sammy is pulling down a wreath of eggs. It slams to the ground and shatters. Awesome. My friend, my family, and I laughed it off -- but really?
Holidays are a mess, but I wouldn't change them for anything. I love my brother and although he might drive us crazy during such hectic times -- now that I'm writing it, I'm laughing at the fact of how crazy we got or how Sammy threw down the one breakable thing in that cafeteria. Like one of our friends said in church on Easter, "they just do what we are all thinking." This proves that Sammy has confidence -- and definitely a sense of humor.
Autism from a sibling's point of view...
My name is Paige and I am 26 years old. I graduated from Towson University with a Psychology Bachelors Degree and from Johns Hopkins with a Post-Bacc Certificate in Education of Autism and other Pervasive Disorders at . I recently left my job at Kennedy Krieger Institute and began my Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at University of South Florida. My younger brother, Sammy, is 20 and has Autism. He is non-vocal, 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.