Over the years, I have experienced the ignorance of society when it has come to my brother. After 15 years, it still shocks me when people will made rude comments or be completely inconsiderate. Sammy looks like a normal 15 year old, but after watching him for 30 seconds, it is pretty obvious something is going on. Even those who still don't understand, I just can't believe how rude some can be -- or that some of these people will put their noses in our business when we are complete strangers to them.
An experience is one from most recently, when my mom, Sammy, and I went to the grocery store. Sammy loves music and he brought along his headphones so grocery shopping would be a little more "fun" for him. One of Sammy's strengths is that he will almost always stay by the cart and wait while we pick things off the shelves. So, while my mom and I were trying to decide between one product and another, I suddenly heard someone's grumpy huff. Instantly I turned around to make sure Sammy wasn't in her way when I noticed this older lady nudging him with her cart and saying "Come on son" under her breath. Lets stop for a second, the kid has headphones on -- what makes you think he can hear you when you are speaking under your breath? But more importantly, what gives you the right to nudge someone with your cart just because you can't get around? There's a better way -- tap him on the shoulder, say exuse me, or get our attention. Anyways, so I pulled him out of the way and told the lady, "He has Autism, he can't help it!" I could tell by the look on her face that she didn't understand, but yet was not embarrassed. When I walked away angrily with my brother, my mom turned to say something to the lady. The lady did not regret her actions and responded to my mom, "Whatever." No apology? Nothing. She didn't even try to explain that she didn't understand. So, not only was my mom and I hurt on behalf of Sammy -- but what was Sammy thinking? Was he embarrassed? Was he pissed? He was just nudged, scolded, and judged by a complete stranger for something he cannot help. To this, I ask -- what is wrong with society today? People can't wait five seconds without getting frustrated, yelling, honking their horn, etc. Where is the fire? Why are you in such a hurry? Why are you so angry?
I used to think things like this infuriated me -- and I guess they do on a certain level, but in the end, I think it just hurts. I try to see the good in everyone and it pains me to know that I give everyone so much credit. I think that there is good in everyone -- but then they're just so hurtful and mean to someone so innocent like my brother. Things like this eat at me. I'm protective of my brother, for obvious reasons, but it eats at me because I am concerned for people these days. People are so wrapped up in themselves that they can't take 5 seconds to hold on, look around, and see what's going on.
Like last night, I went with a group of ladies with Autism last night to the Towson Gymnastics meet and one of our participants was a little loud and wasn't aware of her surroundings. She continued to lean forward and touch the lady's seat that was sitting in front of us. She wasn't hurting anything though and any sporting event is loud! Finally, the lady turned around and said, "Why don't you keep your hands to yourself?" When one of us tried to explain that she had Autism, she told us to control her. Not only 3 minutes went by and the lady got up and moved to another spot. Society wonders why the youth is so inconsiderate and entitled these days -- look at who raised us! People who can't even stop and try to understand another's differences, struggles, etc. If you can't learn to accept others for their differences, what makes you think that younger generations will?
My brother, Jack, showed me this song, "Same Love" by Macklemore a few weeks ago (video below). It really speaks to him and me. People are made fun of, labeled, hated because of their disabilities, sexual orientation, race, etc. -- why? We all still have a heart and a brain. We all breath, we all have feelings. We aren't different. These are just the things that make us who we are. Weren't we taught to never change for anybody else, let others accept you for who you are, be who you want to be, being you makes you unique?
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.