Me and my autistic brother
My brother Adam is 19 years old. He was diagnosed at a young age. This is my story as his brother, what I have learnt from him and some advice for others who have autistic siblings.
My relationship with my brother
Every autistic person is different and so there are countless different ways to connect with, and help, your autistic sibling in their everyday life. My relationship with Adam has evolved over the years and I am always adapting to new mannerisms, behaviours and interests of his. This is the same as it would be for any sibling relationship, but with Adam’s autism there is the added element of communicative nuance which I am constantly adjusting to.
When I’m trying to help Adam with a task, such as his math homework, I try not to focus on what he is doing wrong or say ’don’t do this’. This type of negative phrasing can confuse him and hinder his progress. Instead, I try to explain the steps he needs to take to solve the problem, as these more positive lessons tend to stay with him like mantras. He often turns to me or my parents and repeats something we have told him to affirm that he is doing the right thing. Routine is a huge part of Adam’s life and adding helpful life habits into this routine can take time, but if he understands how they benefit him then they become easier to integrate.
How we manage Adam’s needs as a family
Managing the support Adam needs between myself, as an older brother, and my parents can be difficult at times. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and this is important to remember when aiding Adam as it helps him get what he needs from the best possible source, whether this be advice on social situations or learning practical life skills such as washing the dishes. Dividing these responsibilities appropriately between me and my parents also ensures that we don’t become overwhelmed. We all want the best for Adam and by playing to our strengths as family members we can make this happen.
The future is something many families who live with an autistic person worry about a great deal. Parents naturally worry for the future of the children, however autism can add another dimension to this, as leading independent and fulfilling lives can be harder for autistic people.
From my experience as a sibling, I am acutely aware of the huge weight of responsibility that lies ahead of me in terms of Adam’s care in the future. This can be daunting at times, but my advice to others would be to try not to let feelings of worry hold you or your sibling back. When you look at the big picture certain things can seem impossible to achieve, but small and incremental steps towards positive change can lead to amazing results. This is how me and my family try to approach Adam’s future, and although we aren’t perfect, we are determined and hopeful for him, especially when we reflect on what he has already achieved in life.
About the author
Joss Lambert is 22 years old. His younger brother Adam is 19 and was diagnosed with autism at a young age.