I have a memory of a young damsel in distress being saved by prince charming, or rather, my dorky self being rescued by my younger brother.
Every winter, my siblings and I would make a kind of tobogganing course in our yard. One year, we made an especially slick hill in the front yard right beside the driveway, great idea…or not. My brother and I were tobogganing away on this hill and it was my turn. But instead of sliding to the yard, the slickness sent me straight onto the driveway. I slid in such a way that my toboggan got stuck and I couldn’t get out!
As if on cue, dad pulled into the driveway with his little hatchback literally the second I got stuck. I thought I was going to get hit by the car!
But little brother to the rescue! While at the top of the hill he reached down, grabbed the top of the toboggan, and pushed it until I dislodged. I was able to scramble away before the car got close and I was super relieved. In my journal the next day, and at school for several years, I called my brother my hero for that very act of moving that toboggan. It seems a little silly looking back now, but I still thank my brother for it, and it is a memory we will always share because in that moment his actions meant everything!
So that’s a cute little story, a childhood reflection, but there some things I want to clarify. One, my little brother has autism. Two, my little brother (now quite tall!) is still my hero just for different reasons.
- Uneasiness or confusion in social situations
- Sensory issues (his hugs are vise grips)
- Certain types of communication difficulties
- And some subtler things that are common with autism
Unfortunately, since autism is a classified as a developmental disability, some people look down on my brother, or don’t expect him to succeed. And this leads to why he is still my hero and that is because he defies all the negative expectations people apply to him based on his disability.
When my brother started high school, the administration said to aim for the OSSC or Ontario Secondary School Certificate rather than the full Diploma. What the OSSC would mean is fewer class requirements, no community service requirement, and no literacy test requirement. This didn’t sit well with him or the family. So, he made sure graduate with a Diploma and no less when he walked out of that school this year.
The high school also suggested that he stay in the school until age 25. My brother DID NOT like that option. He didn’t enjoy school as it was. He would rather be working on something outdoorsy or hands-on. Or helping family and friends Being in school until 25 would rob him of those freedoms. (He made it out by 18).
Some people question his ability to go to college and while he is not there yet, he plans to go to college to become a mechanic. He spends a lot of time tinkering with the family vehicles and is even working in a dealership autoshop to get some real experience.
Speaking of vehicles, mom was unsure about letting him work on her car, especially alone. But late one night her car needed a rushed headlight change, and dear brother was the only one available to fix it, so she let him. And low and behold the headlights were fixed in no time and when she double checked the work at the shop, they said all was done right!
So thanks to my little (yet not so little) brother for saving my life on that cold winter day so many years ago, for being my hero growing up, and continuing to be my hero today by proving you can do whatever you want to even with autism (no matter what other people may say).
To learn more about Autism, I suggest visiting AutismOntario.ca. Once upon a time I did some workshops there specifically designed for siblings of autistic people. They helped me understand what my brother goes through on a regular basis and helped me figure out my place in the family.