When I Slowed Down and Actually Listened to My Brother With Autism


So many people are in such a hurry.

It’s great once in a while. Rushing and effectively getting tons of stuff done in a day or two feels exhilarating and fantastic. But I think it’s unhealthy as a lifestyle choice, for most people.

I’m not a rushed kind of gal. I don’t put a lot on my plate and rarely take on projects with deadlines or excessive multitasking warning labels. But even I am often guilty of being in a hurry.

I like fast conversation. I like layers and quick wit and surprising revelations. I crave personal epiphanies and different ideas stumbling all over each other until they connect like some fabulous crazy integrated puzzle.

Often my brother will want desperately to chime in. He, too, finds fun in sharing perspectives, adding layers to thought and encouraging laughter with his cheeky satire. However, at 32 he’s a slow talker and extremely difficult to understand.

He’s also used to people assuming his sounds are just sounds and not slowing down to hear the word or even believe in it. For years and years it was only my mom who truly believed in his language. So he has a habit of giving up easily, and some of us have a habit of letting him.

Now that he’s getting slightly clearer there are many family members and friends — and of course his girlfriend — who believe, but still it’s only Mom (and maybe his girlfriend) who is always willing to slow down and listen — regardless of the to-do list, the ticking of the clock or the quickness of the conversation.

Every time I catch myself feeling impatient with my brother’s slowness, I have to laugh. What am I in such a hurry for? The next epiphany? I already know my brother has some of the most interesting and surprising insights of all. Why not slow down and wait for it? And his humor is brilliant! If it’s a laugh he’s offering, it’ll be worth the wait.

Hearing my brother’s words is always worth the wait. Letting him know we want to hear is always worth the wait. Taking time to allow him to hone his skill rather than make him feel inadequate is forever worth the wait. 

This is what I’m so passionate about sharing — the answers autism has offered me. In another home, a place where everything is easier, it’s also easier to ignore important truths and take the easy way. But later, the easy way has almost always given us bad habits like blaming, rushing to success, a willingness to give up easily. Challenges and difference highlight the important stuff. We don’t all choose to learn it or see it, but often we do. Because it offers itself to us and because not much is easy anyway, so we’re more willing to take the time.

I’m betting you have a loved one who you rush. Whether it’s yourself, your child, your sibling, your spouse… maybe you’re rushing language, skills, getting out the door on time. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but do go ahead and slow down.

It’s important to have goals and to go after them with intention and focus. But it’s also smart to take your time, to notice and connect with the world along the way. Otherwise you’ll reach your goal, but you’ll get there empty handed.

All the important stuff — all the people and lessons and beauty you need to enjoy and use your goal to its fullest — happens along the way.

So slow down. Our loved ones are talking.

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This post originally appeared on Autism Answers With Tsara Shelton.

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