I’m Told My Brother’s Needs Make Him ‘Hard to Please.’ It’s Just the Opposite.

To my brother, the handsome man with autism:

When I first met you, you had brown hair that stuck out in every direction, grey-blue eyes, a squirmy, little body, and a crazy, loud scream.  You screamed a lot; I think you were trying to take in the whole world through your deep, wide-mouthed breaths… But all of the pictures, colors, sounds and people were just too much for one tiny baby.

As you grew older, you grew quiet — still taking the world in through your grey-blue eyes — watching “Sesame Street” with me, rocking back and forth to the music and flapping your wrists in your signature way. You liked to flap all the time… while eating hot dogs, watching movies, singing songs. Flapping was your happy place, but also your nervous one.

To this day, you flap when your t-shirt isn’t grey, when we are late for an appointment or when you don’t get to pick where we eat lunch. You are a genius, my brother, because you can communicate more with the flick of a wrist than Ernest Hemingway could in 50 pages of prose.

But that’s just my opinion…

And being a literalist, we both know you operate only on facts.

The fact is, you’re my brother, and sometimes you frustrate me. You’re a creature of habit. You’re set in your ways. You like watching movies that you can quote verbatim.  You’re ready to end a vacation after only two days away, and your world can sometimes melt without an afternoon nap.

I’m told your love for routine isn’t “normal,” that it’s one of the hallmarks of your autism. That it is awful, and life-upsetting, and makes you hard to please. But on the contrary, I find that you, with your steady, simple set of wants and needs, are easy to please. It’s the rest of the world, asking you to step outside of them, that can sometimes make life hard.

But that’s just my opinion…

And being a literalist, we both know you operate only on facts.

The fact is, I couldn’t imagine having any other brother but you, the handsome man with autism.

You’re the one who calls me up just to count down the days until my next trip home. The one who always wants to plan what we’ll eat, what we’ll watch and even what we’ll wear every time we’re together. The man who won’t be seen on Sundays without a tie and who doesn’t understand why blaring Christmas music at full volume in April would ever be objectionable.

You make me laugh. You sing and dance with me. You’re my personal fashion police every time I wear black with brown. You keep up with my Facebook posts, love interests and Saturday night dates. You make sure I’m eating at the Cheesecake Factory near my house. You check on me when I’m home sick from work and worry if I miss a gathering at church. You remember more about my schedule from 500 miles away than I do with it right in front of me.

You are my brother, the handsome man with autism, and I love you.

The Mighty wants to read more stories about siblings, whether it’s your favorite memory or a tough moment that taught you something. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

How I Learned to Choose Joy

Finding my joy was easier as a child. As a teen. Even as a young adult. The heartbreak of relationships stole that joy. The dream of being a writer that met obstacles like talent and grammar and platform and self-discipline slowly stole that joy. Or rather, I allowed those things to steal my joy. Suddenly, finding it [...]

What People Should Know About Labels Like ‘Behavior Issues’

In 1974, my little sister who had cerebral palsy started school. The teacher put stick figure PEC pictures all over her tray covered in I assume some type of clear box tape. This little girl came home and we had the most delightful conversation. She was vocal but not verbal, and through these simple pictures, [...]

When Doctors Predicted My Sister May Be a ‘Vegetable’ Her Entire Life

I remember feeling shocked when my mom first told me the doctors had initially predicted my sister, Anna, may be a “vegetable” her entire life. That’s not her at all. Anna was born 24 years ago with an underdeveloped brain due to unknown causes after a seemingly normal pregnancy. Doctors were unable to determine a diagnosis, [...]

I Used to Feel Negative About Autism Awareness Month. Not Anymore.

Forty years ago, I never saw people with autism in the community. Autism was a taboo topic, and people with it were often institutionalized. Today, people with autism are living in our communities — which are also their communities — and teaching us exactly what they have to share with the world. That’s progress. I’m a believer [...]