On Nov 29, 2011, a child was born. The whole family welcomed her arrival with excitement and open arms. We were thrilled to have a new addition to our family, and our hearts immediately filled with love for this brand-new life.
As she grew, her uniqueness became apparent. We noticed she would appear distant at times and was unable to talk or communicate well with others. The smallest things would keep her entertained for long periods, and she would repeat the same routine over and over throughout the day. Her behavior and speech patterns drew cause for concern, and my parents sought a professional opinion for answers to her differences.
At the age of three, my little sister received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with others.
An ASD diagnosis is potentially disheartening to a child’s loving family who learns their loved one will not be able to live, what most consider, a normal life. Unaware of what exactly this would entail, we made a conscious decision to consider autism a blessing. And what a blessing it turned out to be. The diagnosis brought our family closer together, and we realized a deeper appreciation for one another and the value of family.
Although she is usually in her own little world, our family is always there watching over her. We all play a part in her continued development and ensure that she is in a comfortable and safe environment at all times. Despite an autism diagnosis, she is a loving and caring child, who knows her family will be there to protect her.
Six years later I can say, watching her growth has been a great joy. It is my job, as her older brother, to protect and love her. Currently, I travel back and forth from John A. Logan College, always doing my best to keep her on track with improvements in communication and interpersonal skills. It is a great feeling to come home and see how much she has grown. I always look forward to her running into my arms for a big hug. Those moments will forever be priceless to me.
Learning a family member has autism is a life-changing event. It opens a phase of life that often raises difficult questions. The good news is there are answers in the form of proven intervention methods. Through informed action and the use of appropriate treatments and interventions, the child’s quality of life increases across their lifetime.
Most people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are incredibly smart. Even with difficulties communicating, they can listen, interpret what they are hear, and follow simple directions. They learn to communicate with others by bringing someone to the object they want or by pointing to it. Eventually, they develop a certain level of speech.
Raising a child with a developmental disability is a learning process. Mistakes are unavoidable. Through it all, it is important that my little sister knows that she has a loving and supportive family who will always be a shoulder to lean on during times of learning as well as her biggest cheerleaders when progress is achieved.
For those who have eyes that can see and ears that can hear perhaps my experience might make you more aware of what is really important in this short life we live. As for me, autism has actually been a blessing of strength, courage, and hope. It should not be viewed as a burden or problem, but rather as a blessing to the families fortunate enough to embrace a different lifestyle with a child born with autism. I know that my family is stronger; for as we experience it together it has brought my family closer together. Imagine what we as a community could accomplish if we let our problems bring us closer together.
Written by A. Jonathan Seabrook
Edited by D. Chandler and C. Jackson
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Nicki Seabrook – Used With Permission