Daily Prompt: Storybook Day

Hi guys and welcome back to another Sunday article, this time about disability awareness as opposed to my usual fantasy musings. For those that don’t know I have a younger brother with autism, and growing up with him was interesting. Although growing up with him was not without his challenges I stand by my title because I wouldn’t change a thing. My little brother might have autism but it doesn’t define him. Instead, my little brother is defined by his cunning mind, mischievous sense of humour, and an inevitable charm that is distinctly him.

Now, one thing I always found difficult when we were younger was having friends visit my house when my brother was around, specifically because he took the same glee in teasing them as he did me. I remember that at one point it got to a stage where more than one friend would refuse to visit my house because they knew my brother would be there, and knew he would be causing us trouble the whole night. At the time I was angry, but that was because I was missing an important detail: It wasn’t his fault. It seems simple now that I’m older, but asking my brother to be a different person just because I had a few friends who didn’t like him was stupidly unfair, and so I stopped inviting friends round. Except for the odd one or two, who took the time to understand why he was being the way he was, who would not only tolerate but actually accept his more unusual behaviours. It made me laugh when I realised it, but the best friends to have when growing up with my brother weren’t mine, they were ours.

Now, this next point doesn’t apply specifically to autistic siblings but the effect seems amplified when autism is involved. There are few family events I tried to claim the spotlight for growing up, but my birthday was one, and it was always the one I had to fight hardest to keep as mine. Now, this situation has mellowed as I’ve gotten older, but I remember several parties, furious because my brother spent the whole time talking over me, distracting my relatives, and blowing out my candles (the little fiend). I remember being quite upset at one particular party and my mum taking me aside and asking if I wanted to do a party without him. It surprised me because although it was tempting to say no, I didn’t want to. For all that he drove me crazy, I realised I had my own little spotlight just for me because our mother never stopped being proud of me for including him in everything, and I think he always loved me for keeping him included (even if he never showed it).

Possibly the most challenging part of growing up with an autistic sibling was the amount of time he got us into trouble. He didn’t do it on purpose, most of the time, but his worldview still caused him to say things which caused no amount of trouble. My favourite example was being a green guy with a green shirt (his method of identifying people at the time), and running into a black guy with a black shirt (he said it out loud, very loudly, and it caused no small amount of trouble). This is a large part of the reason why I write about autism to be honest, because he is rarely guilty of meaning to insult people, and once his logic has been explained people are usually fine once I’ve explained what he actually meant. Tom shouldn’t need to change, won’t in fact, and I’ve been finding as we’ve grown older, more and more people aren’t getting angry at him and sometimes I don’t even need to give an explanation. People are changing, and I hope my writing helps.

I could never speak about everything in one article, but as luck would have it I don’t have to. I have recently released a book titled: The Little Book of Thomasims. This is a book full of personal experiences growing up with my little brother. Each story is true and encapsulates a little snapshot of our lives, and also my own interpretations of what he might have been thinking in those situations. I have an introduction to this book here and a sample chapter available here if you want to learn more.

Until then, if you’re growing up with an autistic sibling remember they’re awesome.