Daily Prompt Post: Controversy

Hey everyone, and welcome back to another article about growing up with autism, this time featuring everyone’s favourite party stopper: awkward moments. These are the kinds of situations you will undoubtedly find yourself in growing up with a sibling who has autism, and in some cases, a sibling without autism, and below are my best suggestions for dealing with them. And while I’m on the subject I have a book called The Little Book of Thomasims available here, with a sample chapter available here. This book addresses a lot of issues that crop up with an autistic sibling and is a good read for siblings struggling in this role. The important thing to remember throughout this article is that people’s opinions, especially those that judge your sibling for no reason, just don’t matter. Let’s get started.

Toilet time: This might seem like an odd one but bear with me. Most older siblings will have, at one point in their lives, had to take younger siblings to the bathroom when you’re at restaurants, cinema, and other public venues. It happens, but in the case of my younger brother it is still happening, and it’s been getting me odd looks even now. He is one to lock himself in the cubicle, which is fine, but insists that I am never far away which leaves me the enviable task of trying not to look awkward standing around in the men’s toilets. I have found that explaining, to anyone who actually asks what I’m doing will work quite well, and having a conversation with my brother while he is out of sight dispels a lot of unasked questions. I have only been confronted a few times while waiting for him to finish, I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, and the people have told me it’s weird hanging around in bathrooms. I couldn’t help but agree and try to explain why I was there, but it rarely worked in that situation. With people like this I refer you to the first rule of this article, that there opinion doesn’t matter. If they won’t listen to reason then ignore them, simple as that.

Dating: Dating, that arena of social awkwardness that makes even the most stalwart individual sweaty with nerves and anticipation. This is always an interesting situation to be in, even more so when siblings want to be nosy, and a sibling with autism will make this doubly true. I remember trying to go on a date with someone, and having the misfortune of running into my family in town. My brother told the young lady something rude, I forget what, and being told off. Of course, knowing he shouldn’t do it only made him do it more, and despite my stammering apologies my date ended quite abruptly. This is a worst case scenario, but if you’re close with your family and in a relationship, I would always recommend introducing them to your family sooner rather than later. My brother is a giant pain, and my now partner is brilliant with him, but I would hate to be in a situation where I can’t have my partner and my family in the same room. I love the lot of them, and having to choose between just isn’t right.

Cinema: There is an unspoken rule (and pun), that people just don’t talk in a cinema when the film is running. However, unspoken rules, and even rules that are spoken over and over again, don’t apply to my younger brother sometimes, no matter how hard we try. One fateful day we went to watch a film together, and in this film there were subtitles for one of the characters (I believe he was speaking Chinese), and my brother struggles with reading. So, whenever he spoke I would read them out to him as quietly as I could, and whenever we came across an unusual word he would quiz me on it’s meaning. Now, I imagine this is irritating for other viewers, and I had made efforts to sit away from the main bulk of the crowd to try and reduce it, but there is always one person who needs to try and make a point. She waited until the film was done and then cornered us just outside the screen, self-righteous fury on full, and told us how disrespectful we both were during the film. I apologised and explained quite quickly why my talking was necessary and she said one of the foulest things I have heard in a while: well you should make him watch in a different screen then, one with people like him. The worst part was that some people agreed with her in the way that crowds do, agreed to ostracise my little brother just because his autism required him to talk a bit more than normal in a cinema. Caught in a situation like this I would recommend shocking people with a few scary words like segregation, because in their heads it seems so reasonable to separate him from ‘normal’ people, so much so that they don’t realise just how bad this suggestion is. Show them exactly what they’re saying. Don’t accuse, but help them realise. And if you have a mother like mine, someone with the equivalent temper of a giant, and enough knowledge about autism and maltreatment of people with disabilities, you could set her loose on them. It’s funny.

There are my thoughts for the day, and I hope some of you enjoyed reading them. If you’re caught in these situations, or know someone who is, pass this on to them. I have found it nice growing up when I can empathise with people, and have had it confirmed that this isn’t something weird. It’s a part of life with a sibling who has autism, it doesn’t need to change, the people around you do.