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Being the sibling of an autistic person

Posted Dec 20 2008 6:45pm

A fascinating news story from a week ago I just caught, it tells the side of the story that is often not captured.

Kate Dansereau, 34, of Fairhaven, who has an autistic twin sister, Julie, recalls her story of transcendence. She’s now an autism consultant for Community Autism Resources (CAR), based in Swansea.

“As I got older… and ‘fitting in’ became more important, it was extremely difficult. I was often embarrassed by her and concerned of my own image and what other people would think,” said Dansereau. “After high school there was a shift in my attitude and I became much more accepting of her differences, and felt the rest of the world should be too.”

So, being around an autistic person made this neurotypical person ‘more accepting of difference’. Is there anyone out there who thinks that’s a terrible thing? Because I’m of the opinion that thats an excellent thing. And something that may never have happened to Dansereau had she not had a close relationship to an autistic person. Would it be to much to sugges that possibly (hang tight now folks) this is a clear positive aspect to autism?

How about this?

“When I was about seven, I didn’t really like him [Taylor] very much because I felt like he was mean,” said 13-year-old Jace King, whose 20 year old brother, Taylor Cross, is autistic. “My mom explained to me that he was different and that he had some special talents, as well as some things that he wasn’t so great at, and that was because of his autism.”

“At first it didn’t really register, because I was young and didn’t really understand what autism was,” continued King. “As I grew older we had more in common and we liked each other more, and I was able to understand how it affected him and how it made him a better person.”

How it ‘made him a better person’ eh? I wonder if Mr King realises how many people would attack him for simply believing his brothers autism made him a better person?

How about this:

It’s also become common knowledge that over time, as King and Bowers mentioned in their film, siblings tend to mature faster than children who do not have an autistic sibling. They tend to develop more compassionate qualities, and not to be as judgmental of other people.

“I’ve gained a sense of understanding and knowledge,” said King, “When I look at people, instead of asking myself, ‘what’s wrong with them?’ I ask myself, ‘how can I help them?’”

Snyder is also able to reflect on what she has gained from having a sibling on the autism spectrum.

“A lot of my compassionate tendencies really come from the fact that I’ve had my brother my whole life,” said Snyder. “Just from the fact that he’s different and it’s not his fault, and he needs to be accepted, and I try to spread that sentiment when I get the chance.”

So here we are with these siblings of autistic kids – siblings who used to not like their autistic siblings very much as kids – growing up, maturing and developing deeply compassionate qualities as well as losing the judgemental attitudes some people show. They also try to evangelise acceptance.

Seems like siblings of autistic kids turn out pretty damn well to me.

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