What it's like growing up with a brother with Asperger's
From day one, my brother has always been unique. Not in a bad way, he’s just always been his own person. Like anyone else, he has his good days and his bad days, both on a more extreme level than others. At a young age he was diagnosed with Asperger's—and it changed our family forever.
Asperger Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that falls under the autism spectrum. It’s a high-functioning form of autism, which means you would probably not know he has this disorder unless you were told. Some of the symptoms include the inability to understand others' emotions, difficulty recognizing social cues and inappropriate responses in different situations.
Growing up, my brother and I had the best times together. We always played pretend, he’d be my models when I thought I was a photographer at 9, and he’d let me dress him up and have dance parties. As we got older, it became hard to have that same close relationship because it seemed he was a little behind his age group.
We began fighting more, verbally and physically. I am a hot-headed individual to begin with and I didn’t know how to deal with his unusual behaviors and I still struggle now. The hardest part is remembering that it’s not his fault that on his bad days, he struggles to pick himself back up. Some days he keeps spiraling, saying mean things, not listening, and not communicating.
Through the help of my mom and my brother’s doctors, we all began taking classes to try to find a balance and cope with the difficult behavior. This was a really hard time for me because I was being informed that my brother isn’t a bad kid like I thought, he’s just different and he has difficulties that are out of his control.
The best thing you can do is to inform yourself on disorders such as Asperger's. There’s so much information out there to help get a better understanding of the strengths and the weaknesses of the person diagnosed. This wasn’t the only time our family struggled with understanding...this past year we got involved in family therapy to better our relationships.
Prior to getting family therapy, we were in the worst of it all because this syndrome affects not only my brother, but every one of us. We started to lose communication and my brother’s bad days happened six out of the seven days a week.
Through therapy we all got to cool off, talk to each other and hear our thoughts and feelings. With my brother, we really got to hear him speak up for himself and I think it gave us all a better idea of what he was going through. Because of Asperger's, my brother has difficulty expressing his emotions especially under pressure, so this opportunity was really eye-opening. It was our job to figure out what we could do to better our relationship with him.
In a fight or argument with my bother, it can be very easy for him to lose focus and control of his emotions. He can become mean, angry and loud. Sometimes it’s really hard to talk to him, but when needed we all have to take a step back so he can collect himself. It’s definitely not easy and as a family we all have to keep each other in check when it comes to helping each other help my brother.
My brother is not Asperger's—he is a boy growing up with different strengths and weaknesses. With his bad days, comes really good days. He’s still one of the funniest people I know. He is determined, smart and the best brother I could ask for.
As a sibling or friend, the best thing you can do is inform yourself and start a conversation. The autism spectrum is so complex and so different from person to person. Get your base knowledge, then talk to the person or sit in on counseling sessions. We all have strengths and weakness, and we all have to learn to compromise and work with each other.
Do you know someone with on the autism spectrum? How have you learned to cope? Tell us in the comments below!