Anyone who knows us well, knows that Wheeler is a remarkable brother to Everett. Everett adores him and their bond is so special. I am a lucky mother that I get to witness these two grow along side of each other. Wheeler volunteered to write an entry for the blog and sent this to me. Thank you Wheeler for sharing with us a little glimpse of your life from a different spectrum!
On November 2nd of 2006, my little world changed forever. I was hours away from being a brand new big brother. I was only seven years old and truly had no idea what to expect. I knew all of our family and friends were filled with joy over this new baby boy that had yet to arrive. I was not exactly sure what was I supposed to think about this whole situation. Is this guy going to come in and take the spotlight away from me? Is he going to get more Christmas presents than I will? I did not like the idea of being a big brother AT ALL.
With mixed emotions about being a big brother, my perspective on having a sibling turned a complete 180 the moment he was born. I felt an immediate bond with the small kid I continually stared at through the hospital glass window. I was in complete shock to think this little baby is about to be a part of our lives forever. While sitting on my father’s shoulders, he states to me, “You’re officially a big brother now, Wheeler!” and the rest is history.
Life has a completely different meaning when you have a sibling with autism. Both positive and negative, but in my personal opinion it is mostly positive. When someone thinks of a younger sibling they may think, “My little brother is SO annoying!” However, I truly cannot recall a time where Everett, as a young sibling, has annoyed me personally. He doesn’t constantly ask questions, he doesn’t cry when I rough house with him, and he doesn’t tattle on me for things I shouldn’t be doing. How can someone complain about a sibling that doesn’t tattle or cry? He is my little partner in crime and he knows it just as much as I do.
With autism being a word that popped up for Everett around the age of 3 or 4, I was clueless about the concept of what autism actually was. I understood that his speech wouldn’t be up to par with kids his age, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I thought he would eventually just catch up with his age group and be completely normal later on, but quite frankly I was incorrect. The older he was, the more I noticed that his interest were very child-like. I could not wrap my head around the fact that a 9-year-old kid wanted to watch Thomas the Train and Wonder Pets? At 9 years old, my interests were hunting anything that moved, pond fishing when it wasn’t hunting season, or thinking of a strategy to climb a certain tree higher than I did the previous time. I then realized that autism was something completely different than what I had previously thought.
There have been many lessons that being a big brother to someone with autism has taught me over this 13-year journey. Patience is the main topic that pops into my head. If you or your family has an autistic person in your family, you will completely understand where I am coming from here. Patience with an autistic child is an absolute MUST for them to grow and mold into who they are meant to be. This does not mean that the certain child with autism will be patient with you. And in my opinion, this is where the family’s patience is heavily tested. My mother is a miracle worker when it comes to working with Everett’s impatience. The small, unique phrases that she uses to keep him patient for upcoming events is truly amazing… such as, “10 days until we go to the city-house” “Wheeler will be back from college in 20 days”. Continuously counting down the days toward a big, upcoming event with Everett keeps him cool, calm, and collected.
A year or two ago, my mom told me that she had read an article basically stating that “siblings are invisible victims of autism” and I wasn’t quite sure on what to think about that specific phrase. As I think back to the day Everett was born until present day, I have never felt a victim towards autism. To me, the perspective that you choose towards autism is what makes the difference. You can feel like a victim or you can make the choice to feel as if you have someone completely special in their own little way. Everett is without a doubt a special person and his needs are not like a normal kid’s, but at the end of the day you can look at autism with a positive or negative perspective. Clay, Mom, I, and the rest of our family choose to look at Everett’s autism as a blessing in disguise, rather than feel as a victim toward Everett and his disability.
To give an overview of what it is like to be a big brother to someone with autism, it is something I take pride in. I take pride that my little brother is different. I take pride in the fact that he is someone with special needs. I take pride in that he doesn’t lose a wink of sleep over the opinion of sheep. I take pride in the fact that he doesn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks about him and his disability. I take pride that this kid has probably taught me more life lessons than anyone else. I am forever grateful for Everett and the relationship that I am able to have with him.
He will always have someone to lean on, because that is what big brothers are for.