Living Life With Autism

Julie Walder, Staff Writer

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Usually when someone hears the word “Autism” they think of a kid that acts and may look different. When I hear the word, Autism, I think of my brother.

The most popular response I get, when I tell someone about my little brother is, “Wow, that must be hard.” To me, it’s crazy to think that my brother having autism could be hard, because I’ve never known what it’s like without it. I’ll admit it can be difficult, but every family has its difficulties. Some people ask, “What’s your relationship like with him?” My response would be:  it’s really good, and we hardly ever fight with each other. If me being the crazy sister, and him looking at me like I’m insane counts as fighting, then I guess you could say we fight a lot. Like any other family member, he likes to tease me and our parents.

Just like how you and your friends are different, the same goes for kids with Autism. Some of the kids do like to be alone instead of being clingy. Others kids might not want to be touched,  they might love pressure, they can be shy (because they don’t know you), and yet other kids just want to be friends with everyone. Brandt Bozant, a student at Slidell High who has helped with special needs kids, says, “Each one took a little while to figure out a way to communicate with them, but after a while you figure out things they like and then you communicate with them. If one likes reading, I would read to them or help them read.”

Additionally, communicating is extremely difficult for them. One-third of people who have autism are nonverbal; sometimes they only say a few words. If they can’t talk, they may use sign language to communicate. Mrs. Taylor, a teacher at Carterville High School, has a nephew with autism and she says, “ If the child is non-verbal, you really need to act out what you wanna say. The best way of teaching them is by a video. If the child is verbal, then we talk about things they like and it’s more simple sentences.” For example, when my family talks to my brother, it’s usually short, simple sentences. We do talk in 3rd person most of the time. For example, if I were to ask if I can borrow the computer, I would say, “Can Julie use the computer?” Sometimes, children with Autism may not know what the name of the object is or how to describe something, so they’ll point or say “this?”

For these kids and even adults, living a “normal” life is extremely hard. When someone speaks with us we catch on to what is being communicated, but for people with Autism this task may be a struggle. For instance, if you and your family are going on a trip and you end up having to change plans, you will understand why the plans have to change, but for someone with Autism the reality of the situation might be much harder to grasp; it’s hard for them to understand change. They prefer to stick to the plan or a familiar routine.

There can also be a lot of sensory issues that they may have to deal with. They may not like the light too bright or too dark, loud noises, or the smell/feel of something. Sometimes, you may see my brother wearing headphones. (No, he’s not listening to music.) What he is wearing are soundproof headphones, so if it’s too loud the sound won’t bother him. There’s ways to make their difficulties much more tolerable for, you just have to find what works for the child.

Of course, my family and I don’t expect for everyone that comes to our house to know everything about Autism. We don’t even know everything, we have just slowly learned what works. When friends come over we just ask that they treat my brother like anyone else. We understand that this can be hard for some people, and if you have any questions we will answer any of them. Brooke Jamison, a student at Picayune Memorial High School who has met my brother, explained, “ For me, it wasn’t difficult, it actually felt very normal for me. I think the only thing we had trouble with was that he couldn’t remember my name but that came over time.”

Living with someone who has Autism can be challenging at times, but there is so much positivity that goes with it; you can help someone with anything and make a new friend. I highly recommend volunteering for anything that helps special needs kids, it would make for an unforgettable experience with such amazing people.