James arrived as a unique individual. For one thing, he was born with vibrant red hair — a characteristic that was last traced back to one of our great grandfathers. His smile and his laughter was bubbly and infectious, and it was impossible to not reciprocate. What my parents would discover within a couple years later is that he also arrived with a form of autism which turned out to be significantly more intensive in comparison to my own diagnosis.
An extensive “bouquet” of experiences has been collected in these last 28 years. These experiences extended their “branches” to a whole dynamic of emotions which in no doubt impacted our entire family. It was difficult for everyone, including my brother. However, it provided an excellent challenge in that it taught all of us some important life principles… mindfulness, non-judgemental thinking, and unconditional love. We do not have to deny when things are difficult, and we do not have to deny our cycles of anger and frustration. But how we choose to perceive these challenges play a major role in our outlook towards life. Perception of hope and positivity is entirely determined by how much of that we allow ourselves to take in. When we cease comparing expectations of achievements and success to the achievements and success of others, we begin to feel less pressure. The outcome of an individual may not be what we had initially envisioned, but that does not mean we cannot strive personal achievement, personal success, and paving the path for that individual towards a full productive life.
Shannon Des Roches Rosa from The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism facilitated an in-depth interview where I spoke candidly about autism from one sibling’s perspective. The conversation exchange unfolds James’ life story and the knowledge I gained as a sister of a person who shares my diagnosis, yet affects us both very differently. Because of the raw honesty and intensity of emotion I wanted to invest into this conversation, the interview in its entirety took a while to complete. In the end, I’m glad I did it and I appreciate being approached by TPGA to share my brother’s story with the autism community.
If you would like to learn more about James’ life and what I learned from my experiences as an older sister, you can read the full interview here.
Happy Birthday, James. You have influenced me in ways that I cannot justify with words. Thank you for your contributions to my life and for shaping me into the person who I am today. With Love from your Big Sis, Z.