This “In Their Own Words” essay is written by Miranda Specht, from East Islip, N.Y. This was originally written as a college admissions essay.
When I was three years old my baby brother was born. I remember the car ride to the hospital on the day we were finally able take him home. I was so excited. I had no idea then, how much of an influence he would be.
Richie was born weighing only one pound, thirteen ounces and spent the first 95 days of his life in the intensive care unit struggling to survive. On a daily basis there were teachers and therapists that would come work with my brother. At this time our family thought this would be the biggest obstacle he would have to overcome in his life.
Eighteen months later my brother Richie was diagnosed with autism. He would cry all the time and didn’t like being around other people. As he grew, his inability to communicate would cause him great frustration. When people don’t understand him, Richie hits his head. Although his disability has been a tremendous challenge for my family, it has also turned out to be a great blessing. I have learned a lot from Richie about tolerance, patience, and compassion.
Having an autistic brother has changed my perspective on life and shaped the way I relate to and communicate with others. When I was younger it used to make me angry when people would stare at my brother in public. As I got older I realized that people were afraid of what they didn’t understand. Now I try to educate people about autism every chance I get.
It is hard work living with a disabled child, and at times it can be very stressful, but for me it has also been an extremely rewarding experience. I learned at a very early age how to put someone else’s needs in front of my own. At times it frustrated me to make these sacrifices because it didn’t seem fair. When I played sports I sometimes resented the fact that all the other kids’ parents were at the games. My parents would watch from the car, because my brother couldn’t handle the noise and being around so many people. But as I grew up I realized Richie was the one who had been cheated. I began to feel less sorry for myself and more grateful for him. If it wasn’t for him my heart wouldn’t be as big as it is. He has made me a more open minded and tolerant person.
I have come to realize that everyone is different, and that you cannot judge someone simply because they are not the same as you; you should give them a chance, because you never know what might have happened in their lives or how they might end up affecting yours. Richie has helped make me a more loving, compassionate, and generally a happier person. Living with my brother has also made me understand what life is really about. We take for granted having a voice and being able to interact with each other. It’s hard to understand how important these things are until you’re forced to view life without them.
When you live with someone who is disabled you have a greater respect for the things you and others are capable of doing. My brother is unable to do daily tasks on his own. So many wonderful teachers and aides have helped my brother get to where he is today. Seeing these people work with my brother has inspired me to consider a career in elementary education and/or special education. Not every step in this journey has been easy, but I know my brother has made me a better person. So, now when it’s five thirty in the morning and I could really use more sleep and Richie is running up and down the hall in front of my room saying “Bye, Bye, Bye” and laughing, I can smile because I know today is going to be a good day.
“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.