Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – A Sister’s Love

In Their Own Words – A Sister’s Love

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 editors@autismspeaks.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.


  1. Barbara Pons
    July 12, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Wow!! Thank you for sharing you experience with a speical needs brother! I will have to show this to my daughter who has a special needs brother at home. He is 1 year older than her. She is 8 years old. I know she is jealous of the attention he gets and that she doesn’t really understand what is really going on right now. One good thing is that she really loves her brother and she has been very helpful with him. When he is upset she even tries to calm him down. I have been very worried about her with her self esteem and i always try to give her some special time. Although that can be very tough at times. I just hope that she can say the same thing later on down the road. We will see. Good luck to you and your brother!!

    July 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m a MOM of 3. My youngest, EMILLIE, is Autistic and my oldest, ALEXIS, just graduated high school & feels the same way. She’s going to purse special education because of her sister’s disablitity.

    The world is an ugly place. But having COMPASSIONATE & EDUCATED people like you & my daughter wanting to help, will make a difference in my Autistic children’s lives for the better. GOD BLESS YOU & good luck in the future!

  3. Daisy Rivera
    July 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing ur story, my son Diego 6 is very similar to ur brother Richie. Diego’s litle sister 3 is already a better person for having a brother with special needs. She is very caring, loving and unique. Love reading it.

  4. Reagan
    July 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    My little brother sounds alot like yours honestly. I’m 6 1/2 years older than my brother so I’ve pretty much been able to understand all the things the doctors and therapist say my whole life which I think sometimes makes it harder, sometimes I think it would be nice just to live in a blissfull oblivion. I love my brother more than I could ever put into words and when I think about how difficult his life is I realize how selfish I am to ever be upset because I can’t do something or go somewhere because of him. I realize that he doesn’t get to be a normal 9 year old boy because of his autism. It’s so hard to watch him get frustrated when we can’t understand him, it breaks my heart. I wish I could take it away from him even if it meant bringing it on myself, but I can’t and that’s one of the hardest things to accept, that I can’t just fix it. I can remember nights when I have just sat with my parents and cried saying “why do these things have to happen to him? why cant they happen to me instead?” and I still think that but I just have to have faith and know that God made my brother this way for a reason. I also think that his autism has given us a stronger bond than alot of brothers and sisters with as big of an age gap as we have. I love to spend time with my brother and because of the anti-social tendencies that come with autism sometimes I have to make him play a game or hang out with me but afterwards I can tell he enjoys it he just can’t communicate and doesn’t realize he wants companionship sometimes. I can’t even imagine how hard life is for him because he’s so smart he just can’t communicate so autimatically people assume hes stupid and he’s not. I get frustrated when people stare or point sometimes but I have to constantly remind myself that they don’t understand and no matter what negative things they say it doesn’t change the amazing little boy he is. I thank God for the amazing blessing my brother has been and always will be on my life, he’s truly a terrific little boy and an awesome little brother. :)

  5. Jane Sheets
    July 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you so much for your article. I am the older sister of a brother who has special needs. It is because of what I experienced growing up with my brother as well as knowing what happens “behind the scenes” in a family with a special needs child, that I went into special education and have been teaching in that area for 22 years. I know that I am a better teacher because I fully understand all aspects of this journey. I am still constantly learning as my brother is now an adult in his early 40’s and my parents are in their 70’s. However, I know that this journey is also continuing to make me a better teacher and a more compassionate person. I had no idea that it would prepare me for my own journey with my own son who has Asperger’s. It has made me a very strong advocate for people with special needs and their families. Your knowledge and skills will serve you very well in your field and parents will be put at ease because you completely understand. I wish you the very best in your career.

  6. ashley
    July 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Wow, very great story! I am JUST like you! My special needs brother was born when i was 3, my brother has inspired me to become a speach therapist, at games my parent’s watched from teh car because of the noise, and etc. Anyway, I hope your brother get’s better. :)

  7. July 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I asked my 14-yr-old son to write about what it’s like for his sister to have autism. This is what he said:

    Living with a brother or sister with autism is like going through football hell week everyday. I should know, my sister has autism. I have lived under the same roof with her for 14 years.

    The part that makes me angry the most is that people don’t understand, and most of the time don’t try to understand. My sister often tries to get as much attention as possible. She will scream, cry, yell, cuss, until she gets what she wants. She even does this in public. She won’t stop until she has everyone on their knees.

    My life has been affected so much. I can’t do school work without her talking about stuff that doesn’t even exist. I have to ask to go out and do stuff with my friends, just in case she has an appointment. 99.999% of all the hospital, doctor, and all other appointments are for her. I am stuck going to 99.998% of the appointments.

    Once my sister had to get an MRI and she was sick from the drugs they gave her, so my parents weren’t home until 3:30 a.m. the next day. I was cool with being alone, I just didn’t know what was going on. My family is not 1% normal. I know that.

    Nick Mc-N. @ 14 years-old

  8. July 12, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    My daughter Ashley is 22 years old and in college for occupational therapy. My son Joey is now 9 years old and has autism, from the day that he was diagnosed at the age of 2 1/2, she told me that she wanted to help her little brother and all the other special children with autism. She has played such a big part in his life. And i could not be more proud of her. The love she has for him is amazing..
    Being that she has been living this life has made her a stronger, understanding woman. I cannot thank her enough.

  9. ileana morales
    July 13, 2010 at 12:56 am

    THANK YOU! You are not only a Great sister, but also a Great person.You would be the right person to help special needs kids.We need more people like you in this world!!!!

  10. Michele Willet
    July 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. As I see from other comments, it is so helpful to read something from the viewpoint of a sibling. I also have a daughter who is struggling with the stigma of having a brother with autism. She does pretty well most days, but also gets jealous of the attention. She is almost 9. It’s inspiring to see how you have come to view your challenges as blessings, which truly is what they are.

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