what I want you to know about having an autistic brother.

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Kaelyn.


My brother is one of my best friends. My brother is my hero. My brother has a beautiful soul. My brother is courageous. My brother is handsome. My brother loves going to church. My brother loves trains, the color blue and singing. My brother loves me.

My brother is not retarded.
My brother is not a "[insert poorly used expletive] tard”
My brother does not drool or rock or bang his head on the table, and he has never needed to wear a helmet.
My brother does not conform to stereotypes, and truly, most autistic children don’t, because they’re unique.
My brother will not help you cheat in cards, or tell you how many toothpicks just fell on the floor, you insensitive excuse of a human being.

I’m sorry that sounded a bit mean, but so do your questions most of the time. Yes, my brother is different, but honestly, none of us are the same. I’m blonde. You may not be. He has ocean blue eyes. Yours are most likely not exactly the came color. We’re all different and, he is not broken. Stop telling me you’re sorry for his illness. He is not sick. Stop telling me you’re sorry I had to grow up too fast because I had to watch him. We’re 10 months apart; it would have been physically impossible for me to raise him. We’re almost the same age. Do not ask me if “his disease” is contagious. It is NOT a disease, and there is nothing wrong with him.

There is a vast difference is “being retarded” and being diagnosed with a form of mental retardation. Mental retardation refers to slower brain function, and being some degree behind your peers when it comes to certain facets of the intellectual scale. Being “retarded” usually has something to do with you licking a toaster because you were dared by those peers you call your “friends,” There is a difference, a BIG difference.

That being said, my brother is so smart. He helped me with my calculus homework in high school, and used to read to me from my physics text book when I asked him. Stop calling him stupid. He can memorize and entire movie word-for-word after watching the movie two times. The. Entire. Movie. He still quotes movies to me I haven’t seen since Christmas 1997 (when he was four and I was five).

Stop muttering under your breath about the weird kid that talks to himself. He’s watching a movie inside his head, or playing out a conversation. You do it too. He does this as a calming mechanism, much like nail biting or knuckle cracking. It’s calming for him.

Autism is a “spectrum disorder” characterized by antisocial behavior, an inability to communicate basic thoughts, and an insistent need for repetition. Spectrum disorders are disorders (and I’m using that word with as much disdain as I can muster. I hate those types of generalizations) that affect each person differently. No autistic person is affected exactly the same way.

My brother loves to be the center of attention, but when he gets angry, he can’t explain what’s wrong. That is not typical. He gets in moods where he’ll yell at you for opening the door to his room. How many teenagers have not done that, though? He goes to bed at the same time every night, has a crush on a girl he graduated with whom he calls “Princess,” puts ketchup on almost everything, and only watches his favorite parts of movies.

I’m not trying to be judgmental, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but honestly, how would you feel if someone asked who the “F^)% tard” was that was playing with a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine and singing at lunch? That is my brother, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you or anyone talk about him like that. I love him and would do anything for him. Also, don’t vandalize his stuff. If by some chance the person that wrote in his lunch box and drew genitalia on his notebook is reading this, I didn’t forget, and I hope you lose all your hair and some of your teeth by the time you’re 22.

Respect goes a long way. I’m not asking you to be my brother’s best friend, he has several. I’m only asking that you do your research before you decide he’s weird. Do I throw around the word “retard”? If you drunkenly lick a toaster I can’t promise I won’t, but, yes, I do it more than I should. Do I occasionally laugh at something before understanding the situation? Everyone does. We all make mistakes, and we all have our own cross to bear, but I’d really appreciate if you’d make my life less of a living hell and realize everyone is different, and that handsome boy you just made fun of is a kinder person than I could ever hope to be. He might even join in laughing with you if he sees you. He’s an 18 year old boy with the kind, honest heart of a child, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

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