By Jonathan Slack, Market Research & Development Specialist, AHSS
Jennifer is a bundle of joy. Her smile is priceless. She will watch the same 10 seconds of a Disney movie 100 times in a row. She flaps her arms when she is happy, and she can only say about a hundred words spontaneously. My sister, Jennifer, is on the autism spectrum.
One night when she refused to eat dinner, I was tasked with guarding our cupboard of cookies from her. She waited with me in the kitchen for an hour until she finally wore me down. To say she has difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next would be a severe understatement. I love Jennifer, and out of everyone I know she probably had the biggest influence on the type of person I am today. Unfortunately, even the best-equipped brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers sometimes experience moments of despair where they feel completely worn down by their loved one with autism. Whether it’s getting odd looks at restaurants when they vocalize or when our loved ones impulsively decide to leave the house at midnight to go shopping because they had a craving for Doritos, families with autistic individuals go through unique challenges.
Luckily, if you have ever felt this way you are not alone. When I was younger, I wish I had known other people my age who understood what it was like to have a sibling with autism. I am sure my parents would have liked to have known more parents that had a child with autism. If my family had known more families like us, then maybe we could have been prepared for many of the behaviors that Jennifer displayed that we did not know how to handle.
Autism Home Support Services is starting a new section of our blog called “You’re Not Alone”. We know what families with an autistic family member are going through, because many of us have autistic family members. We want everyone to know they’re not alone and that thousands of families all across the country are experiencing the unique challenges that having a loved one with autism entails. If our blog can help even one parent or one sibling of an individual with autism feel better by showing them they are not alone, then it has done its job. Remember, no matter how much it can feel like it, you’re not alone.