In June of 2019, my youngest brother who is 6 years old, was diagnosed with autism. Not many people know what autism is. I sure didn’t. I was not introduced to it until I was in University, and even then I did not fully understand it. I even thought I had it. I was confusing autism with anxiety, which is actually what I have. It was not until I read my brothers report in June that I realized that I was clueless about it and went and did some general research. I still am not 100% clear on what it is or how it affects a person because there are so many angles to it, and it affects individuals in different ways. There are key signs to look out for, but there is no hard and fast description that fits all individuals. Based on my amateur assessment, my brother is a high functioning autistic, and with therapy, he will be very close to behaving and living life as a normal person would.
Autism comes with many challenges for both the individual who has it and the caregivers. I have experienced that first hand. Having my brother spend the summer with me started very rough. A person with autism most likely operates through repetitive behaviors. They establish a pattern and go by it daily. I did not know that when my brother just started staying with me, so getting him to do things my way was very difficult. I encountered a lot of resistance. And up until the moment I held his report in my hand, I thought he was just being a spoiled brat. He also only ate a handful of food. Bread, macaroni, eggs, butter, cheese, dumplings and sometimes chicken (he would eat KFC all day every day though). If none of the above were on his plate he makes it known that he didn’t want what was on his plate in a very loud manner. And if they were on his plate along with anything else, he would only eat what was listed. To get him to eat anything else was an uphill task.
I am very worried about how my brother is going to grow up. We are not only are we finding it difficult to afford his basic needs but we also definitely cannot afford his special needs. He is going to a school that cost JMD 90,000 every three months. My father cannot afford that. Traveling, lunch money and after school care are extremely high as well. We honestly cannot afford it. My other brother just started college, and my father is the one who will be supporting him financially. My father plate is soooo full right now, I am afraid it might break one day.
My goal and hope in life are to be able to take care of my family. To me, that means giving my brother everything he needs to live a full and happy life. Being a special needs child is expensive, which means I must work hard to generate enough income to assist in the best way. That is what I am committed to doing. That is one of the things that keeps me going despite how I may feel at times. Knowing that a young person is depending on you, is a different type of motivation. I am bettering myself, so I can make his life better. And I am committed to doing this not only as his sister but also as a nurse. I think I must be his advocate. I am already taking steps towards this by first making myself aware of what autism is all about. I am doing research and will continue to do so. I will do my part to educate everyone around me. Hopefully, this will produce a domino effect and the information will spread. I have plans to locate and create resources for those who will be interacting with him so that they can also provide exactly what he needs when he needs it. Through he is my motivation for making such moves, the resources will not just be limited to him, but will also be available for all autistic children in Jamaica.
I think it is very much possible for him to live a good and happy life. I know he is loved by us, and I think he knows that too. He will be taught and guided as much as we possibly can. He will not only live but enjoy…..BEING ALIVE!