Below is a letter from a young girl, Anya, to her older brother Dominic, who has autism. Dominic was diagnosed at age 2, so Anya has been with him her entire life. Anya helps some other children with disabilities at the Gymnastics gym that she competes for, because of her background and ability to connect with them.
“Happy 16th birthday to the best big brother in the world! I can’t even begin to imagine what life would be like without him. Life has definitely been a journey. Without him, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
Growing up with Dom has taught me a lot. It’s taught me that life isn’t always fair (especially not for him) and to always be on my toes because you never know what he might do next! Whenever I talk to people about my brother they always apologize to me because they think it’s a sad thing that I have to live with a brother with autism. It’s not a sad thing, in fact, it’s the best thing that I could ever ask for. I could say that I’m the luckiest sister in the world to have a brother like Dom.
Just because he’s not like everyone else doesn’t mean he’s not human. He just has his own ways of expressing himself that people like you & I don’t.
Yes, of course, I do have my own struggles with Dom, but it’s anything a brother and sister would do. Of course, some days I do wonder why Dominic is the way he is, but then I come to realize that it’s life and that without him being the way he is, I wouldn’t be the way I am. To be a sister of someone with autism is stressful and very chaotic, but it means that we have to be mature, and that helps in everyday things we have to do in life.
You deal with a lot of things that other 14-year-old girls wouldn’t even think of. Every time we go out, people look at him and it’s scary for you the first time because you don’t want him to have a meltdown in public, and it’s kind of like at that point you just don’t even want to be there, but then you finally realize that people are always going to look at him and you have to deal with it. You lose a lot, going out somewhere that you were planning for so long, but then you weren’t able to go because it’s too overwhelming for him. But we also gain a lot. We gain those feelings of overwhelming joy when he comes home and tells us stories about his day and expresses his emotions in a way that no other person would imagine.
And finally, to my brother, I would not change this experience of growing up with you for anything. I would go to the ends of the world for you. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate even the smallest things in life. The struggles I’ve been taught are part of everyday life. I know you probably won’t even see this, but if mom does end up showing you, I hope you know that I love you and hope you have the best 16th birthday ever because you deserve it.”