I'm a 23 year old woman and I live in Scotland, United Kingdom. I have 2 older brothers and a younger sister. My oldest brother is currently 30 and has low functioning autism. He has severe learning disabilities and no speech but his personality still shines through all the problems that autism brings. He understands every word you say to him and it's amazing how he can say so much from just from his facial expressions.
I think it's great that there is increasingly more and more awareness of autism out there but there are a few things that I still find most people do not seem to appreciate:
1) Autistic children are beautiful and increasingly given additional support and focus but I think many people forget that autism affects the individuals throughout their whole adult lives too.
2) Autism affects the whole family not just the autistic individual(s) and that includes siblings who can often be forgotten about as a result of the more pressing problems of the family member with autism.
3) Autism is a very wide umbrella that covers the full range of the autistic spectrum and I see people sometimes having good awareness of Asperger's syndrome but not appreciating that there are many people at the other end of the spectrum, for example my brother who is completely non-verbal.
I don't know if anyone will ever read this blog but I hope that they do because I'd like to help at least one person who has struggled with the problems that I did as a result of being the sibling of someone with autism. I was 14 the first time I had the Internet but it wasn't as well developed as it is now. I think the Internet can be a great source of support and information and one which I do wish I had had growing up.
I love my brother and I was very close to him as a child but autism has had a huge impact on my life (both in positive and negative ways). As a teenager I focused on the bad parts and I became very angry, depressed and resentful. I have always helped care for my brother from a very young age but I started to worry that I would have to look after him in the future once my parents were no longer fit enough to do so. However, once I got past these feelings I learnt to see the positive impact that growing up with my brother has had on me too. It has undoubtedly shaped the person I am today but it taught me how to be tolerant of everyone, to learn all the facts about a situation before I make judgements, and how to see past disabilities to the personality of the person behind that.