Paul LyProfessor Charles Daniel RedmondEnglish 1: Expository Writing11 December 2017 What I Learned From An Autistic Sibling If you were to ask my younger brother to recite the entirety of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” after listening to it only once, he will do it. He will even attempt to recreate the changes in pitch if you are inclined to hear it. If you ask him to remember the name of the restaurant our family went to on my 14th birthday, he will tell you that it was “Joy Palace.” Unfortunately, people will not pay attention to these details. Why? Because people are more focused on the negative aspects of a person rather than the positive ones. Instead, people will ask, “Why is your brother throwing a tantrum in the middle of a Wal-Mart?” or “Why is your brother incapable of communicating properly with his family members?” People’s attention is more directed toward things that deviate from the social concept of “normality.” From my perspective, “normality” is the idea that people should act, think, and speak in a specific way that conforms to social norms. It is shame that my younger brother’s unique abilities will go unnoticed because he is not considered “normal” by our standards. My younger brother’s name is Patrick and he is autistic. Patrick taught me a life lesson that I could never grasp in any of my academic classes or extracurricular activities. As the first child, I was ecstatic when I learned that I was gaining a younger sibling; I was excited to become his role model as he grew older. I aspired to teach him how to play basketball, play video games, and perform well academically so that lead a normal and stable lifestyle. To my surprise, he was not interested in any of that. He found pleasure in activities that I deemed abnormal such as creating a mountain of Ziploc bags filled with random objects or constantly flickering the lights on and off. Also, Patrick had a unique tendency to remember anything he came across; from the lyrics of songs he heard only once to the conversations I had with him months prior, he remembered all of it. Over time, I began to realize that Patrick and I shared significant differences and I would distance myself from him. At the time, I, nor my parents, did not know that Patrick had autism until he was five years old. As I reflect on this part of my childhood, I understand that I am guilty of someone who seeked the “normal” lifestyle. When I would invite my friends over to my house, I often felt conflicted between my role as Patrick’s older brother and my friends’ host. I clearly remember the expressions that my friends had as they watched Patrick scream at random times or suddenly burst out laughing at things no one considered to be funny. The look on friends’ faces showed a blend of fear and contempt towards my younger brother’s presence. I wanted to preserve the friends that I have made at school; I sent my brother to his room to play by himself when he clearly wanted to spend time with my friends and I. I remember my younger brother throwing a tantrum in his room because I did not allow him to play with us. I was embarrassed by my younger brother because he was not normal; I believed that Patrick was the discrepancy that would shatter the “normal” lifestyle that I had built for myself. It was not until my freshman year of high school that I began to see my younger brother in a different light. At the time, Patrick was also starting middle school and since our schools were within walking distance, I would trek over to his middle school during my lunch break. During my first visit, I was astonished at what I saw: Patrick was sitting at the lunchroom table by himself and he went to recess, he would sit on the swing by himself. No one wanted to be near my younger brother because they did not perceive him as normal. It was at that moment I felt a blend of emotions; I was angry at the idea that no one wanted to play with Patrick, I was depressed at the fact that I failed at being Patrick big brother, and I was motivated to diverge from my “normal” lifestyle and assume my role as Patrick’s big brother. During my four years of high school, I made an attempt to understand the world that Patrick lives in. One of the most vivid memories that I share with Patrick is helping him complete his homework. Patrick’s school would assign homework and I would help him complete them to ensure he had the support necessary to receive a proper education. During the tutoring sessions, I noticed that my brother had trouble concentrating and maintaining a firm grip on his pencil. At times, he would often be disengaged with the topics and storm off. I remember becoming extremely infuriated with Patrick’s attitude and having to cool off somewhere else. I had to remind myself that he could not accomplish tasks as easily as I could and I needed to work with him patiently and slowly to avoid triggering his tantrums. Despite Patrick’s difficulty with subjects such as math and science, his performance in United States History struck me as “extraordinary.” If I asked my younger brother to list all of the Presidents of the United States in chronological order, he will not only list them in chronological order but state the year they were born as well. If I were to ask Patrick what years did the Revolutionary War took place, he would reply “April 19, 1775, to September 3, 1783.” Right now, I do not think I could list half of the United States Presidents, nor, state the dates of prominent wars. Patrick’s interest in United States History is not what caught my interest, it is his remarkable ability to memorize anything that he would come across. Upon my discovery of Patrick’s remarkable memory, I realized that Patrick is not “normal.” Patrick is extraordinary. As the older brother of an autistic sibling, I am forever grateful for the experiences that I have shared with Patrick. The most important lesson that I learned from Patrick is that the pursuit of “normality” inhibits our ability to distinguish ourselves from others and is a recipe for a homogenous society. If every person were required to follow a specific pathway in life and were forbidden from diverging from that route, how could we move forward as a society? Can you imagine a society where everyone spoke, thought, and behaved the exact same way? To illustrate, can you imagine your life with your smartphone? At a point in time, people’s’ perception of the ideal cell phone was a rectangular flip phone. However, Apple’s Steve Jobs had a significantly different vision for the ideal cell phone: a smartphone that would serve as an MP3 music player, an internet browser, and a traditional phone. If we fast-forward to the present day, smartphones revolutionized the technology industry and most of our lives revolve around our smartphones. The situation with Patrick is no different. While I understand that Patrick is incapable of communicating, thinking, and behaving like most other people, why should Patrick conform to social norms? Patrick’s autism should not be neglected; Patrick’s autism should be appreciated because he contributes to community diversity. Patrick has a unique toolbox of viewpoints, behaviors, abilities that help distinguishes himself from many other people. At the end of the day, Patrick is a unique individual with an extraordinary memory. During my childhood, I was ashamed of being the brother of an autistic sibling. I wanted to lead a “normal” lifestyle that conformed to the expectations of other people. Mostly, I wanted Patrick to use me as a template on how to approach and conform to social norms so that he could also lead a “normal” life. When I reflect on the childhood that I shared with my younger brother, I realized that the negative emotions I had toward Patrick were influenced by my pursuit of “normality.” As I grew older, I realized that my desire to lead a normal lifestyle was inhibiting my ability to showcase my ideas, viewpoints, and traits that make me unique. On the other hand, Patrick fearlessly demonstrated the traits that made him different from everyone else. While I was trying to maintain my “membership” in a group of homogenous people, Patrick was advocating for diversity in viewpoints and ideas and he did not even know it. I am incredibly honored to have been blessed with a younger brother who has taught me how to distinguish myself and advocate for diversity in viewpoints and traits. I am grateful to call Patrick my extraordinary younger brother.