Once you know me, it does not take long before you know I have a brother, whose name is Jason. He is one of my best friends, a hilarious guy and a large part of my daily life. We love cooking together and going out for meals, spending Friday nights at the bowling alley, shopping at Walmart, and watching TV at our cottage.
I was four years old when Jason was born. Although I do not remember, I can assure you I was very excited to have a little brother. I had upwards of 10 dolls and I referred to them as “my children”. This included sending cards to my parents from “their grandchildren” on their birthdays! Baby Jason was thrown right into the mix, even getting a spot in my play stroller with the other dolls!
Jason has always been an important part of my life. It never dawned on me that autism was a burden, or that Jason took up too much of my parent’s attention. To be perfectly honest, my sister frustrated me much more than him! There were many ways autism made our lives different than those of my friends’ families but that was just it – different. Not worse, not sad. Just different.
For example, Jason loved looking at family photos. So much so that he would spread out hundreds of photos covering the entire basement floor. My sister and I could not go down the stairs without him getting upset that we were intruding on his space. When he was triggered, Jason liked to do what we cheekily called ‘cleaning all surfaces’. This meant using his arm in one swift motion to sweep everything on a table onto the ground. We had many valuables broken this way, and my sister and I learned quickly that when you hear a meltdown brewing, you run to your room, close the door, and stand against it until everything has calmed down!
Jason did not like wearing clothes inside of our house. Outside, he wore the same style of tie-dye t-shirt every day for 8 years. He loves eating McDonalds and has eaten an order of fries every day since he was 4 years old. For many years our Christmas tradition was to find and visit the only McDonalds open on December 25th!
My sister and I learned there were more important things in life than what you wear, your stuff, and going out to restaurants with your family. Our home was a place filled with love, humor, fun, acceptance and great snacks – what more does a kid need?
Fast forward to present day where Jason is now 26 years old. Not only does he wear a variety of clothing and eats virtually anything put in front of him (at home or at a restaurant!), but he has become a very calm, self-assured, confident and hilarious young man. Although we still do not travel on planes as a family, I’m thankful for our yearly road trips to Myrtle Beach, weekly Tap Dance classes, over the top April Fool’s Days, making spaghetti sauce together, and celebrating our family traditions with Jason in our lives.
I am so blessed to be a part of the autism community and am proud to be an advocate for all children growing up with challenges. Jason is the biggest blessing to our family and we love watching him become more and more responsible and independent.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself a part of a family’s autism journey, please be patient, open, understanding and bring your sense of humor! As you get to know these children you will find individuals full of love, intelligence, honesty, and pure happiness. You will be reminded that all that matters is our love and acceptance of one another.
Christie is a Marketing and Events Manager currently volunteering for ASO. She is one of three children and was born and raised in Toronto. Christie enjoys spending weekends with her family and puppy Tucker at their cottage!