Dear little brother,

I remember being a sophomore in high school when we found out that our mom was pregnant for the fifth time.

It was unexpected and exciting, and I remember each one of my six siblings and I trying to guess if it was going to be a boy or girl. Our sister, Taryn and I were making bets on if it was going to be twins or not. We spent the spring looking through baby books for names and preparing for your arrival.

Our mom was taking all the precautions necessary, so because of her older age, the Dr. recommended an amniocentesis, which is where they sample amniotic fluid from the womb and test it for DNA abnormalities. It's mainly a test done to see the probability of down syndrome and we felt so blessed when it came back with good results.

When we found out you were going to be a boy, everyone was so happy. Except for Gigi maybe, because naturally she wanted a little sister and she was too young to know that you guys would soon become best friends.

You made our family complete, four girls and four boys.

We couldn't wait for the fall. You were due September 5th, Aunt Reggie's birthday, and we were anxiously counting down the days. The whole family was split on names, we bounced between Giovanni, Lucas, Gavin, and even Brady.

All of my mother biological children have been born early, me being the earliest by 9 weeks. So we expected you to arrive a little early as well, probably late August, which is our busiest birthday month. During this time, I was a competitive cheerleader and had a summer camp at the end of July and for a few days before I kept having a feeling that something was going to happen.

I've suffered from anxiety since childhood and I was scared to leave my mom for fear that something would happen to her and you while I was gone. When we pulled into the parking lot on July 29 to leave for camp, I made my coach and mom exchange phone numbers and I remember them both laughing it off as if it was just some silly thought.

On July 30 at 6 a.m., I was awoken out of bed by my cheer coach banging on my hotel door. Our mom was going into labor with you and I was missing it! I was so anxious, I was calling for updates every hour, just waiting to hear how everyone was and even what your name would be. Finally, I got a call, mom and baby were perfectly healthy, and your name would be Gavin.

After I knew you had been born, I couldn't wait to be home to meet you.

Holding you for the first time was such an overwhelming experience for me, I remember crying. You looked like a little baby doll, like one you'd buy from the store and dress and take with you everywhere.

Watching you grow has been a learning experience for me. When you were young, around one/one-in-a-half and you wouldn't talk, we had to learn new ways of communicating with you. This is where our mom taught you "more", "please", and "all done" in sign language. When you were two and would just run off wildly when we would set you down, we learned to do walks in the stroller and be more careful in public.

When you were four, we struggled to potty train you, because you would never tell us until after you had a dirty diaper. I thought you did it because you thought it was funny though, in your defense. Because of this, we learned to watch you literally every second of every day and constantly ask "Gavin do you have to poop?"

When you were getting ready to start preschool you started having bad tantrums, no matter where we were, whether it be at home, the library, the park or the grocery store.

Our mom didn't know what to do to help you, and you didn't meet the age minimum for psychiatrists in our area.

We had to make sure you were potty trained before school started so we tried to focus on it and we did it!

You started school in the Fall of 2017, but soon after you started school we started noticing some other behaviors that were problematic. You wouldn't participate in circle time, you would stand on tables and act out violently against your teacher and other students. The school team and our mom worked out a plan for you where you would stay half days in class and they would monitor you from there. We took you back to the doctor where she informed us that you have autism.

After a year of school where you attended only half days and countless doctor appointments, you had improved a bit due to medication and becoming comfortable there. When you started writing your letters and words after not talking for so long as a toddler everyone was so proud.

Now you go to school all day and we've learned as a family how to work with what you need.

Morgan Martin

When you give a girl a brother with autism you teach her that there's not one way to do things.

You teach me every time we play a game together, that it doesn't have to be played like that. You always say "Well these are MY rules" and show me a new way to play it. When you show me patterns with your magnets, you show me every different way it can be and transform.

You teach her that different people have different needs.

I know you like your cereal a certain way: fruity pebbles in the shape of a mountain with milk around it like a moat, I know you don't like the noise the vacuum makes, and I know you only like white sauce spaghetti. You taught me that I have to be open to the way that other people need things and not get stuck in my mindset thinking that its the same for everyone.

You teach her to have compassion and be caring.

You have a lot of energy kid! I mean a lot, A LOT. So when you can calm down and be cuddly and want hugs and kisses for no reason, it reminds me to be more affectionate. The cutest thing to hear is when you just out of nowhere give me an "I love you, Morgan". It reminds me to let the people around me know I love them.

You teach her to listen and be patient.

For a toddler who didn't talk at all, you are turning into a kid who always has something to talk about. You teach me to hone in on the story your telling and listen so that I can connect with you. Sometimes you can get off track and the story can get a little jumbled but it helps me learn to listen better to the people around me and have better conversations.

You teach her to be open-minded.

I don't want to say I was ignorant about people with disabilities before, but I was definitely uninformed. Loving you has taught me so much about people I come across every day and usually wouldn't give a passing glance to. You teach me to have more compassion and know how to interact better with people I would've had difficulty communicating with before.

You give her a blessing for the rest of her life.

Gavin, my sweet little boy. You are so so incredibly loved by everyone around you. You bring so much joy to our lives and it wouldn't be the same without you.

Love, your proud big sister.

Explore Odyssey's featured Autism Awareness content here.