My little brother has Autism and he is the light of my life

10 Lessons I Learned From The Happiest Boy On Earth

Every month is Autism Awareness month in my household

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April is Autism Awareness month and I can not help but think of my munchkin back home. Aidan is now 11 years old, I type as I hold back tears, and I have never met a happier little boy. Aidan was diagnosed with Autism when he was four or five; I remember not exactly knowing what that meant but knowing that I was still his big sister no matter what. I have another brother, David, who is now 13 (again, holding back tears) and has been Aidan's right-hand man since they were running around in diapers.

Not much has changed, David and I are still our brother's keepers and forever will be. That being said, Aidan has taught me countless lessons over the years and has changed the way I view life. He inspires me daily, never fails to make me smile, and is all-in-all a little ray of sunshine. Autism, though it has its challenges, does not take away from the fact that he is the sweetest person you will ever meet. He reminds me of what's important in life and I am grateful to even experience a fraction of his world. If we all keep these 10 lessons in mind, we are sure to keep smiling, just like Aidan does.

1. A good pair of shades elevates any look.

Aidan's kindergarten graduation

Natalia Carbuccia

Those who know me, know I have a serious obsession with sunglasses but if I'm being honest, Aidan started the trend. Any time he throws on a pair of shades, he transforms into his 'cool guy' persona and it is honestly the cutest thing ever.

2. Never be afraid to just DIG IN. 

Day at the beach

Natalia Carbuccia

I remember bringing Aidan to the beach ALL the time during the summer. Our house is stones-throw-away from the water so every afternoon you could find him diving under the waves and digging in the sand. He has no concept of going to the beach to relax, the kid is there to have a blast and nothing less.

3. Headphones in. World out. 

In the zone

Natalia Carbuccia

Everyone needs their own space and Aidan is no stranger to this preference. When the headphones are in, the entire world is tuned out.

4. Determination is key. 

Pumpkin carving

Natalia Carbuccia

There is nothing this boy isn't convinced he can do. When carving pumpkins last Halloween, Aidan was fascinated by the seeds. A friend and I told him, playfully, that if he planted them he could grow his own pumpkins. The second that idea was given to him, he ditched the pumpkin carving and brought a handful of seed into his room to "plant."

5. The 'lemon smile' trick never gets old. 

Restaurant fun

Natalia Carbuccia

Aidan never fails to pull this trick out at the dinner table. He genuinely likes the sourness of lemons and will never pass up the opportunity to get the entire family giggling with him.

6. If it makes your older brother feel better, let him win. 

David and Aidan

Natalia Carbuccia

Considering the boys are barely 2 years apart, they pretty much have a built-in best friend for the rest of their lives. And sometimes, in a wrestling match, you let your best friend win (even if I think Aidan is totally the stronger one of the two).

7. Hold the things that make you happy close. 

Look at that smile

Natalia Carbuccia

Whether it was the stuffed animals he carried around or his favorite chew necklaces, Aidan has no problem holding on tight to what's dear to him. I mean, so tight that the stuffing in his animals often separates and their limbs dangle.

8. Dance like no one is watching at all times.

Turn on the music and with a little persuasion, Aidan will transform any space into a dance floor. He reminds me to be carefree and not think for a second about how others perceive you.

9. Good food can turn any day around. 

Pizza dates

Natalia Carbuccia

I have never met someone more passionate about food in my life. This boy can kill half a dozen donuts without hesitation and will eat four slices of pizza not too long after. I can always count on him for lunch dates and late night snacks at the dinner table.

10. If you got it, flaunt it. 

I think I tell Aidan how cute he is at least three times a day but I don't have to because he KNOWS it. He loves to take pictures and will always turn it up for the camera

My not-so-little brother lights up my life and I can only spend the rest of forever returning the favor. This listicle is just a fraction of the joy he creates compared to the immense happiness this boy radiates. I can not thank him enough for all he has taught me and my family. Aidan reminds me that sometimes you just need to make your own sunshine and that is something we should all embrace this Autism Awareness month.

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Why I Want To Work With Children With Autism

A smile is worth a thousand words
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Imagine filling out your college application. The line reads "First Choice Major." What do you choose? All through your high school career, everyone said major in engineering or business or finance because you would make the most money, but, not one person ever asked you what major you would be most happy studying.

Starting out my freshman year, I went in as a Communication major. I listened to what people told me and let their words influence my decision. That was my mistake. I wasn't happy because I wasn't studying what I was passionate about. Second semester, I transferred to Psychology. It was the best move I could have made for myself. Deep down, I always knew that Psychology was a better fit for me I just needed to find my voice.

I've always had a softer side for the kids in school that weren't the brightest or had adversities, specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder. My mom is a teacher so I've always been around kids my entire life. I remember when I first started at my new school in the third grade, my mom was teaching seventh grade. She had a tough class and there was one kid in particular who gave her a hard time. Most teachers complained of his behavior, but even at nine years old they couldn't see what I saw. I always felt that if I was given the chance, I would have the ability to help this kid make it through. I always felt that maybe he just needed someone to listen to him and remind him of his potential. Crazy thought.

As you can see, my passion was born when I was nine years old. As I got older, it became more evident that I had a way of working with kids who needed the help. During my four years of high school, I volunteered at the Jason Roberts Challenger League, which is a baseball league for children with adversities such as Autism and Down Syndrome. There was one girl who stuck out in particular to me. Her name was Elizabeth. Her passion and strength through her challenges inspired me so much that I took her name when I was confirmed in the 10th grade.

These are just two of the many stories that have influenced my decision to change my major to Psychology. With Psychology, I plan to specialize in working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This summer I am interning at the ABA Bierman Center which is a center where they do ABA therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I went for my interview this past winter, I felt like I was where I was meant to be.

Someday my goal is to open up my own therapeutic center for children with Autism. Maybe that is an unrealistic goal but Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination, Steve Jobs was fired from the company he created at 30-years-old, and Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. These are just a few legends who are my inspiration everyday. Do not let that fire burn out inside of you. I know I won't.

I enjoy working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder for reasons that would take me thousands and thousands of words to explain. They are some of the most special, talented, and incredible children I have ever met. Before with Communication, I felt that I was doing work that would only benefit myself. Here, I get to work with children for a living and hopefully put a smile on someone's face who hasn't smiled in a long time. To me, that is more rewarding than money will ever be.

Cover Image Credit: Newsday

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10 Everyday Thoughts From My Autistic Brain

If you're looking for your run of the mill inspirational article, turn back while you can.

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Yes, I'm Autistic. I guess if you're a regular reader of mine, or else someone in my life who's incredibly observant, wow, big shocker, isn't it? I figured since it's April, I may as well write something relating to my eccentric little mind. If you're looking for something incredibly sappy, saying I'm someone else's "world" or "little angel", or something where I finally display a sense of activism, I suggest you click out of this immediately. That's not me. Nothing's changed, I'm still going to be my usual sardonic self here. Still, I'll make a disclaimer: This is my own experience, we autistics are incredibly varied people, so I can't speak for every single one.

1. Everyone else likes this thing I don't? Everyone else is going out to do that thing that bores me to death? Let me have my peer pressure reflex kick in...

Gfycat

Yeah, it can vary among individuals, but since I lack the innate ability to simply "get" socialization, peer pressure for the most part doesn't really affect me.

2. This song is good... must... stim...

Gfycat

Emotions and enjoyment are weird things, not something that can really be described... So wouldn't it only be logical to show it in a way that seems weird to normal people with the explanation that it feels good? This is why it can also happen in distress.

3. So... We have to go do a thing in five minutes? And you're only telling me this now? Just... Why?

Tenor

The world is a very scary and unpredictable place. Routine gives me a sense of serenity in a said unstable world, and when people make mandatory last minute changes, then we'll have a ball of both anxiety and rage. It's so easy to just announce a change in advance, why not just do it?

4. Anti Vaxxers are the scum of the Earth, I swear...

Giphy

If it's not enough they don't believe in science, it's just insulting either way. So you'd rather spread measles and polio than have a kid with a brain that works differently than yours? Um... How about no?

5. I wish people would stop complaining about social media, it's a godsend for someone like me.

Giphy

It's not that I can't talk to people, it's that I don't like it most of the time... Mainly because I'm not that verbally articulate, especially when describing stuff. With social media, I can communicate with people without having to actually talk to them, plus I can post pictures instead of trying to describe the thing. So, maybe next time someone's on their phone, instead of complaining about it, consider whether or not that person sucks at normal communication instead of pushing them into your "tech-free" la la land and have them not communicate at all?

6. Why are people complaining about the whole "what's your superpower" thing? To be honest, it's not completely wrong.

Giphy

Think about it. Not every autistic is a savant, but they do exist. The higher curiosity drive when it comes to special interests. Attention to detail. Strong hearing. Strong taste buds. Ability to spend more time alone without going crazy. Herd immunity (see number 1). Okay, maybe not all of these seem that super, but trust me, not just anyone has most of these at once... And if I had the time and space to list more... And more.

7. Why are you hugging me? I didn't say you can hug me.

Giphy

Dude. Seriously. I don't hate hugs. I just don't like that being touchy-feely is a social norm. If you hug me too early or when I simply don't want to be hugged, then I'm going to be uncomfortable regardless of whether I like you or not. And suddenly I'm the rude one? You can hug me when I decide you can hug me.

8. Sure, I'll eat raw fruit... Once my body stops thinking it's poison.

Tenor

Sometimes the heightened senses can be a curse as well as a superpower. Like, for instance, I can't ingest most fruits simply because of the texture. It doesn't matter whether it tastes good or not, if I try, my body's all like "abort, abort, must get rid of food." I know it's better to just eat the fruit, I know, I've heard all the lectures in real life and on the internet, but it's not really possible when the only way I can consume it is through juice... And not the pulpy kind. I can tell it's there!

9. Why is small talk a thing?

Giphy

How am I? Meh, whatever? How are you? Honestly, I don't care that much. I don't think you really care either. I think I've expressed MANY TIMES how much I hate being asked how school's going. Honestly, why do we ask about things nobody really cares about? Let's not talk about how lovely the weather is, let's talk what happened on Supernatural, or rank the London Underground lines from magical train to heaven to commuter hell, or better yet the meaning of life. There are millions of more interesting things to talk about!

10. I'm still the same person!

Gifer

I usually keep the autism thing under wraps unless it becomes relevant (like now, in doing this April article) or someone figures it out on their own. Believe me, I'm not ashamed, but people don't seem to get it. I'm not a different person just because you know I'm autistic now, there's no need to be overly cautious or feel overly sorry for me. I'm a human being like you, my brain just doesn't work the same as yours, but believe me, it works. I haven't changed.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading me dumping out the contents of my brain. Although really, isn't just what I do for Odyssey bi-weekly anyway? If you need to find a heartwarming article after this, I feel you, I won't personally be offended. But hey, I like the idea of writing honestly about myself than someone else writing about how "angelic" I am. I mean, it's perfectly okay, but I'm more into honesty. Oh, look at that... Another trait of "eccentricity, hehe!

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