Lately, I've read many inspirational stories of children and adults talking on social media about what it's really like to live with autism. These people are sharing their stories for National Autism Awareness Month.
But what about the family members or those close to someone with autism?
I won't ever truly understand how it feels to have autism, but it's often felt like I was experiencing the same stress and anxiety as my brother.
My brother has high-functioning autism (HFA), meaning his IQ is greater than many other people on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed at just 2 years old.
Individuals with HFA don't know how to express emotion, aren't expressive, and have difficulty with social interactions and even communication.
For years, doctors have emphasized the importance of early detection for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but in reality this is a forever situation.
According to Autism Society, the diagnostic rate of autism is 1 in 68 and rising. Not only do people with autism need significant support, but most of their support system is their family and close friends.
Autism really does affect family members in various ways. It can take a toll on their personal life, for example. I know it put a toll on my parent's work and even, at times, their marriage. Throughout my high school years, I would get called to the main office to get my brother out of trash cans because he was so scared and didn't know how to control his anxiety.
There will be moments when you feel alone and not important and it's okay to feel that way. There's way to understand ASD such as joining support groups, getting counseling, and actually talking to the family member who has ASD.
That's what helped me a lot -- talking to my brother and understanding how he sees the world.
Katherine Paxton Counseling suggests that when a family member, such as a child or sibling, has ASD the family as a system will shift and change to cope and support this person. These shifts may appear a bit off, but it is needed to grasp a better understand and support the person with ASD.
The keys for the family: be open about the subject, ask questions and be curious. One of the most important things you can do is to be understanding.
For National Autism Awareness Month, if you have a brother or sister with ASD, it's okay to go through the emotions with them -- to feel lost, angry, sad, confused. Just remember, they see world a bit differently and may process certain things in life 10 times faster or slower. The key is to be understanding.