This is Part 9 of our 10-Part blog series about the challenges and experiences of the siblings of kids with a diagnosis. Be sure to check back for future posts in the series.
Written by Jess Urcuyo
My brother has always been very positive that autism is just a part of who he is and how he thinks, much like having a British accent. These days as he continues to develop his strengths, learn new skills, and find better ways to accommodate his needs, he often speaks of ‘outgrowing’ his autism. It’s wonderful to see him reach these milestones and see both his self-confidence and his autonomy develop.
The reality is that as we’re seeing his amazing strides forward, he’s also finding opportunities for growth in new areas – maintaining a significant relationship, the value of money, knowing how much to trust new acquaintances – the list goes on.
No matter how functional a school education is, it doesn’t prepare young adults for some of the most challenging decisions and dilemmas they will face. There is a vulnerability in disability that should be acknowledged, but should it be always protected? Haven’t most young people had a tragic relationship, made terrible financial decisions, or hung out with the wrong crowd at some point, and doesn’t the life experience these situations bring make the person a stronger adult? Failure is a friend on the journey to success, and without the rite of passage to make one’s own mistakes it’s arguable that we never really learn.
We may need training wheels initially to help our balance, but we also need to pedal our own course, steer our own way, and know when to jam the brakes on. When we wipe out, family supports are helpful to get us back on our feet, but unless we experience the fall, we’ll never understand the importance of maintaining our own balance.
Does this mean the safety net is pulled away immediately a young person turns 18? I hope not! But do I ask that we consider turning the safety net into a support network of people who can facilitate the young person’s path to independence, and not necessarily avoiding the obstacles and hiccups they will face along the way? Absolutely.
While many typically-developing 20-somethings are happy to live with their parents, my brother is adamant that he wants the same independence he sees his siblings enjoy. I hope that he achieves everything he dreams for. He’ll always be my baby brother, but as he stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall, I look up to him with absolute respect for his drive to be the best version of himself.