My 28 year old brother has multiple mental disabilities, including a place on the autistic spectrum. He lives at home and he’s a really sweet guy once you look past his limited social skills.
Though, by “limited social skills”, you should understand I mean “your only hope of making eye contact with him is to be a reptile or train”. I happen to be neither, so I usually just settle for watching movies with him – though it’s tough to find films with an acceptable number of reptiles and/or trains (with bonus points for reptiles driving trains.)
(I’m kidding – he’d be very offended by the inaccuracy of a reptile driving a train. Wouldn’t go for it at all.) (Though maybe a movie about trains shaped like reptiles… that’d work. Hell, who wouldn’t be excited about that?)
I tried writing about his disabilities in an early draft of my AMCAS personal statement, but I just couldn’t. Not because it’s such a terrible thing to do – just because the main lesson I’ve learned from him is this: Change is an apocalyptic mistake that can only end in bloodshed and terror.
(Incidentally, not the most inspiring opening sentence ever. As it turned out.)
True to his autistic tendencies, disliking change is just part of who he is. And sadly, as much as we all try to keep everything in his life consistent, it’s not always possible. For example:
Mom: Welcome home, AP! We’re finally getting rid of the old carpet!
Me: Oh, so that’s why all the furniture is piled in the kitchen.
Dad: Yeah, they’re going to install new carpeting.
Me: … and how is Brother taking that?
Brother: EVERYTHING IS WRONG. PUT IT BACK. *tugging on sofa, glaring at us*
Mom: … Better than expected?
We all tried to make it as easy as possible for him this week, but he still had to watch his TV shows in an entirely different room than usual – and eat meals in a room that had “the wrong chairs” in it. (Note that he was not actually sitting on a different chair – there were just, you know, other chairs present. The wrong ones.)
But our long, national nightmare is finally over, because today was the last day of carpet installation. Brother is perfectly happy again because all of the furniture has been returned to its exact, rightful place.
And when I say “exact”, please believe that I mean exact.
Me: (moves couch) There!
Brother: AP, no! I always sit over there to watch Discovery Channel. Move it there. (points 2 inches away)
Me: … You sure you don’t sit here?
Brother: (still pointing) NO. That’s where the trashcan goes.
Me: Okay, okay, I believe you. (moves couch, then trashcan)
Brother: NO! NOT THAT TRASHCAN! … the other one.
Fun fact: The trashcans were identical – but they had different trash inside.
… It may sound callous to think that’s funny, but I guess you just have to imagine having 24 years of desensitization under your belt. Rule #1 of living in a family situation that sounds like it’s not funny? You have to acknowledge whenever it is.
(Because Rule #2 involves therapy. Significantly less fun.)