This blog has been one of the ways I choose to advocate and share about my brother Harrison, but there are many other ways to express autism. For my English class, I had the opportunity to present a speech on any topic that I wanted. While thinking about what I wanted to focus on, my experiences with my brother popped up. I was hesitant to share my personal experiences, but I knew it would be powerful and effective in helping others, especially students in the school community to understand autism better.
So my journey began, and writing my speech wasn’t as easy as I thought it was. Although autism was a topic I was passionate about, fitting what I wanted to say in under 5 minutes was a challenge. There was so much to explain and share, I felt restricted in some ways. I was able to eventually to narrow it down to a few main points that I wanted my audience to be able to take away and be affected by. Another hurdle in my way was being sick and losing my voice. I sounded like a hoarse frog a few days before my presentation day which frustrated me as I wanted to make sure others could understand me clearly so my message would get across. After I was feeling a lot better, and it helped that I was last to present so I had ample time to recover and prepare.
After presenting my speech, I could feel everyone be impacted by my words because people responded in supportive ways, giving me hope that they would be able to acknowledge and accept autism. I found that words, whether in writing or in speech contain powerful effects that could only be unleashed if it is expressed in the right way.
Here is my speech, and I hope it can change those who read it as it did with those who heard it in my class.
“Are You Aware of Autism”
Have you ever considered what it is like to have a disability that confines you from the world? Or how it feels when others can’t see you for who you really are because of the label “autistic”? Are we actually aware of autism and understand what it really is? Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder affecting the communication, intellectual, and social capabilities of an individual. More simply, people with autism are unique and have their brains wired differently causing them to behave in ways others often do not understand. There is no direct cause or cure, but researchers and scientists continue to study the many unanswered questions about autism. However, many resources and professionals have been developed to help support people with autism. About 1% of the populations in Asia, Europe, and North America have autism and 1 in 68 children are autistic. One of out the one small but increasing percentage is my brother Harrison. As an sibling, I have a perspective on autism that is defined through my personal life experiences with Harrison. I would like to be the missing voice of my brother who can’t express himself freely so everyone can understand not only him, but all autistic people better.
Being a sibling always involves great joys and special memories, but the ones with my autistic brother are even more so. It also means, however that there are sometimes more challenging hardships and griefs. People with autism are more vulnerable to discrimination and segregation because they are merely misunderstood and disregarded on their capabilities. As kids, Harrison was always the one being stared at, bullied, mocked, and my mom and I were given hurtful responses simply when he had loud self-talk or unexplainable behaviors. But there are also victories and triumphs that shed the light of hope in my brother. Once my family was preparing to leave the house and after waiting for my mom for a while, Harrison suddenly exclaimed: “Mommy, get ready!” The simple phrase was so powerful because it was one of his biggest steps to independent communication. It is not expected that my brother would be able to produce sentences with his challenges in speech, but it made me believe that he has great potential, and nothing will stop him from learning what he can. Through all these past experiences, I have come to realize that autistic people are although different, are so special in many ways and need to be acknowledged, included, and supported.
Now there is a clearer understanding of autism, both by definition and by my personal experiences, the next big question we need to ask is “What can we do?” It is easy to think that there is nothing you can do, but if everyone takes part, we can make the world a better place for autistic people and for you and me. Powerful impact can only occur if we have the right attitudes to change, accept, and love. The most important action everyone can do is to change any personal false ideas, prejudices, and negativities toward people with autism. In reality, what we choose to say and do toward autistic people defines whether we accept and love them or not. Finally, it is also important to realize why autistic people are here in the world. I believe that people with autism are here to build a more understanding, inclusive, tolerant, and caring world so that they can shape society to be more accepting and harness the sense that everyone belongs. With that in mind, I hope that all of us can take a role in allowing people with autism feel that they belong.
Now I will ask you again: Are you aware of autism?