I was 10 years old when I first heard the word “autism.” I was told they thought my little brother was different and he needed special tests to figure out how to best help him. My mom explained they thought he had something called “autism” and more specifically, “Asperger’s.” I laughed at the funny name at the time and didn’t really understand what it all meant. I remember riding in the car after dropping my brother off for his testing and saying that I bet Asperger’s was what he had because the name was the most ridiculous-sounding. Oh, the things we think are funny as kids. I didn’t understand autism, I just knew that my brother had trouble in class, with friendships and social situations, loud noises, clothing and food, among other things.
When my brother received his official diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome (now autism spectrum disorder) my mom bought me children’s books written from the point of view of the sibling of a child with autism. I can remember asking her to read and re-read the books to me over and over again. I wanted nothing more than to understand my little brother. I wanted to help in any way I could. As kids at school would come to me and tell me all about how my brother was “weird” for displaying what I now know to be typical autism behaviors (obsessions, meltdowns, sensory struggles especially with loud noises etc.), I would tell them proudly, “My brother has autism. He isn’t weird.” Now as an adult, I’ve learned and understand so much more about autism and how it impacts my brother. Still, it hurts my heart to see him struggle.
--Alexis Holmgren, copied from "The Mighty.com"