Angels On Earth: My Brothers with Autism

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I couldn’t recall the many times we’ve been furiously eyed and scoffed at, even scolded for not ‘keeping them at bay’. At the end of the day, I shake my head in disappointment of the (general) (Philippine) society’s response to spectrum children.

Cases like my brothers’ are still not widely valued in certain societies–particularly ours–and there’s no question why. We mourn because special children don’t turn out to be normal the way we expect, or even wish for, at birth. We are pained because of how they aren’t able to enjoy a typical childhood. Well, maybe that’s not really the case; perhaps what we truly sorrow over is our expectations and dreams for these supposedly-normal children.

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People diagnosed with autism are mostly unable to understand things the way we do; more so, they cannot recognize how they’re a nuisance to the rest of the world. Why, they’re simply living–going about their lives in the best ways they know how–in ways we will never understand completely. And because we don’t quite fathom (or care), what do we do? We set them aside, we ignore, we humor over, we lambast. In other words, we don’t treat them the way we treat normal people. They always get the short end of the stick–and they don’t even know it. 

Just because they don’t share the same cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, social skills, and aspirations we do does not mean they’re incapable of their own. They’re not problematic, they’re merely different. That entails having different logic (which in their minds is probably reasonable), different needs and wants, and different ways of expressing themselves, too.

What deeply bothers me is how we feel we need to ‘fix’ them. We project our hopes on them, thinking it is empathy, when it is merely sympathy. Others might go as extreme as thinking they don’t have a place in this world, as if earth were only home for normal human beings. We hope for change; we long for progression, all without thinking that they’re happy where they are, in a pure, and safe, and uncompromising corner of the universe.

And what are we supposed to do? The fact is: they’re just as human as we are. They live and breathe and think. They need care and attention too, even though they cannot reciprocate. They still need to feel acceptance and acknowledgment even though they’re incapable of qualifying the reasons behind those desires. They might be the minority, but they still deserve to be loved wholly and unconditionally, despite not being completely understood. (Well, aren’t we all ‘misunderstood’ in one way or another, too?)

One can start with attention–determined, undivided attention. We need to involve ourselves in their lives instead of forcing them to fit in ours. They’re unable to voluntarily insert themselves, therefore it is our responsibility to take the first step. But one cannot offer this attention if they don’t have the fundamental element: love. 

Love, which is engrained in our hearts for and perfectly designed by our Creator. 

Having twin brothers with such a condition might have been a surprise at first (Believe me, it’s tough. Up until today, we’re still perplexed by their changing patterns and desires–they’re officially adolescents as of this writing!), but God had His plans. As the years passed, He beautifully laid out some of the wonderful reasons behind it. He knew that if it were not for their condition, I would not have acted responsibly as a big sister (how selfish could I have been if I wasn’t forced to humble myself, look after their needs and understand them?). I would not have developed a soft heart for people with ‘disabilities’ (a lot of people are disabled beyond physical conditions–many of them are pained and hurting, despite not being medically diagnosed to be ill), whom I today cherish and seek as inspiration. My faith would not have been steadfast (all those long prayers led me to adore my Heavenly Father and constantly seek His wisdom and grace). 

Lastly, He carefully shaped my life in this manner so I can tell the world that His purpose reigns supreme; that His vision can see through eternity (unlike us, who are only limited by what we can control–or fail to do so–in this lifetime). His gifts are priceless–they are always gold for the heart and soul. For if there’s anything I would trade the world for, it would be these two Heaven-sent angels. 

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(Posted on Facebook October 2015, with slight revisions.)

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