Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Gift

My younger brother Noah has autism. Even when I was younger, I noticed my brother Noah was different. He found loud noises extremely bothersome and could not stand to hear Santa ride around on a firetruck on Christmas Eve or fireworks on the Fourth of July. He didn’t seem to understand facial expressions or sarcasm, and he didn’t know how to interpret emotions. Sometimes his outbursts would be extremely troubling and would result in him smacking his head over and over again. He even started sleeping with his favorite objects under his pillow. Due to these little “quirks,” Noah began seeing a psychologist around the age of five.

Noah is 19 now and while he still does things that I would describe as quirky or different, at the very least, the change in his behavior is astounding. He might not care to see Santa ride around on a firetruck anymore, but he can do it without being overstimulated. He has begun to understand sarcasm and even use it himself. He can even look at my face and determine what emotions I’m feeling given my facial expression. There are still many outbursts and mood swings, but they are a lot less frequent and intense than they once were. Noah has grown to where he can have an intelligent conversation about his disability, so I decided to ask him a few questions about his experiences. The following is what he shared with me.

Her Campus: What are your hobbies and interests?

Noah Ayars: Gaming and collecting sharks teeth/jaws, fossils and meteorites. I also like drawing cars, sharks, and nature scenes.

HC: What do you want to do when you’re done with school?

NA: Carpentry?

HC: Why, any reason?

NA: It's been a passion of mind since middle school. I used to want to do marine biology, but math isn't my strong point.

HC: What do you think it's like living with autism?

NA: I wouldn’t know how to live without it. With it, I can hyper focus on subjects and get certain things done. Things are different in my brain, like caffeine has the opposite effect on me. And when I was younger, I had to learn social skills, which took a lot longer than for other people, and a lot of my friends [with autism] still don't really act socially appropriate. But honestly, my social maturity is younger, maybe like I'm 16 instead of 19. Either way, sometimes I think it's a gift. And other people don't seem to understand that.

HC: Why do you feel like autism is a gift?

NA: I naturally figure certain things out in my head and can just see how things are put together, like puzzles. When I'm drawing something, I just see it in my head. I just see the world differently. A lot of people with autism are just born with talents in these specific fields, and it just comes natural, like sharks and science, or math.

HC: How do you feel like you are the same and different from other people your age?

NA: All people aren't the same, I mean we are just humans and no two people are the same. People that don't have disabilities don't have random outbursts. They don't necessary jump around from different subjects, while people with autism get hooked on certain topics like an addiction (me with gaming). It’s like hyper-focusing to an extreme degree. I also don't understand sarcasm.

HC: How do you feel like things differ socially?

NA: In certain social settings, I feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I'd rather just spend time by myself than see people from school. I'm not chatty, and I kind of socially isolate myself. A lot of people don't like to hang out with people with special needs, so those kids don't get the social interaction they need because people think they act "weird" or "different," so then those people don't get the chance to get better socially and improve.

HC: What do you want other people to know about you and other individuals with autism?

NA: Give them a chance to see what they are like and what interests they have. Don't assume they will be any certain way. Talk to them and you'll even help their social skills. They might not have the best time socializing, but you would be surprised with how cool and smart kids with autism can be. Don't judge a book by its cover.

Noah is right – don’t judge people without knowing their story. My brother has received a lot of judgement throughout the years from people who do not understand him or autism spectrum disorder, and if his peers were less quick to judge I imagine more people would have gotten to know my Noah as the sweet, caring, talented young man he is. I am so proud of everything my younger brother has overcome – he has become so much more self-aware and is truly an intelligent guy. I hope that this article will allow others to have some insight on what it’s like for at least some individuals to live with a disability. Despite everything that we’ve been through, I wouldn’t trade my brother for the world.

 

Image Credit: All images belong to the author.