Growing Up With a Sibling With Autism

When my mom and dad told me that I was going to be a big sister once again, I was thrilled. I was even more ecstatic when I learned that the baby was going to be another little sister. I stayed up the entire night until finally, Audrey was born on June 23rd, 2009. I instantly loved her cute little cheeks and her bubbly attitude. As Audrey grew, we began to notice a few mannerisms that were abnormal. My mom, Bethany Norris, told me how much changed plans would affect my sister and how she would start crying hysterically and would throw herself to the ground. She would be almost like dead weight and there was no easy way to get her up. Audrey also never really liked playing with the kids at school. She preferred to stay on her teacher’s lap. This was a part of her seeking comfort. Audrey needed to feel safe and comforted at all times. Audrey also never really smiled and, at that time, was still not talking or walking. I felt distant from my own sister. We were never sure what was going on in her mind nor how to help her. So, my parents decided to get Audrey tested. The results told us that Audrey had mild to moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADD.Autism Speaks says, “Autism Spectrum Disorder is a disorder that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.” Autism is what is called a spectrum disorder because no one diagnosed with autism are the same. Some people are nonverbal, which means they do not express themselves with words while others like my sister are verbal. Autism is different for every person, which is why it is often symbolized with a puzzle piece. You have to try to find the right fit for each diagnosis. 

Ever since Audrey was diagnosed, she has grown so much. Audrey is one of the happiest kids I have ever met. There is not a time in the day that she does not stop smiling now. She also finds herself hilarious. Her new thing recently is "roasting" the entire family. She will come at you with all she has, then laugh hysterically to herself. We can’t even be mad about it because it is just amazing to hear her fully express herself when years ago we never got a word from her. Audrey still demands comfort from those around her, but who would not want to give her a hug? It might get a little annoying sometimes with how she will fight her way to sit on the tiniest crevice on your lap, but you have to love her. One of the promises I made to her when she was diagnosed was that I would do everything I could to make her as happy as possible and if that happens to be snuggling on the couch for two hours, then I’m fine with it. 

April is Autism Awareness Month. This month helps bring so many children to be tested that need to be. People need to be informed of what autism actually is because so many people will believe that being diagnosed with autism is this horrible thing. But it is the complete opposite. It does require you to give extra love to your children, but is that so difficult? My parents had some people send condolences to us when Audrey was diagnosed. We were not mad, it’s just that they were not informed enough. That is why Autism Awareness Month is so important. I researched and learned about autism when Audrey was diagnosed and it made me realize how much I loved Audrey. If anything, her diagnosis made me love her more. She does not let her autism define her and I will always admire her for that.

Photos provided by Allie Norris