Autism and Me: Sibling Stories – Ouisie Shapiro and Various
A book containing 14 short pieces written by the siblings of autistic children. All the pieces are written about the autistic sibling, usually in relation to how the neurotypical sibling feels about their sibling.
My mother calls Ron “The Mayor” because he talks to everyone. He walks up to people and says “Hi, my name is Ron”. He’s really good with the kids on his basketball team. He encourages them when they are upset. (Pauline)
I’m not sure who this book is really aimed at. I think it would be most useful to other siblings (probably older children/younger teenagers), as it would give them access to the stories that other siblings have to tell. Siblings of autistic children often occupy an odd space where they’re not primary caregivers (at least until they’re much older) but they’re often involved, and they often do not receive as much attention at home due to the understandable needs of their siblings so can end up having to deal with what they’re feeling on their own. Books where they can read about the experiences of other siblings can help them to feel like there’s other people out there who understand how they’re feeling.
It’s hard to have a sister like Arie because sometimes in public she throws a tantrum and cries. So you have to be flexible when you go to the store or the playground. People with autism aren’t typical and they can’t do stuff that typical kids can. But kids with autism aren’t dumb or stupid and you should not treat them like they are. (Luke)
The words written are this peculiar blend where you can see the young authors trying to merge together what they have been told and taught about autism by the adults around them with what they know and think of their siblings in their own words. Above all they are honest. There are a number of siblings who write about how they wish their siblings could talk or could play with them, there are ones who write about how autism is hard, and about how their siblings’ behaviour can be embarassing and upsetting at times. These feelings are just as valid as the feelings of love and acceptance they have because these are the thoughts and feelings of children and teenagers trying to make sense of autism. Siblings of autistic children can be made to feel bad if they get embarassed by their siblings or don’t want to let them into their rooms; these accounts help to remind them that these are things felt by many children with autistic siblings.
Autism has helped us to become a better family. It teaches us patience and understanding. If you see a kid on the street with autism, don’t yell at her if she’s doing something wrong. She can’t help it. You should respect people with autism for who they are. (Christian)
The overall message though is one of love, and actually the maturity and acceptance in many of these short accounts surpasses some adults that I have met.
Is it worth reading?
If you have an autistic child and other children, this book may allow them a chance to see that other children are experiencing the same things that they are and it could help them to feel less alone. It’s relatively cheap in the US (not so much in the UK), or available to read on Scribd (you can get a 10 day free trial).