By Eileen Williams
I would like to introduce you to a remarkable person who is very important to me and has had a profound influence on my life. His name is Benjamin and his warm brown eyes and huge smile are enough to lighten anyone’s day. He is nine years old. He is my brother. He has always tried to be supportive and kind to everyone he knows and people he does not know. However, so many things are harder for him than other people. He has difficulty with social skills, communication, and sensory needs. Benjamin has autism.
This has had a tremendous impact on me and my family. It has taught me tolerance, responsibility, patience, to advocate for others, and the ability to accept diversity. This is not always a fun ride. It is difficult and demanding. I will always have memories of shuttling him to several therapies a day. There was a point where he was attending two schools a day. Though this has been tough on the family it has been even harder for him. Things that I do without thought, like tying my shoes, take him a long time and are extremely difficult. The tough times have brought my family together. By helping him I have learned tolerance and patience. By watching my parents call a lawyer if they think he has not been treated right I have learned to advocate for others. By looking out for him I have learned responsibility and by just learning what he has to teach me I have been taught to accept all kinds of people.
Benjamin is high functioning, but has not always been. It has been a long journey to get him where he is and we still go through very difficult periods. It is always challenging and some times are harder than others. Benjamin has extreme social difficulties because he knows he wants friends, just not how to make them. This has gotten much better and Benjamin now has many friends in the lower grades. He used to have friends in his grade until a bully at the school chose him as the target. This is cruel and the choice of him as the target was based solely on the fact the Benjamin stands up for the first, second, and third graders against the bully. One of the younger children is even planning a rebellion. Things are getting better, though, as the issue is being addressed by my parents and the school. (Benjamin goes to a school for children with learning differences in Clayton.) The way he has handled this bully has made me proud and I think that we can all learn from his bravery and refusal to retaliate.
Benjamin has taught me to be grateful, not only for main skills but for smaller things. Some people just assume that it is common knowledge how close to stand to someone when they are talking or how loud to talk. It will never be this easy for Benjamin. Even though he is very smart sometimes it is hard for him to show it. He has a lot of difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing and can get frustrated when trying to work on something for a prolonged period of time. I am grateful that I have skills such as knowing when to speak in a conversation. Bike riding and shoe tying are also skills that most people take for granted and yet I will always be thankful to have them. I know that there are a lot of people in the world who are not as lucky as me and this makes me look at things differently.
My brother, Benjamin, is extremely important to me and significant in my life. I love my brother and he has taught me tolerance, patience, and responsibility. He has shown me how to be kind to others when they are not kind to me. I have also learned to be grateful for the big and small details that make up my daily life. All of this has led me to become more compassionate, accepting, loving, and independent. I think that everyone can learn from Benjamin. In response to the question, “What are you good at?” Benjamin said, “I am good at love.” Even with all of the things that are hard for Benjamin he will always be loving and that is enough.