My little brother William leads a simple life.
He was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. Will is nonverbal and was moved into a program called life skills in 3rd grade, teaching him basic skills to survive. He lives in his own perfect world that is so different from ours. His life revolves around a set routine for each day with little changes throughout the week.
Will is in 7th grade, and has been doing virtual learning for the entire school year. He gets up an hour before class starts. He takes his sheets off his bed one at a time and lines them up in the hallway. Next, he stacks each of his stuffed animals on top of each other from biggest to smallest. He carefully places his pajamas in the laundry bin and selects his outfit for the day. He then heads downstairs where he has 30 minutes to play on his iPad and eat Goldfish before his first period begins.
As Will goes through his school day, he uses a talking device to communicate with his teachers and classmates. He loves school, as it is a routine that does not change and is held at the same time and place each week on the same days. This brings him comfort, as he is able to know where he needs to be and who he will be seeing.
After school, Will dances and listens to music, holding dance parties in the living room. He will go on a car ride almost every day with my mom following a specific route to Dunkin Donuts, passing his elementary school. He comes home to his special dinner of hot dogs and Doritos and watches The Fresh Beat Band while playing on his iPad.
As he settles down after dinner, he has his night routine that includes a bath, watching videos on my mom’s phone, story time, and hugs before bed. Will and I have a unique hug routine we do every time we say goodnight or if I’m leaving for a long trip. It’s one of my favorite things we get to do together, as most kids with autism don’t enjoy being touched.
This daily routine is the little world he lives in, separate from everyone else. As long as everything goes smoothly in this set schedule, he is content. Being in control keeps him calm, as he constantly indulges the environment around him.
Will notices the little things in life, he is observant of everyone and everything around him. He is detail oriented, straightening every object in sight into a perfect line. He’ll take his time lining up his alphabet cards on the living room floor. While everyone looks down, he looks up at the sky and says “Ah” for the letter A as an airplane flies over. On walks, he points out the colors of the flowers and says the first letter of the color.
“Will, what color is that flower?”
“Isn’t it pretty! I think there might be a butterfly on it!”
“What color is it buddy?”
Butterflies always remind me of Will, as they are his favorite insect. Not only does he love butterflies, but he has a lot in common with them as well. They both are focused on their simple routines, they are detail-oriented, and enjoy the little things in life without the baggage of trauma, financial issues, etc.
But sometimes the depth of his observation can be too much for him. He feels uncomfortable when things are in the wrong place, when the routine changes without being prepared for it, and when he is unaware of his surroundings.
Even though Will is observant of everyone around him, he doesn’t understand the depth of other people’s emotions that aren’t directed at him. This is because he has an intellectual disability that prevents him from comprehending most topics, and he shows no behavior of the contrary. If you aren’t upset with him, he doesn’t understand why you’re upset. Most times if I am having an anxiety attack or just crying, he’ll laugh at me or just look confused, as he can’t process the emotions I’m feeling or understand the depth of how much I’m hurting.
But just because he doesn’t understand the depth of what we feel doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He gives hugs and high fives to anyone who needs it, and greets people he knows with a smile every time he sees them. He appreciates and loves everyone.
Will reminds me of how simple life can be if you just take a minute to breathe. I enjoy every moment I get to spend with him. He makes all my troubles just fade away and replaces any hurt with happiness. He is an absolute joy to be around, his energy lights up the room, and his laugh being the most contagious one you’ll ever hear.
He reminds me everyday that I am his favorite person. He is becoming more independent every day, developing his vocabulary with new words while continuing to make an unforgettable impact on everyone he meets and loves.
The world through Will’s eyes focuses on the importance of family, love and enjoying life to the fullest. He doesn’t need gifts or money to keep him happy, just having his routine and people he loves is enough. He appreciates everything anyone does for him, telling them “T” for thank you. The smallest things bring him absolute joy, and that’s how it should be.
Will is my ray of sunshine, the reason I’m reminded everyday that life is worth living, and I tell him every day that he is my favorite person too.