Ali Carbone of Long Island, New York, has three brothers with autism. She told Love What Matters she’s always felt like having the boys, and their autism, in their home gave her an “advantage in life.”
“On April 3rd, 1994, autism was born into mine and my parents’ lives. It would happen again on July 27th, 1999, and again on August 2nd, 2001. Ten years ago, I would have had to explain to people what autism was when they’d meet Michael, Anthony and Luke. Today it’s likely that you’ve known, loved or lived with a child or adult with autism.
The spectrum is wide, and is represented perfectly under one roof in my home. No two autistic people are alike, and for many, autism is just the beginning of the developmental and cognitive disorders they will have to deal with throughout their lives.
My oldest brother is non-verbal, blind and epileptic. My middle brother is verbal, social and suffers from severe OCD. My youngest is mildly verbal and hyperactive. These traits though, they don’t define them at all. Michael lives for a good Disney movie throwback, and would be content with giving hugs and kisses all day, every day. Anthony quite literally thinks he’s Michael Jackson and will destroy you in any performance-related competition. Luke loves to run and hang outside, and will take every opportunity to mess with his oldest brother. That is who they are.
This is a rare picture of everyone dressed up smiling. Something so simple to you and your family is virtually impossible for mine. This month, and every day going forward, do your best to be kind. If you see a kid flapping their arms, don’t laugh. If you see an adult having a meltdown, don’t stare. If they go for a hug or high five, don’t shy away. A smile from a stranger can quite literally change our day.”
Carbone said growing up with her brothers helped teach her compassion.
“Growing up, things were always harder for us, but when everyone’s still a toddler, the ‘symptoms’ or tendencies of an autistic child come off as just ‘bad behavior’ or just being a toddler. It wasn’t until I was in Elementary school and aware of my surroundings, going on play dates and seeing how my friends and their siblings interacted and how their family dynamics were so different than what I experienced every day, that I began to realize. For some reason I always felt like having the boys and this thing in our home gave me some kind of advantage in life.
As a kid, I already understood compassion and could instantly tell if another kid around me was disabled or autistic, and I’d treat them with kindness. Even back then I remember feeling like there was bigger meaning or purpose to my life.
My brothers, and autism, have taught me everything I know to be true about life. Real life. How to live, how to treat people, how to think and how to feel. Someone always has it worse than you. Always be kind because you never know what someone is going through at home. Is it really that hard to smile and not be a judgmental, unhappy person, when you have your 5 senses, the ability to love and live a full life? If people took more time to put themselves in other’s shoes, I think their perception of their own life and problems would change. That’s something I try to do every day. Even though I have all of this that goes on in my daily life, if a friend is sad or having a problem, I never discount it, and always try to put myself in their shoes and offer support.”
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