It;s strange because I used to look after Chris when we were in school. There was this gap between 1-4pm when our parents would be at work and I would finish school, wait for Christos to be dropped off and we had a routine. I completely forgot about those years mostly because Christos was a completely different person then.
He would be dropped off and it would be a struggle to get him to carry his own bag. In fact, when he changed schools and I had to go pick him up he once got so mad at me that he threw his bag in the middle of the road. Of course, I’m not going to make my brother go pick it up from the middle of the street, so i had to carry it; that’s my boy. He would come home, change out of his school clothes and we would make lunch. After lunch we would sit down to do homework, we would fight and then wait for mum to come home and do his homework with him. Some days were better than others, it was mostly when he had to read and write that he would get annoyed because I erased anything that wasn’t presentable and made him repeat the same work 15 times. As far as math was concerned, he would whizz through it and I would just trust him.
This holiday was different, I wasn’t rushing around trying to see everyone, and I wasn’t bothered about going out, I just wanted to see my family and my friends.
Christos would wake me up at 8am despite valiant efforts of my family trying to keep him quiet. He would go upstairs and make himself breakfast until I found the will to get up, then he would come down and ask me to wash the dishes. He watched cartoons until 11.30am when it was time for me to start making him lunch which he eats every day at 12. So we had pasta once, curry, garlic bread and ate an my nans a couple of days too. Then he asked me to wash the dishes. Then he asked me to do the laundry.
You might have read that last year he asked to watch Cars on my laptop, well this year he asked to watch Cars 1 and 2 on my tiny laptop. So, he would watch that or play with his game boy for a couple of hours while his sister caught up on sleep, wrote, ironed or videoed him. At 5pm we would go to the beach. We had a little spot and he would go in and swim around on his own. That’s when it hit me – it doesn’t matter how many articles I write – my brother is happy going to the beach and swimming around on his own. He has his own friends, his own pastimes in his head. When i did approach him, he didn’t want me around, and if anyone wanted to play with him he wouldn’t want to. He was happy, on his own, doing something he loves.
At 6pm we would leave the beach and at 6.15pm he would shower, then he would wait for me to shower so that I would give him ice cream or make him toast with cheese. Then he’s ask me to wash the dishes. He ate and watched cartoons or play with his flatbeans until 8 when I would make him tea. Then he would ask me to wash the dishes. At 10pm, he would say goodnight to dad and go to bed. After that I would go see my friends, watch what I wanted on TV and not wash any dishes.
That was it – that’s what I did every day for my holiday and it was the best holiday I’ve had in years.
Awareness isn’t about seeing someone with Autism and running up to them to say ‘hello’. It’s not about surrounding them, it’s about understanding them. It’s about not staring at them and recognising the signs, knowing that every child is different. It’s about learning about Autism and supporting the families behind it.
Autism Awareness is about acceptance and the space to live in whatever way makes them happy.
Awareness is about a smile.