What You Can Learn from Your Brother

Jacques - Englewood, Colorado
Entered on March 12, 2009

Age Group: Under 18
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I believe in the power of the disabled. I witness the power of the disabled coming from my twenty-three year old brother Nathan, who was born with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism.

Nathan reads at a third grade level, and tests mentally retarded. Nathan’s autistic habits of incessantly repeating lines from a television show or movie, having trouble communicating to others, and having difficulty understanding certain situations can be frustrating for everyone in my family. Yet, with these frustrations comes gratitude. For me, his inability for deep processed thinking is remarkably refreshing. Going to a competitive private school, I am sometimes left frustrated with what feels like a horde of “intellectuals,” who burst into tears because they received an A-, and just can’t wait to tell you how well they did on their SAT. However, unlike my peers, parents, teachers, and even standardized tests, Nathan never judges me on my performance or my intelligence.

When people ask me how old my second oldest brother is and I tell them, I immediately receive the standard question “Oh, where does he go to college?” and I quickly respond, “He doesn’t go to college.” I am then faced with a disapproving look and a feeling of awkwardness. I know the thought of him physically not being able to attend college doesn’t even cross their mind because when I then tell them of his condition, I am met with a facial expression of surprise and embarrassment.

Instead of being angry at them, I am grateful. Without them or Nathan, I know I would most likely fall into the same trap of judging someone for not attending a prestigious university or any college at all. I might think not going to college reflects badly on ones character. Nathan taught me how to hold my judgments until I know the whole story. He taught me that just because someone has an IQ below 60 doesn’t mean he or she is not a loving, funny, or tremendous individual.

Nathan can be surprisingly witty and poignant at times, and these moments are always cherished. He makes you grateful for what abilities you really have. Everyday when I am faced with challenges at school and feel like my life is so incredibly difficult, I see Nathan. He cannot read a book from front to back and understand it, and can’t drive a car. He must settle for a job at Safeway bagging groceries, and can’t have a normal conversation with someone, let alone understand subjects past elementary school. When people say they are grateful they usually reference the typical subjects such as their house, their good education, their family, etc. Not that those objects are not something to be grateful for; they most certainly are. However, with Nathan, in addition to those subjects he allows you to be grateful for something typically neglected: normal brain function.

I believe in the power of the disabled because of Nathan, who teaches me about humanity and myself every day.