When my brother Lorenzo was three, he started falling behind most kids his age. He couldn’t speak, make eye contact, or comprehend yes/no questions.
I remember watching my parents react in opposite ways. My mom was desperate to find out what was going on with Lorenzo. My dad was in denial.
At that time, I was five years old and so confused. Why were my parents paying less attention to me? Why were they arguing? I dreaded coming home from school everyday. My family lost our sense of a normal routine, because we were trying to accomodate my brother.
After running many tests, Lorenzo was diagnosed with autism. Even though I was only a kid, I started going to his weekly doctor’s visits.
My mom says I know my brother better than anyone. I know the foods he hates and the environments that make him uncomfortable. Before he learned how to communicate with words, I knew what he was trying to say through the noises he made.
My brother is now 14. He can speak in full sentences, read and write, and manage his emotions. While I was there to support him, he made all of this progress himself.
But since I entered high school, my brother has noticed that I’m not home as much. I have soccer practice, volunteer work, and an interest in journalism. I can tell he’s worried about losing me.
In two years, I’ll graduate from high school. And I’m not sure about my college plans. I dream of flying 2,000 miles away to Chicago to study journalism. But my brother is always in the back of my mind. A big part of me feels obligated to stick around.
I’m different from most 16-year-olds because of Lorenzo. But I don’t resent him. Having a younger brother with autism has given me a deep sense of responsibility. Watching him grow–even flourish–has been one of my greatest joys.
This story was originally published on September 27, 2018.