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LatinitasMagazine.org - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

So, a couple weeks ago, as I am about to head to bed (it's almost 1am) - I see that many facebook friends posting photos of their siblings and how great they are - because it's Sibling's Day (or was Siblings Day). So I decided to post two photos with both my brothers, Salvadore and Joey. Salvadore looks like the typical high school kid that hates to be in family photos and is trying to be the "cool" kid (Sorry if I am messing up your "cred status" right now, Sal).  But when I posted a photo of my brother, Joey - I realized that he actually looks like a normal guy.

And yes, he is a "normal guy" with the manly features and same expressions/emotions that guys his age have. However, Joey has autism. He functions much differently than "normal" guys. For instance, he still has the mentality of a three year old - so he is always constantly wanting to play and watch Disney films non-stop. Joey has the typical autism traits like sensitivity to sound and light, steming (kind of like a twitch, but very constant) and is also non-verbal. He can say a few words like NO, Pizza, Key and a couple names like Percy and Tiki (my dogs), Mom and his own name. (He still has a hard time with my name.).  Joey also knows a little sign language so it helps with the lack of communication between us - but with living with him for my entire life - I know exactly when he wants something or doesn't like something.

Lastly, Joey suffers from epilepsy so he gets occasional seizures in his sleep. The doctors say that whenever he has a seizure that he will never know that he actually had one because he is still in his dream state. But for the last couple of times that he's gotten seizures, I have a feeling that he is starting to feel them - which really sucks because I feel like I can't do anything to help stop these seizures, even with all the meds he has to take.

With that said,  from looking at Joey's picture - if he doesn't say a word or "stems" - he looks and is a normal boy for that brief moment.

Despite that,  I honestly don't see the autism in him anymore - I treat him like everyone else. We laugh at all the awesome disney songs, walk around the house and just try to see how each other's day was + how much we both want to go to Disneyland. And with this relationship, it's always weird to see other people react to whatever Joey is doing when they first meet him. Of course, I don't feel take a moment to realize the shock that they are having with the different things that Joey is doing, like staring directly into your eyes to get your attention - because it's a normal thing at my house and everywhere for me. For me, I think people should be more sensitive and open when meeting a person with autism or with any type of disability. For one, I feel like punching someone in the face when they feel so uncomfortable that they don't even say hi to Joey or see eye to eye with him. For me, it's super disrespectful and I feel hurt whenever that happens. At least say Hi - at least, say Hi to the kid that is kinda freaking out over you because he's meeting you for the first time and feels like his home is being taken over. They are still human and have a mind of their own - it's not like they are from a different planet and should not be approached. They have feelings! Why can't many people see this??! BUT -This is from my view point as a sibling with an autistic brother and as a supporter for the special needs community - I can't speak for the other side of people who have never been exposed to anyone with a disability like Autism.

So, yeah - I believe that there should be a understanding between the "normal" community of people and the special needs community because everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. We should all become aware of each others feelings and understand that we all need friends and their support to get through life. Especially for the autistic community as it's becoming bigger every year. There are more and more families that are suddenly becoming overwhelmed with the new life change and they need someone to support them and their child or sibling.

It's actually was Autism Awareness Month - but I think that everyone who reads this blog should go out and really understand what Autism is. Everyone should go out and actually met/become a friend with a person with Autism or with any neurological disability. Appreciate them for who they are. If you were to meet Joey and got to know him for a couple days - you would find the inner child in him, love everything about him and realize that this BIG kid is actually very smart. And that's what I see in JOJO everyday and I hope you can see that in EVERYONE, too.

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