April is National Autism Awareness month! I wrote on article about my relationship with my brother Polyvios who is on the spectrum. Pick up a copy of Buffalo Healthy Living and flip to page 26!
Back in the early 90s when my brother Polyvios was born, autism was like a blip on the radar. Today it’s prevalence is well known, but years ago it seemed like autism and other developmental disabilities were hardly talked about.
I was born in May of 1990, and my brother Polyvios was born just over a year later in July of 1991. My mother says I hit milestones right on time, but my brother Polyvios couldn’t make out words well past the age of 3. He was diagnosed with PDD, pervasive developmental disorder.
But his journey began before the official diagnosis. Growing up, I struggled with my brother’s behaviors. It always felt like I was walking on egg shells.
I am embarrassed to admit that for many years, I resented him. As a child, I just didn’t understand why other kids had ‘normal’ siblings but mine was different. Whenever a neighborhood kid made fun of my brother, by making taunting noises and calling him ‘special’ I remember running home and crying.
Polyvios has come a long way with his behaviors. But if you aren’t careful and you talk him in the wrong tone, he’ll lunge at you. Polyvios doesn’t like confrontation, even if it has nothing to do with him. That means tip toeing carefully around him, making sure you don’t say or do anything that could potentially upset him. He also doesn’t like loud noises, and becomes flustered when he misplaces something. Things that may not seem like a big deal to you and I, cause him a great deal of distress.
It wasn’t until I went to college and then moved hundreds of miles away from home to pursue my career as an on-air journalist that things started to shift in my feelings towards my brother.
Early on in my TV career, I did a series on autism awareness. I found people of different age ranges on the spectrum, and told their stories. I wanted viewers to understand the struggle, but also to see their strengths and talents. Part 1 of my series was on my family. I interviewed my brother and my mother Georgia.
Each and every person with a developmental disability has something wonderful to offer. My brother is a talented artist, who won the 2009 New England Congressional art competition with his painting ‘Dusk at the Acropolis.’ He has also sold his paintings on post cards, t-shirts, and other items to raise money for autism research.
In many ways, my brother is a blessing. He’s got a great sense of humor, and adds a lot of character to our family. Sure, he has his challenges but then again who is free from challenges? He’s also carefree and happy most of the time, and a bit oblivious when it comes to the worries of life. Sometimes I wish I could be more like him, and then remember I am who I am today because of him.