What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by Kaelyn.

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My
brother is one of my best friends. My brother is my hero. My brother has
a beautiful soul. My brother is courageous. My brother is handsome. My
brother loves going to church. My brother loves trains, the color blue
and singing. My brother loves me.

My brother is not retarded.
My brother is not a “[insert poorly used expletive] tard”
My brother does not drool or rock or bang his head on the table, and he has never needed to wear a helmet.
My brother does not conform to stereotypes, and truly, most autistic children don’t, because they’re unique.
My
brother will not help you cheat in cards, or tell you how many
toothpicks just fell on the floor, you insensitive excuse of a
human being.

I’m sorry that sounded a bit mean, but so do your
questions most of the time. Yes, my brother is different, but honestly,
none of us are the same. I’m blonde. You may not be. He has ocean blue
eyes. Yours are most likely not exactly the came color. We’re all
different and, he is not broken. Stop telling me you’re sorry for his
illness. He is not sick. Stop telling me you’re sorry I had to grow up
too fast because I had to watch him. We’re 10 months apart; it would
have been physically impossible for me to raise him. We’re almost the same age. Do not ask me if “his disease” is
contagious. It is NOT a
disease, and there is nothing wrong with him.

There is a vast
difference is “being retarded” and being diagnosed with a form of mental
retardation. Mental retardation refers to slower brain function, and
being some degree behind your peers when it comes to certain facets of
the intellectual scale. Being “retarded” usually has something to do
with you licking a toaster because you were dared by those peers you
call your “friends,” There is a difference, a BIG difference.

That
being said, my brother is so smart. He helped me with my calculus
homework in high school, and used to read to me from my physics text
book when I asked him. Stop calling him stupid. He can memorize and
entire movie word-for-word after watching the movie two times. The.
Entire. Movie. He still quotes movies to me I haven’t seen since
Christmas 1997 (when he was four and I was five).

Stop muttering
under your breath about the weird kid that talks to himself. He’s
watching a movie inside his head, or playing out a conversation. You do
it too. He does this as a calming mechanism, much like nail biting or
knuckle cracking. It’s calming for him.

Autism is a
“spectrum disorder” characterized by antisocial behavior, an inability
to communicate basic thoughts, and an insistent need for repetition.
Spectrum disorders are disorders (and I’m using that word with as much
disdain as I can muster. I hate those types of generalizations) that
affect each person differently. No autistic person is affected exactly
the same way.

My brother loves to be the center of attention,
but when he gets angry, he can’t explain what’s wrong. That is not
typical. He gets in moods where he’ll yell at you for opening the door
to his room. How many teenagers have not done that, though? He goes to
bed at the same time every night, has a crush on a girl he graduated
with whom he calls “Princess,” puts ketchup on almost everything, and
only watches his favorite parts of movies.

I’m not trying to be
judgmental, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but honestly, how
would you feel if someone asked who the “F^)% tard” was that was playing
with a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine and singing at lunch? That is my
brother, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you or anyone talk about
him like that. I love him and would do anything for him. Also,
don’t vandalize his stuff. If by some chance the person that wrote in
his lunch box and drew genitalia on his notebook is reading this, I
didn’t forget, and I hope you lose all your hair and some of your teeth
by the time you’re 22.

Respect goes a long way. I’m not asking
you to be my brother’s best friend, he has several. I’m only asking that
you do your research before you decide he’s weird. Do I throw around
the word “retard”? If you drunkenly lick a toaster I can’t promise I
won’t, but, yes, I do it more than I should. Do I occasionally laugh at
something before understanding the situation? Everyone does. We all make
mistakes, and we all have our own cross to bear, but I’d really
appreciate if you’d make my life less of a living hell and realize
everyone is different, and that handsome boy you just made fun of is a
kinder person than I could ever hope to be. He might even join in
laughing with you if he sees you. He’s an 18 year old boy with the kind,
honest heart of a child, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.