A NECESSARY ACCOMMODATION.

A few weeks ago, my aunt and uncle came to visit. My aunt, who married my uncle when I was eight, said that when I was a little boy, I was engaging with adults, while my brother was quite shy. When I was small, adults would approach me, while sitting in the child seat of a shopping trolley and ask, "Hello, what's your name?" To which I would reply, "My name's Peter. What's your name?" I would then ask them if they had children, and the conversation would go along the lines of did I have a brother or sister, and did the person have a brother or sister. My mother said she wanted to run and hide, while my grandmother would encourage me.

For the first two and a bit years of my life, I was an only child, and then, from around two and a half, my day consisted of following my mother up and down the hallway asking her if she was going to be sick again, until, when I was three, my brother was born. My mother had wanted another baby, as she had thought I might have gotten lonely. If my mother had waited, and watched me develop, she would have realised, no, Peter's not likely to get lonely, he seems to want to be by himself.

As much as I love my brother, looking back, I see that my parents wanting to have another child was not a good move. They had one autistic child and one neuro-typical child. Where the autistic child wanted solitude, the neuro-typical child always wanted someone to play with. And it would be frustrating, because when I wanted to be by myself, it would always be, "Go and play with your brother."

I can remember my frustration, one afternoon, when I was in Year Six at school, and it was a Friday. After spending hours with other kids, I was looking forward to spending some time in front of the television, when my mother insisted that I play with my brother for half an hour, which meant I would miss half of my favourite television show. (What I feel I should add here, is, the previous year, there was a show that my brother enjoyed watching at 7:30 on a Monday night, and one that I liked at the same time, and we had an agreement that we'd take it on alternate weeks, but my brother frequently found ways of getting his own way and watching his show week after week. I would have been happy to say to my brother, "Okay, over a two-week period, you can watch your show from four o'clock until 4:30, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, this week, and I can watch mine Tuesday and Thursday, and next week, you watch yours Tuesday and Thursday and I on Monday, Wednesday and Friday," but such agreements did not last).

What my parents had with children was almost the equivalent of adopting one child from Kenya and one from Vietnam and both conversing in their native languages. Unfortunately, for my mother, there was no such thing as an autism diagnosis in my childhood, so she didn't understand that, a) I needed solitude, and, b) things like, my favourite TV shows, time alone reading and that were needed to replenish the energy I lost. School, for the social aspect, was terribly taxing, and I would either go into the library at lunchtime, or spend my time pacing the schoolgrounds, in order to regulate myself.

Even when I was three, four or five, I used to pace the backyard stimming with a stick, that my mother told me was stupid. Apparently, the neighbours asked why I did it. Had we known back then, what we know now, it could been easily explained as, "Peter's autistic."

Typically, when parents have an autistic child, the public tends to direct sympathy towards them, and if they have a non-autistic child, towards the non-autistic child. It is not sympathy that the family needs, but understanding of the autistic child's needs. That is not to say that an autistic child should have everything and the non-autistic child nothing, but, what is necessary is for the parents to say, "Okay, you have to play with your sibling, but your sibling has to understand when you need a break, and we'll accommodate it by saying, "Okay, your autistic sibling has spent an hour playing with you, so now they need some down time.""

An autistic child should not be the subject of pity, but of acceptance. Autistic kids and adults should always be accommodated. I know it can be difficult for a neuro-typical to have to accept that their sibling needs more downtime, but you can make it up to them by either encouraging them to develop a solitary interest or spend more time with them.

If you are a neuro-typical who is married to an autistic, you have to be aware that your autistic partner may want or need more time to themselves. It may seem like a lonely life, but it's not. I know, I had a woman who wanted to be in my company 24/7 and it used to frustrate me. Even with my first girlfriend, when she asked if we could ever do our own thing, I thought, "Well, yes, as in, you go to the gym and maybe take in a movie, while I go to the library and read some books, but you take your son with you." She was an extrovert and I an introvert. She neuro-typical and I autistic.

So just like you would allow Braille for a blind person or sign language for a hearing impaired person, you need to provide quiet areas or allow extra downtime for an autistic person. Forcing an autistic person to do things that are too taxing will only lead to one thing, and that's burnout.

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.