Would you believe it if your grandparents promised to walk across America to bring awareness to autism?
For Jackson, Elijah, Quinn, Grace, Nola, Addie and even baby Max, thinking Mema and Pappy were going to walk all that way — 2437.7 miles to be exact — seemed crazy. But it’s true!
Dan and Mary Beth Reardon, fondly known as Mema and Pappy, are taking off on a great adventure to meet families, therapists, doctors, teachers, mentors, and, most importantly, the individuals who experience autism in all its forms everyday.
Their goal is to document their journey — backed by the idea that “you don’t know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes” — and share it with the rest of the “typical” population that needs to understand the growing and changing needs of the autism community so that they can be positive changemakers not just for people with autism, but with people with autism.
Their secondary goal is to promote inclusion programs, such as Athletes 4 Autism, by raising $50,000 along the way. These funds will be used to open up more free, seasonal sports clinics across the United States. How awesome!
I am a sister to two amazing and wonderful twin sisters, both of whom have autism. I am their only other sibling, and our extended family is scattered. Looking back on our life together thus far, I’ve realized that I dealt with a lot of tough, emotionally draining times without anyone who fully understood what I was going through as support. My parents of course were an amazing support system on their own, but there was no one that was in my shoes that I could reach out to for advice.
I want you to know, I NEED you to know, that I was so wrong. You are NOT, and never will be, alone. There are so many other typical “sibs” out there that are feeling the way I did and it pains me because all I want to do is be able to help and tell them that I AM HERE! We all are here. I hope this post gets to as many of you as possible.
I’ve come up with some ways we can all support one another and feel a little less lost:
Get involved. This is the most important thing you can do. Everyone else won’t know you’re there unless you make the effort to join us in conversations. Resources like The Autism Research Foundation’s sibling blog is a GREAT way to find support and familiarity through posts, comments, and even events. The number one way to support one another is by being there to listen, being there to offer advice to a fellow sib during a tough time, and being there for life.
Speak up. We want to hear your stories! We may even NEED to hear your stories. It feels so good to know that you are not alone, even if it means writing the most embarrassing au-kward story on this site. All us other typical sibs appreciate your courage in sharing. It gives us the comfort of knowing that that curdling scream our sib let out at the movies last night happens to the best of us.
Create awareness. I think I can say with a pretty good amount of certainty that all of us would like autism to be a little better understood. A little fewer stares, a little less tension when navigating au-kward situations would bring the anxiety levels down a notch. Fundraise with your friends, organize an autism-related event at your school, make some informational boards at local hangouts, get involved with Best Buddies – there are endless possibilities.
Ask your friends for help. This can be daunting to do all on your own. Friends are great back up for events, fundraisers, and creating awareness. Ask them to listen if you need to have a vent session in the bathroom at Chili’s. If they can listen to your love life problems, they can listen to your sib life problems too.
Be a role model. If you see something, say something. Never let bullying go unnoticed. I speak for the entire typical sib family when I say a world without bullying of our au-tastic sibs is possible when we are there to create it. Bullying is unacceptable and sticking up for what you believe in can really make a positive impact on those around you.
Join a support group. (insert link to group sites here?). There is nothing wrong with admitting that having a sibling with autism can be mind-blowingly stressful, and sometimes we need some serious support. Being able to talk is key, while also lending an ear to those who need someone to listen to them. Support groups can be found anywhere locally with a quick Google search. Ask your doctor or even your sibling’s doctor for advice on how to find them, because he or she may have a referral.
What you can do right now is comment on this post and tell me ways that you think we can support each other. Ask questions, give advice, and offer an ear – let us know. Typical sibs, unite!
theautismresearchfoundationHow “Typical” Siblings Can Support Each Other