After a casual dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, the waitress handed my family a plateful of fortune cookies. I closed my eyes, as I broke mine open, anticipating a profound fortune. My fortune was unsatisfactory. As I looked up to hear my family member’s fortunes, my Autistic brother, Benjamin, opened his and read: “We must overcome difficulties rather than being overcome by difficulties.” This message could not have been more suiting for him. This fortune got me thinking of all the obstacles my family, more importantly my brother, has endured and still continues to face today.
At the age of 2, Ben was diagnosed with Autism when my family noticed he was constantly flapping his arms, banging his head on walls, speech delayed, and holding his ears. Luckily, my mother immediately placed my brother into speech therapy and physical therapy upon diagnosis. There are some days, I remember, where I would watch and assist Ben with his speech therapy. He and I had a close relationship. Despite his speech delay, I was one of the few family members who knew what he truly wanted. My mother sent him to a special education kindergarten to try to get him caught up with everyone. Nonetheless, by the time he was in public elementary, he was behind in reading, mathematics, and comprehension. My mother and father spent countless hours teaching him how to read, write, summarize passages, and do math. They hired tutors and sent him to after-school programs in hopes that they would help. Eventually, my flustered parents, removed him from our school district because they did not treat special needs children with the care and consideration that they deserved. Ben had not improved and the special education teachers and assistants had failed him. After a long fight with the district, he was placed in a special education school.
Years later, my mother signed him up in our local boy scouts to help him build good people skills. At the age of 11, my brother also was given interactive metronome that would foster brain plasticity and build connections from one hemisphere of the brain to the other. This was the turning point for my brother. After spending time learning about responsibility and socialization at boy scouts and also following the interactive metronome regimen, Ben had changed for the better. He was able to look people in the eye and hold interesting conversations; he was able to read, comprehend, and write about stories much better. More importantly, his quality of life was better. Today, at the age of 14, Ben is full of character. He willingly tells us jokes, asks about our day, mentions interesting bits of fact at the dinner table, tries new food, reads books in his free time, and lives a richer life. What he was once was is all in the past. He still enrolled in boy scouts, on the path to be an eagle scout, he enjoys riding his bike and hiking in his free time, and has enjoyed spending more quality time with his family and friends. Ben has become a new, more mature, responsible, happy, intelligent, and funny teenager. What he once was is in the past and what he is now is for the better. My family has given lots of money, time, affection, tears, and laughs to help Ben become the person he is today. It was all worth it.
So as Ben read that fortune, it deeply resonated with me. It made my throat throb, my stomach in knots, and tears come to my eyes. My family and my brother have come so far to help Ben. He has improved tremendously. Although it has financially impacted my family, every bit was worth it because Ben deserved a great quality of life. The scholarship, if obtained, would go back to my schooling so that I could meet my prerequesites, so that I can advance into the graduate part of my occupational therapy program at school. Eventually, I’d like my brother to live with me after becoming an occupational therapist, so that I can let my parents have a nice, quiet retirement together.