It is a fact of life that we cannot choose our families. The lack of control over many aspects of our lives can be frustrating at times, but we must accept the consequences nonetheless. When you are mad at your mother, it is common to wish that you could have a different mother or perhaps that she would get abducted by aliens. However, the natural circumstances that brought me into a life with my older brother, Hayden Mears, created all but negative circumstances. I do not know at what age I fully realized that my brother had Asperger’s Syndrome, but I have known for as long as I can remember. In short, the 19 years that I have lived alongside Hayden have shaped a wonderful journey that has helped me become the person that I am today.
My childhood with Hayden was eventful, to say the least. So eventful in the early years that my childhood could have been abruptly ended while I was still a baby. Luckily, the grandfather clock that Hayden knocked over missed my innocent little self and I lived to see another day. I began to realize the differences between me and my brother when my family moved from Oklahoma City to Savannah in 2001, when I was only in first grade. The earliest memories I have of life in Savannah with Hayden consist of a lot of outdoor play. He would love to search for lizards, snakes, and other animals. He would spend entire days and even some nights searching for animals. I now know that a common symptom of Asperger’s is extreme fixation, and this was his fixation at the time. My childhood in Savannah with Hayden was filled with frustration and conflict, but also enjoyment and growth. The fist fights over stupid things were balanced out by times of fun and childhood antics.
As I gradually discovered who my brother was, I learned to accept his differences. It was frustrating at times because it was difficult to feel empathy for his actions, but I grew to love him for who he is instead of who he is “supposed” to be according to society. I was enraged when he was bullied in high school and middle school. It was absolutely disgusting. One of the worst part of Hayden’s Asperger’s is that it is not visible. Many other kids treated him differently because they could not see his“disability;” they simply thought he acted differently. But even if he does act differently, why should he be treated differently? This question has bothered me ever since. The mentality of“different is bad” seems to be very common in our society and is manifested in various ways. While people with “disabilities” (I hate that word) are accepted more and more each day, they are still often laughed at, ridiculed, and treated differently. In terms of politics, many people believe that different, unique ways of doing things are harmful, when in fact they can be very effective. And in many intellectual areas, different ways of thinking are actually encouraged. So why is difference not always encouraged in our personalities and abilities? Taking a step back and looking at things really opens your eyes, just as mine are now.
I’ve developed a huge dislike for the word “disability”because it carries a negative connotation. I prefer to describe these people as simply having different abilities, not a disability. My brother’s syndrome has proven to be anything but a disability, and his different abilities have served him tremendously well. In high school, Hayden developed an extreme passion for writing (his new fixation). He began writing user movie reviews for Rotten Tomatoes and stories for his school paper. He even won an awesome award for his writing in high school. After he graduated, he went to the University of Tulsa for a short period of time where he wrote for their student paper as well. After a semester, he moved to Denver, enrolled in the Community College of Denver, and took part in a program called College Living Experience (CLE). This program taught him many useful skills and he left the program after 2 and a half years. While in Denver, he matured greatly as a writer and went on to write reviews and entertainment news for Lytherus.com, Starburst Magazine, and now WhatCulture. Additionally, he is now working on writing his own comic book, The Oblivion Chain, and co-owns a wonderful business, Asperger Experts. The best part? He hasn’t even finished his college degree yet! He has already achieved more than many others will achieve in their entire lives.. His Asperger’s symptoms are still manifested, of course, but that’s who he is. So to those who label his personality and his way of life as a “disability” can take a look at his accomplishments and try and explain to me how he is disabled.
My best advice to those living with or raising people with Asperger’s is to accept them for who they are. Success is within reach; all they need is encouragement. Asperger’s symptoms should not be viewed as “disabling,” but rather as different ways of living. Hayden’s compulsiveness, fixation, and anxiety are part of who he is, and I love who he is. These symptoms do not define him as a person, but rather are pieces of the larger puzzle that is him. After Hayden was diagnosed as a child, the doctor said he would not be successful or social at all. He easily proved that doctor wrong. Hayden’s success story is remarkable, but it is not an outlier. Every person with Asperger’s is capable of success in his or her own way. My outside perspective on Asperger’s that I developed throughout my entire life may not have helped me fully realize what it is like to have Asperger’s, but it certainly helped me develop a love and appreciation for every human being by teaching me to love and appreciate my brother for who he is.