AUTISM

AUTISM

December 22, 2012

Autism and small victories

Lena Rivkin


“Phillip made that!” I proudly exclaimed. Then I instantly wondered who exactly I had become. A friend had come over with her 5-month-old baby. After we cooed over her baby’s latest accomplishments, I suddenly pointed to a neon pink, incredibly long legged creation with green ears, round black eyes and a glittering necktie, taped to my refrigerator door. I instantly worried aloud if I had just sounded too parental. My friend reassured me. “You’re not just Phillip’s sister. You’re his parent as well. So why not be proud of his accomplishments!” She’s right. I am proud. As an adult with severe autism, my brother Phillip doesn’t use words. He speaks with his art.

My brother and I were equally lucky in different ways to have an artist for a mother. Everything our mother did, she did with creativity and her own personal flair. Termed severely retarded at the age of three, my parents were told to expect nothing of Phillip, advised to put him in a mental hospital and to move on with their lives. Even though Phillip was born long before autism was considered common, my parents instinctively saw their son as more than just a dire diagnosis. So they did just the opposite.

My mother and father were very involved and dedicated parents. They fully immersed him in their fun and busy lives. They were proud of everything he accomplished. After I was born, my parents skillfully raised me to know that my older brother was special and he was my family.

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