Yesterday would have been my Uncle’s 63rd Birthday. My amazing Uncle Chris was autistic, and I had the pleasure of being his niece for 22 years. He lightened up any family gathering, brought light to my life and definitely made me a better and more well rounded person. It has been almost 3 years since we lost this incredible man and this post is more of a tribute to him than anything, as well as creating awareness of autism and what it is.
So what is autism?
This question is so difficult to answer because the scale of an individual’s autism, is like asking how long is a piece of string. According to autism.org, autism is a lifelong developmental disability that effects how people perceive the world and interact with others. There is not one description that can encompass what it means to be autistic. Every person who has autism has different talents, different ways of communicating and the need for different levels of support. It’s as that person grows and develops, that themselves and their families can realise what kind of person they are.
Are there shared characteristics?
As I said above, the level of autism is different for every individual, however some similar characteristics can be associated with it and help with diagnosis. Autistic individuals often find it difficult to communicate and socially interact with others, they may have repetitive patterns or behaviour and love to stick to a routine.
Why should you be aware?
I think in today’s world there’s ridiculously impossible standards of how you should be living your life, how you should look and what you should be achieving. Amongst all of that, it’s difficult to remember that there are actually people out there who are different, but in the best way possible (what an awful world it would be if we were all the same!). There are people who can’t walk, people who can’t see, people who can’t hear, those on the autistic spectrum, those with learning difficulties. And all these incredible people live fulfilling lives, and help others fulfil theirs too. It’s so easy to forget that life isn’t made up of perfectly preened celebs and social media stars that we’re bombarded with on our day in day out. It’s good to know about certain conditions, because if you meet someone with one, you’ll have more to talk about, rather than skirting around the issue and pretending it doesn’t exist. Knowledge is power and empathy doesn’t cost a thing.
My uncle had some amazing talents. He could spell any word you gave him, recall dates from the past when certain records were released and had a real passion for 60s music that him and my Mum grew up listening to. He loved watching countless episodes of Thunderbirds and Tom & Jerry and was a keen train spotter. He couldn’t grasp the concept of time and wasn’t a fan of loud noises or physical contact, but laughed all the time and enjoyed conversations with us all. He was as much a part of our family as any of us and I grew up knowing no different. He taught me so much – definitely not to be so judgemental and to accept others for who they are. He taught me to be patient and caring and to understand how to see life from a different perspective. Most of all, he taught me how to love without being shallow. Uncle Chris was just that, he had so much love to give and never judged anyone, because his mind worked differently. His every day life was full of the simple things. Getting up. Getting dressed. Eating his ReadyBrek and sitting in his chair and watching his favourite shows. A walk. A game. Learning a new life skill and socialising. Simple things, but to him they were the best things and that’s what kept him happy. No stress, no worry.
Yes he was autistic but that didn’t define him. He was also inspiring, witty and incredibly characteristic. I feel so lucky that he gave me a hug before I went off on my travels to Australia back in 2015 (A big step for someone who shied away from touch!). I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d see him, but I will never forget that memory and how proud I felt to be his niece in that moment.
If you know someone who is autistic, or who has a family member who is, chances are they have been the victim of being misunderstood. From an early age, I think it’s important to teach children that the world is made up of all sorts of people who face their own challenges and take on life a little differently. I truly think that because I had my uncle in my life since birth, I grew into a more understanding and accepting person. I wasn’t uncomfortable when meeting others with the same condition. I get it, for some people it can be uncomfortable, but it’s because they don’t know how to react. It’s quite simple really, just be you.
If you have any questions or want to find out more, check out a few of the following websites which I drew all my information from 🙂
With lots of love today for my Uncle Chris,