July 30, 2012

College Essay: A Sister's Love for Her Brother with Autism

When it was time for my daughter, Lauren, to write her college essay she did not hesitate for a moment.  She knew immediately that her personal story would be about life with her brother, Justin, who happens to have autism.  

Suffice it say, Lauren was accepted to a great university where she will study Bioengineering, and she plans to cure autism.  (Update:  Lauren has since interned at Harvard University's Massachusetts General Hospital where she conducted autism researchShe will receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering from Lehigh University in May of 2015, then immediately start a Master's degree program).  

I am so proud of her kind heart, brilliant mind and her desire to help others.  Lauren and Justin remain close and talk to each other often.  

I will let her essay speak for itself.

Lauren's College Essay

There are some things in life that you learn from being in school, sitting at a desk.  There are other things that you can only learn from those who surround you.  I was lucky enough to learn a lot of these life experiences early, courtesy of a very unique person in my midst.

My brother Justin was diagnosed with autism just a few weeks before I was born, so growing up I never knew there was a difference.  It was when I started to get older, looking at my friends and their siblings, that I noticed we were not the same. 

Justin lacked the normal motor skills that I possessed, so effortless tasks like brushing his teeth were quite the challenge.  If I wasn’t patient with him and talking him through it, he would be frustrated and have a meltdown.  I needed to slow down, take a step back from the situation, realize that he was not capable of doing things as easily as I could, and help him through it.

Instead of fighting, we helped each other to learn and grow. While I was giving Justin a hand with everyday simple things — though I may not have seen it at the time — he was teaching me about patience, understanding, and advocacy.

One of the most valuable lessons learned because of Justin was to stand up for what I believe.  Between defending my brother at the local pool where kids, ignorant of his situation, would constantly splash him in the face, to watching my mother battle for Justin’s rights, I have learned that if you want something, you have to go get it.  If I wanted the kids at the pool to leave Justin alone, I was going to have to stop them myself.  Just as Justin’s needs in school were special, mine were too and if I wanted to get all that I could out of my education, I was going to have to advocate for myself.

When I was younger, I wished every day that my brother did not have autism, but now that I look back, I would not change him for the world.  Justin made me the person I am today: a patient, understanding, and strong-willed female.  I don’t know who I would have been without him, but I am quite happy with the person I have become.



hannah singer said...

this is SO beautiful and so encouraging to me! thanks for sharing. lovely children, merrill! xo

ivylanedesigns said...

Thanks, Hannah!

Shannon said...

Just met you from your leaving me a comment on FB (we both have Justin's with Autism) and now I am pouring over your blog and came to this post. My Justin has 3 siblings, but for a long time it was just he and my daughter (22 months younger) and everything your daughter stated rings so true with my daughter. People will say to me, "Poor little miss, I bet her life is so hard with Justin." And it baffles my mind because all the challenges have shaped her into one of the most compassionate 7 year olds I have ever met!! She's always had a special touch with Justin and your daughters words about learning patience and advocacy are precisely what I've seen as a blessing for my daughter--I've just never seen it written so beautifully before!! Thank you for sharing her letter. My daughter will love reading this someday--I'm going to print it off and save it for her:)


ivylanedesigns said...

Thank you, Shannon. I hope that your daughter grows up to feel the same way about her brother. It isn't easy, but it sure is rewarding. ♥