I could not be more proud of my brother, Trevor. He graduated from high school last spring, and started his first year of college as a part time student at St. Cloud State University. On the first day of class, he stood up and said, "Hi, my name is Trevor Davis, and I have Asperger's Syndrome." I was shocked when I heard this. I might have expected him to say, "Hi, my name is Trevor Davis, and I have two dogs at home," or,"Hi, my name is Trevor Davis, and I love trains," but to bring up his Autism? Wow. He had never done that before. Autism was always a really touchy subject for him, which sometimes made me feel even a bit guilty about being a statewide advocate for Autism. I don't think he minded that it was my platform, as long as he didn't have to hear about it. I was quickly shut up any time I brought it up. "Stupid Autism! I hate it! I don't want to talk about it!" This is what he would say.
Now, something has changed. Trevor has reached a new level of maturity. He is more able to express himself and the effect his Asperger's Syndrome has on his life. After discovering Trevor's willingness to be open about having Asperger's Syndrome, his professor asked him if he would lead a discussion panel about Autism for some extra credit, and he agreed. The panel consisted of Trevor, my mom, a faculty member from the disability office at SCSU, and myself. Trevor started us off, reading/presenting an outline of the challenges he faces because of his Autism as well as his many strengths. He did an excellent job!
It was particularly interesting to me to hear my mom's perspective on his diagnosis. Of course, I have witnessed many of Trevor's challenges growing up, but I was too young to remember his diagnosis. I knew he was different than my friends' little brothers and that he had some challenges, but I didn't have any label to give him. He was my little brother, Trevor, and I was his protective big sister.
My mom knew something wasn't quite right when Trevor was young. He had been developing normally until his 18 month vaccinations (I know, I know. Current research shows that there is no connection between thimerosal, the mercury-laiden preservative in the MMR vaccine, and the development of Autism. However, 1 in 4 parents link vaccinations to their childs' diagnosis). There were a lot of signs that Trevor's development was going backwards. But the one I'll reflect on now is that Trevor didn't talk. My mom and dad read to him all the time, trying to help him develop language, seemingly to no avail. But one day, out of no where, Trevor read a Thomas the Tank Engine Book (his obsession then and now) cover to cover. He read the ENTIRE THING. He was smart. He knew how to read, or at least he had memorized this book. But there was a disconnect between his ability to send and receive information. He was somehow distant from what was going on around him. I had never heard my mom tell that story before. It gave me a deeper understanding of what she must have gone through when my brother was young. I can't imagine my life as a parent, desperately trying to make a connection with my young Autistic child. There are a few pictures that I found from Trevor's childhood that illustrate this remarkably (see below).
I am so proud of Trevor for his courage in talking to about 40 people about his Autism. He never ceases to amaze me, in EVERY way! Tonight, he asked my Dad how to spell "chapeau," the french word for hat, so he could include it in a story he is writing about trains. Chapeau? I have never even heard of this word. Where on earth did he come up with that? He always finds a way to make me smile. :)