Autism is anything but adversity


Autism has been a great teacher.

Four years ago, like any high schooler, I began searching the Internet for college scholarships. I happened to come along the Horatio Alger Association. This organization offered a scholarship to anyone who wrote an essay about facing adversity.

Adversity shows itself in many different forms. If you get a bad grade in school, the adversity may be to study that much harder for a better grade. A journey is only memorable when you’ve pushed yourself along the way.

With autism, some parents face the adversity of raising a child who is “different.” Siblings face that as well. Barbara Cain of Time magazine put out an article about the “invisible victims” of autism. What she found most striking about the siblings she spoke to was their “fierce devotion they showed to their affected brother or sister.”

I feel I have that same devotion, loyalty and care to my own brother. When applying for the Horatio Alger scholarship, I thought about what adversity I had faced. What I came to realize is that my adversity is showing others than growing up with Brian was anything but adversity. This is the essay I submitted:


“Have you ever been witness to an individual who is quietly enjoying watching their fingers dance before their eyes? Routinely, this behavior is deemed peculiar – sometimes followed by “what a misfortune.” The dictionary defines adversity as “a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty”.

 More often than not others perceive the “adversity” I face as a hardship or crucible. In my mind having a brother who is mentally challenged as well as classically autistic, is not an adversity. My adversity is trying to prove to others that Brian is a shinning gift. Brian is my twenty-year-old brother. He has patiently taught me about true life realities. Brian has taught me skills you do not learn in the classroom, such as patience, simplicity, and most of all, appreciation. I have learned to appreciate what I otherwise may have taken for granted. I find myself being mindful of the privilege of having the ability to talk and socialize. Brian has shown me to be attentive to the beauty of nature like watching the rain fall; or the waves of the ocean crashing into the surf. 

I have chosen to pursue and complete a college education in the field of communication with a concentration in journalism. This career choice will offer me the opportunity to be a voice for those who are non-verbal; yet have much to communicate. Using my gifts of being verbal and comfortable in a public forum will allow me to raise awareness about the grace and blessing those with autism and other special needs may offer our communities. I want to have the chance to articulate that these individuals are our special teachers, brought here to educate us about the value of difference.

My true adversity….. is the challenge to demonstrate how extraordinary special needs individuals are.”





6 thoughts on “Autism is anything but adversity

  1. Snow White

    Tom – you are a refreshing blessing to our family. Although we routinely exercise our sense of humor to get through some of the “colorful” times, it is comforting to know how lucky Brian is to have the gift of YOU as his true buddy !! Thank you for this reality check.

  2. Jafar

    A different perspective! Beautiful words once again. You look at the world through a different set of eyes. Well done!

  3. Princess Jasmine

    Wow Tom. That was a wonderfully written and beautiful essay. Although at times it can be difficult, and honestly more difficult then I really know, Brian has always been a gift to our family and he always will be. Even though I am technically older 😉 there are a lot of things that I look up to you for and a lot of things I can learn from you and this is certainly one of them! (again sorry about the late posting, just noticed the notifications so I went back to read everything I missed)

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