When you meet someone for the first time you try and get to know each other while asking questions about their life. One of the first questions people ask is, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I always respond with, “Yes, I have a younger brother named Dougie. We are 3 years apart and he has autism.” Normally, people assume it was difficult growing up with a sibling with autism. The fact is I grew up being super close to my brother just like anyone else’s relationship with their siblings. Autism does not define my brother.
When I first meet someone, there is one story that I always seem to tell people to describe our relationship.
When Dougie was little I loved having him around. He was my “baby doll”. Since I wanted to help my mom with everything, we would watch Barney together while I gave him his bottle. I would also change his diaper, and always wanted to push him in the carriage. When he got a little older we were best friends and he wanted to do everything I did. We traveled a lot, so Dougie and I would make up games to play. One game that stands out in my mind is playing “birthday party” out in our sand box. I would tell Dougie that the sand buckets were the birthday hats. He would listen to me and put the “hat” on while we would make a cake out of sand. Once we were done, everyone in the house would have to come to the “birthday party” and sing, followed by Dougie and I smashing the sand cake to do it all over again. Dougie was my best friend in every city we moved too. We have so many memories of plane rides, car trips and numerous adventures throughout our travels.
Dougie and I grew up loving Disney since we were little. I wanted to share with him everything Disney. Growing up he loved “The Lion King” and I loved “Beauty and the Beast”. We would watch the movies, play with the toys, but more than anything we loved going to the parks. Dougie and I’s favorite ride was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Rangers Spin and that remains true to this day.
As Dougie has grown older, we really focus on doing the same things we have done our entire lives. He really enjoys picking on me still. One time we were celebrating my birthday. The cake was placed on the counter and Dougie thought it would be funny to push my face into the cake while we were near it. He also enjoys stepping on my brand-new white shoes. He thinks that is just hilarious. My friends would come and we’d have sleep overs. They loved Dougie so much and treated him like their own brother. Dougie even has a crush on one or two of them now.
Dougie is special to us because he keeps our lives in perspective and reminds us to enjoy the little things. He loves hanging with my husband Ian and I when mom needs to go to the store. He enjoys doing the simple things with his people. One of his favorites is to ride in Daddy and Ian’s sports cars. He lights up like a Christmas tree when Ian picks him up from school in his camaro.
Dougie really is the brightness in our lives. He is such a happy and positive person and this is what defines him. When Dougie comes home from school, he is emphatically greeted by all the puppies. My chihuahua, MJ, loves sitting on his lap and cuddling with him when he comes to visit. We have made a “Dougie” room in our house that he loves. It is outfitted with a massive bean bag and some toys so he can enjoy himself in comfort.
His other favorite thing to do is take pictures with mom and I using all sorts of filters. He really gets a kick out of it. No matter what happens to us in our lives, I can always look to my best friend to keep it all in perspective. Although he cannot speak, his body language and beaming smile is all you need to see to turn your day around.