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"Normal is Just a Setting on the Washing Machine"

The 2nd Annual Michael W. McCarthy Foundation Golf & Tennis Classic to benefit Autism Speaks and Life's WORC took place Monday at the North Hempstead Country Club in Manhasset, NY. Threats of a tornado didn't stop more than 120 golfers from participating!

During the event, Brendan Lanese, son of Kathleen Lanese, co-chair of the Long Island Walk, gave a moving speech. Read Brendan's speech below.

My name is Brendan Patrick Lanese, and I am a person affected by autism. My brother Kevin has autism too, but he is much more affected than I am. 

When I was little I couldn’t talk or play with other kids. I used to bang my head on the floor when I was frustrated. Now I’m a teenager, and I’m lucky that I’m doing so much better. I’m considered mildly affected by autism. I’m a sophomore at Kings Park High school, and I’m doing very well academically, but I have trouble focusing, studying, and remembering things sometimes. I have to work very hard to try to achieve my goals, and I have an aide named Ms. Greco who makes sure that I do my work. She also helps me keep my tone of voice in order so I don’t sound disrespectful. This is important if I want people to like me and want to be around me. I still have trouble socializing, and I tend to correct adults, like teachers, which gets me into trouble. But I’m doing better all the time, and I hope to be more independent some day.

My brother Kevin isn’t as lucky as me. He is much more affected by autism. He has a lot more trouble socializing than I do. We know he’s smart, and he’s really good at remembering things, but he can’t communicate with us properly.

It’s hard to play with him, and he has trouble staying focused. He has trouble talking, and he loses interest in things quickly. When I was younger I felt really upset because he wouldn’t play with me. Nowadays I understand that it isn’t because he doesn’t like me, it’s because he can’t. 

I get annoyed by Kevin sometimes because he messes up my stuff and repeats things over and over. He uses phrases from television to help him talk, and I have to translate to tell Mom & Dad what he’s trying to say. Sometimes even I can’t understand what he’s saying, and that gets him frustrated. When he’s frustrated he flails about and flaps his arms. Actually, he also does that when he’s happy…

He also frolics all around like a galloping horse. Except when we play challenger baseball – then he barely even walks and it drives me crazy. Kevin is also a pain when he eats, because he only eats a few things and somebody has to sit with him to make sure he eats right. It’s kind of annoying. 

At our house we say “Normal is just a setting on the washing machine” because no two people are the same. But the rest of the world doesn’t seem to know that. It’s hard to go to public places with Kevin sometimes because he makes a lot of noise, and he freaks out about a lot of things, especially loud noises. People don’t understand that it isn’t his fault, and they stare at us and say things like “Can’t you just keep your kid quiet?”  But it’s not his fault – He has trouble with these kinds of things.

We need help to find out the cause of autism, and the treatments to help people with autism. We also need people to understand families like ours, and make us feel welcome, even though we’re not like everybody else. Thank you for being here today, and supporting Autism Speaks, the organization that is working hard to help families like ours. 

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.