My brother has autism and he's the best brother anyone could ever have

By Troy Kanji

This is a post by Troy Kanji, a high school freshman in Westborough, MA and the brother of 17-year-old Sam, who has autism. In addition to spending time with family and friends, Troy is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, plays the cello and baseball, is Treasurer of his class, and is a long-time volunteer with Special Olympics. Last year, Troy and Sam's mom Ilyse wrote a blog for Autism Speaks, Autism: So Little Understood. Read that post here.

sam and troy

Everybody is unique. Some people might have a special talent or excel in a certain area, while others have challenges. My 17-year-old brother, Sam, has autism.

Sam has an incredible skill regarding dates, particularly birthdays. If you tell Sam your birthday and do not see him for years, he will still remember your birthday. He does it for hundreds of people. It is truly amazing. Sam also likes to memorize birthdays of famous people. Sam probably knows over 90% of all recent Boston sports figures’ birthdays. Also, Sam can tell the day of the week a day is on if you tell him the date, within about a hundred year span. Everybody (including me) is astonished by this talent. Sam has been able to do both of these talents for as long as I can remember.

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On the other hand, autism has made life difficult for Sam. When Sam was young, he barely talked and usually would not answer questions. He also had many unusual obsessions and rules. Until Sam was about 10 years old, every day at 2:00 pm, Sam would make our dad pick him up and repeat over and over “it is 2:00” until it turned 2:01. We do not know why he did that and probably never will. Sam has always been obsessed with birthdays. To this day, whenever Sam meets a person, he will ask his/her birthday. Most people find it awkward, but people can tell Sam has a disability because of the way that he talks, so they go along with it. Everybody is always amazed if he knows somebody who shares their birthday or tells them what day they were born on.

Living with Sam is interesting and challenging. Sam is extremely friendly and is always kind. He never talks back and listens to what people say. He always tries his best and does the best job that he can. He is one of the hardest workers I know. Sam always has a positive attitude and can cheer you up. He has developed a great sense of humor and can always make me laugh. Sam has in many ways overcome his autism in respect to being with others. Everybody loves to hang out with Sam and he knows everybody. On the other hand, it is hard living with an autistic brother. Sam’s obsessions take up so much time and can irritate me. Sam’s lack of communication skill can drive me crazy. Sam cannot follow complex conversations, so he interrupts with his obsessions to try to join the conversation. That greatly irritates me, but I always feel sorry when I get angry at him.

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Lots of people say that they feel sorry for Sam, but I tell people that they should not. Sam is the most upbeat and optimistic person I know. He always has a smile on his face and he is never grumpy. Sam really has his own way of living life. He tries to fit in and he does. When he cannot fit in, he finds ways around his autism to socialize. For example, Sam has a hard time starting and maintaining conversations with others so he uses selfies to fill the void. Sam has taken thousands of selfies and spends lots of time looking at them. Sam may have his challenges, but he makes the best of them.

Sam is truly the best brother anyone could ever have and I would not want him any other way.

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