This guest post is by Natalie Davis, a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota majoring in chemistry. Natalie serves as Miss Minnesota 2011 and has adopted autism awareness as her pageant’s service platform.
As I am sure is the case for most people who are touched by autism, I have always seen my disposition as the sibling of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as both a blessing and a curse. When I was a child, I knew my brother Trevor was different. He spent hours silently lining up toy cars into perfect rows instead of playing with other kids. He didn’t speak until he was 3, and he couldn’t produce a full sentence until he was 7. Trevor seemed to be in his own little world, but he and I were connected.
Natalie and her brother, Trevor
Even though Trevor couldn’t speak, I always knew what he needed. I was constantly on high alert regarding his emotions and any environmental factors that might upset him. For as long as I can remember, I have been his helper and protector. When kids bullied him, I quickly tried to explain, “He’s special ed.,” hoping they would have mercy. When he threw tantrums because he didn’t want to do his schoolwork, I slyly suggested a game of “tutor” instead. I helped him cover his ears when the sound of a fire truck was too much for him to bear.
Things have always been harder for Trevor. I went to a prestigious private school; Trevor was in public school in special education. I was invited to countless birthday parties; Trevor wasn’t invited to any. I was the star. I was the pageant queen, singer, athlete, and brilliant student. I seemed to have it all, but I had a brother who struggled.
Growing up with a brother who has ASD has not been easy. But when things get tough, my parents remind me to count my blessings. Despite his challenges, Trevor graduated from high school in the top 50% of his class, and he is currently a part-time student at St. Cloud State University. He plays piano, he is an excellent public speaker, and he is an Eagle Scout. His dream is to become a best-selling children’s book author. Just because Trevor is different does not mean that he is less. Yes, he faces challenges that most individuals never have to face, but the fact that he has continually overcome many those challenges makes Trevor extraordinary.
Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.