Meet DaShaun & Daylen V.
DaShaun & Daylen V., 2019
“At the end of the day, like any other parent, you want your kids to be happy. You not only want them to be healthy and happy, but the best Daylen and DaShaun that they can be.”
It’s been said that “sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” For DaShaun, 18, and Daylen, 7, the siblings share an unbreakable connection fortified by unexpected news and a mother with super powers of her own.
Growing up, DaShaun always knew he was different. Constantly feeling flushed with anxiety in social settings and needing to have a rigid routine throughout the day, he struggled to fit in. It wasn’t until he was 16, entering his junior year of high school, that the quiet, introspective kid with the big heart would fully understand the reason for some of his “unusual” habits. But it would be because of his younger brother, Daylen, that DeShaun would finally get the answers he was searching for.
“We didn't know that DaShaun had autism until his junior year of high school. Pretty much after his younger brother was diagnosed and learning what autism was, that's how I learned and could look back at DaShaun from when he was younger to say this is what's been going on,” said mom, Deirdre. “That’s when I learned I had two boys on the autism spectrum.”
“Daylen has regressive autism. He was talking and meeting all of his milestones at two and a half, and pretty much regressed and stopped talking. He has some words but he's still he's considered nonverbal.”
Although Daylen struggles to express himself through words, when he and DaShaun are together the connection is obvious. Whether they are sitting next to each other on the couch in the living room of the family’s home in Decatur, Georgia, or roughhousing like many brothers do, the bond runs deep. Because of the age difference, and DaShaun being away at school studying broadcast journalism at Western Kentucky University, they may not see each other as much as they did when they were younger, but 400 miles can’t break the bond of these two brothers.
“Even when I go home or when he comes here I'll end up taking some of the responsibility for him because I know mom will be tired,” DaShaun said. “So, I definitely see myself taking care of him later in life. I definitely have to grow with him, and then I have to grow as a person. Maybe one day, if I get married, my wife will… love him the same way I do.”
To see where the boys learned the importance of family, simply look to their mom, Deirdre. Although her entire world seemed to come to a screeching halt when DaShaun and Daylen were diagnosed with autism, it was her will to provide the them with the best lives possible that gave her the strength to keep moving forward. Caring for Daylen around the clock with home schooling, trips to doctors and therapy sessions, social activities and regular daily routines, Deirdre’s entire life is committed to Daylen’s well-being. And, even though DaShaun is on his own at college, he is always on her mind.
“What keeps me going is trying to make sure that Daylen has his best possible life, whatever way that that looks. Not trying to make it be what I think it should look like and how I want that to be, but constantly looking for whatever… may work for him.”