My brother Noah is thirteen years old. He has a heart full of joy and almost always has a smile on his face. His favorite things include: going out with his babysitters every weekend, big hugs, playing the video game Subway Surfers, watching Maggie and the Ferocious Beast on tv, and visiting the ocean. His positivity and purity never fail to put the biggest smile on my face.
But his autism also causes struggles and there are days when Noah can be difficult to handle. We can’t take him on vacations, he can’t read or write, and he is often loud in public. My family is used to getting odd stares from others and sometimes get frustrated with him because he really can be hard to manage.
I have learned to stop focusing on that – to tune out the negative and appreciate the positivity that Noah constantly radiates. Noah is my island of stability in a sea of chaos, and I had always imagined that he would be right next to me smiling – no matter what.
Until the day I found out that he wouldn’t.
Last week, my parents sat my other brother and me down and broke the news that Noah would be moving to a group home in about two months. They told us that the home would be a great place for him. He would get to do fun activities and learn how to better take care of himself. Being there also guarantees him a spot in an adult home in the future.
Even though I knew the home would be great for him, I was instantly heartbroken. Noah, despite his setbacks, is truly my best friend. It is hard to imagine coming home every day to an empty space on the couch where he usually sits.
It has been a week since I heard the news, and I’m still not happy about it, but I am happy for Noah. He will be able to get the kind of special attention that he deserves and needs, and I am grateful for that. I cannot wait to see what he will accomplish in this next chapter of his life.
For any teens who may be struggling with being separated from a family member, I know it’s hard. It is a major change, and it will be difficult to adjust. But you are strong enough to get through it. Your family will still be close together in your heart, even if you don’t all live together anymore.
I know that it will take more effort to spend time with my brother, and I plan to go visit him often. It may mean that I miss out on typical activities in order to go to Noah’s group home. But I don’t mind at all. It is important to me to spend as much time with him as I can.
For all of you who have special needs family members, take the time to bond with them. Even if they no longer live with you. Make sure that you are always reaching out to them, especially if you know they can’t or won’t reach out to you. You can even Facetime them if you have the opportunity. Don’t let the physical distance between you impact your relationship, because they are always a part of your family through thick and thin.