"What's it like to have a brother with autism?" That's the question Spencer Timme is asked again and again and again. And so the 20-year-old has made a video to answer it. The video is six months old, but it's just gone viral in the past week, giving people a look at life for Spencer and brother Mitchel Timme.
Mitchel has autism. But the brothers are like any other set of siblings. They pick on each other. Laugh with each other. Hug each other.
This is what it's like to have a sibling with special needs.
They're just your sibling.
Sure, they may be different from other kids, but when you grow up in the same house as a child, the way they are is what you know. It isn't until most kids leave the house and people start to tell them that their sibling is "different" that most kids even realize that their family is unique.
That's not just what I took away from the beautiful tribute video Spencer Timme made for Mitchel.
It's what I've seen from the outside looking into dozens of sibling relationships in which one (or more) of the children is classified as "special needs." It's what I experienced growing up in a family with a brother who had ADHD and a number of other diagnoses that technically qualified him for special education assistance.
My brother is a little different, but he's just my brother. He makes me laugh sometimes. He makes me cry sometimes. He makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes. But at the end of the day, we share the common bond of having grown up in the same house, having shared the same memories, the same bad jokes, the same tendency to burn the moment we catch a ray of sunlight. We are as different as night and day, but we are still brother and sister.
Our differences don't change that.
It would be remiss of me not to admit that kids with special needs siblings do have different experiences. Actress Holly Robinson Peete wrote an excellent children's book, My Brother Charlie, specifically to address the fact that it's not always easy being the neurotypical kid in a family where the parents have to devote so much time and focus to a sibling because of their diagnosis.
But at the end of the day, this is simply life for these kids. This is how their family operates. And the beauty of the relationship between kids like the Timmes is that a sibling has always known a sibling this way; they don't judge in ways that the outside world does. This, to them, IS "normal." It's the way it's supposed to be. And that's OK.
Take a look at Spencer's beautiful video about his brother:
What's the relationship between your kids like?
Image via Spencer Timme/YouTube