MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 24, 2011) – Editor’s note: The following was previously published on Natalie Davis’ website. Davis was recently crowned Miss Minnesota and will promote her platform of autism awareness.
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 three, and he couldn’t produce a full sentence until he was seven.
Trevor seemed to be in his own little world, but he and I were connected. 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 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 star student. I seemed to have it all, but I had a brother who struggled.
Growing up with an autistic brother has not been easy. I sometimes cry hopelessly when I feel that no one seems to believe in him except my family and me. But when things get tough, my mom reminds me to count my blessings.
Despite his challenges, Trevor graduated from high school in the top 50 percent of his class, and he has recently completed his first semester as a part-time student at St. Cloud State University with straight A’s. Trevor plays piano, he is an excellent public speaker, and he is an Eagle Scout.
It occurred to me that Trevor’s differences aren’t all negative. Yes, he faces challenges that most individuals never have to face, but the fact that he has continually overcome those challenges makes Trevor not just different, but extraordinary.