By An Adopt4Life Member
My brother and I are very different. I am the biological child of our parents, he is adopted. I always loved school and thrived there. My brother hated school. It caused him such bad anxiety that in the summers when the school supplies commercials started running he would stop eating. I excel in the arts, but am miserable at sports. My brother is an incredible athlete and can instinctively pick up any physical activity. I’m small like our parents. My brother is a foot taller. He gave our dad a piggyback once and it was hysterical.
It was always explained to me that I had a brain that worked, and my brother had a brain that didn’t work the way it should. He didn’t have an official FASD diagnosis for years and years, so we didn’t have much of a vocabulary to talk about it. All I really understood was that the expectations for both of us were wildly different. I had the “good brain”, so I was expected to get good marks. I was expected to behave and not add any more stress on my parents since they “had their hands full” with my brother. There was a lot of pressure to be the “easier” child, and there was a lot of guilt when I wasn’t living up to those expectations.
This year I turn 30 and my brother turns 25. There are still a lot of differences between us. I just got married and am moving into a house with my husband. My brother still lives at home with our parents. I can hold down a job long term, he struggles to. I’m very social, it’s close to impossible to get him to leave the house. However, over the years we’ve found a lot more common ground. It took me years to realize that there isn’t such a thing as a “good brain” or a “bad brain”. I have been working in the disability community for years, and I implement ABA therapy to kids on the Autism Spectrum and teach music at a school for kids with Down’s Syndrome, PDD and GDD. I even have my own diagnosis now! Take that, “good brain”. At 29, while working on a post-‐graduate degree, I was diagnosed with ADHD and it’s changed my life. The more I learn about different brains the more I learn to celebrate their differences. I now understand that growth and effort is more important than meeting expectations.
Now, when I go back home and visit my family, I can connect with my brother in a new way. Understanding what’s going on in his beautiful, unique brain and having the vocabulary to discuss my own, has brought us much closer. I’m able to see more of what we have in common. When we get together my only expectation is that we’re going to have a lot of laughs. We both love to laugh.
I would recommend to anyone raising children with FASD and without to expose them to lots of people with various disabilities. Have honest conversations about why the rules and expectations may differ from child to child. Get the siblings involved in awareness initiatives. Foster a respect and curiosity about the brain. It turns out, brains are really, really cool.