When thinking of what I would write for my introductory SPORK! article, multiple news articles crossed my mind. I could write about movies and literature – their seemingly lack of showcased differences. I could talk about the people I meet in my day to day life. The people I see, observing and knowing. Then I thought about what affects me and my personal life. My fears and worries for a differently abled person who sits in my heart and home. This person is my little sister.

My little sister is four years younger than me. I remember the day she was born, the day she came home from the hospital, and the day she was old enough to play with me.

I didn’t notice my sister’s differences right away. When we were younger we were both kids. We caught bugs and played in the dirt. We would sleep in each other’s bed and play with dolls. We played pranks on each other and pranks on our parents. We loved each other and she was my closest friend.

As I grew older we played together less. I was twelve and she was eight. We didn’t have much in common anymore, but we would still watch Nickelodeon and act out Harry Potter.

I started noticing the difference in my sister around her 9th birthday. She became hostile and angry. She would behave badly and became a terror for my mother. She was a nightmare in school and would often lash out at the other students. She preferred to be alone than with other people. The teachers complained about her while the other students made fun of her. I didn’t understand what was happening, nor did she or my mother. We fought incessantly. I knew it was wrong but she would always escalate any argument, whether it was about clearing dishes or picking a movie.

Eventually my mother took her out of school to homeschool her. She was sick of the calls home and the faculty’s inability to understand.  

When I reached high school I was better at dealing with my sister’s anger. I learned to react calmly, and not take her cruel words to heart. When my friends would come over I would warn them. My words masked by slight embarrassment and fierce loyalty. “She’s a little different” I would say. “You don’t have to hang out with her, but don’t ignore her. She is a person and she is my sister”.

When I was graduating from high school my sister was fourteen. When I was fourteen I became interested in clothes and boys. My sister was interested in action figures and video games. On the outside she was a teenager while on the inside she was ten.

It took until she was eighteen years old for my sister to be diagnosed with autism. Autism, a word that was supposed to make us understand and a diagnosis that would make things better. Now my sister and I are 23 and 27 respectively. I left home, went to college and moved to Chicago. My sister is still at home. She spends day in and day out with our mother. She just learned how to do laundry and is weary of using the stove. Sometimes I think that my mother kept her too sheltered, making her differences a crippling handicap. She didn’t let her find her place in society for fear of how she would react and in turn how society would react.

Sometimes I want to get in my sisters head. I want to see what she sees and feel what she feels. I can’t do that, so I give her patience and I give her time. Maybe one day we will live in a place where my sister can do things alone, without stares or laughs. Free to be who she is and to find her place in our vast world. Until then I will be here, as her sister and her friend, to teach her about cooking and youtube. If there is anything that two women in their twenties can bond over - differences or no differences – it is a good viral cat video.

My name is Shalirrah and I am a freelance writer living in Chicago, IL. I share the same wonder and curiosity for the world as my sister. I hope that one day our differences will connect us rather than stifle our growth and communication. 

To find more information about Shalirrah, please visit her here