I’m lucky to have a brother with autism

Yes, it is tough – but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun

Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Maybe it was in that Hockey match when you felt you were the weakest player bringing the team down. Maybe it was last Saturday night at your friend’s birthday drinks and you only knew a couple people there. Or maybe you’ve been that person sat at the end of the table and been left out of all conversation at lunch. Think of that feeling. We’ve all been there at least once in our lives. Now imagine feeling like that every single day.

Autistic people have to live with these insecurities for life. There is no known medical cure, but it can be helped with acceptance and understanding. That’s where you come in. You can help make their lives better. The problem is – it’s a hidden disability. Very often children and adults alike are simply passed off as being “naughty” or “odd” for the way they behave in certain situations.

I regularly hear the word autism being used in the context of an insult. People say: “You’re so autistic”, or that someone is: “definitely on the spectrum” as a means to make someone feel uncomfortable or inferior. I can’t be the only one who doesn’t find this funny?

Tom with his brother, Ben

Me with my brother, Ben (left)

I’m lucky enough to have a brother who has autism. And if anyone was ever compared to him as an insult for doing something ridiculous, I think Ben would be offended – along with the whole of the autistic community. We’re all scared of things we know very little about. Deep oceans, space, autism. But there’s no need, it’s an amazing, charming quality to have.

Living with a brother who has autism is fantastic but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its challenging moments. There have been times where some of my family have come out of some of his outbursts with injuries, and others where we’ve had to leave a pantomime mid-performance because Ben was shouting “murderer” at the person sitting next to him because they were using “his” armrest. But these times don’t matter when you focus on the laughs we have together. One particular moment was when Ben and I woke up our guests while singing and dancing to “Thriller”, while on one of his nightly walks to wind down.

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Me filming my series of ‘Autistic Adam’ – a character based on my brother

Living with autism helps you grow as a family. Yes, it is tough – but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun! Autism is a beautiful thing, but the majority of people just don’t realise that yet. I’m not expecting anyone to go out and read all about autism, all I ask is that you become more aware of it as you go about your lives and don’t be afraid. Those who have autism are some of the most inspiring and incredible people that I know.

They inspired me to make a difference – to make people become aware of the disability, so I wrote a play about it. It’s called The Bula Loop, and it’s a dark comedy that gives you an insight into 24 hours of a family living with autism. It was produced in September 2015 to five Star reviews and we will soon be showing it again at the Brighton Fringe Festival from 5-8 May at St Andrew’s Church, Hove.

The Bula Loop

The Bula Loop

More details can be found here. I stress that you don’t need to have an interest or knowledge of autism to come and see this play. The central character, Adam (based on my brother, Ben) dreams of travelling the world but when his brother announces his Gap Year plans over dinner, the conflict starts to begin.

As a spin-off, I’ve created a Facebook Page for Adam, where videos are regularly posted showing Adam’s unique and comic take on the world.

Adam's Autistic Adventures - weekly series

Adam’s Autistic Adventures – weekly series

Autistic people are so fascinating, friendly and funny. Yes life isn’t easy for them, but you can make a difference by simply changing your attitude.