by Gabrielle Mattina
My brother Christian is my muse, and I am his advocate. I am his voice, and he is my thoughts. I always wonder what he is thinking. We are pretty in tune with each other, but sometimes when he screams, I know he has something else to say. When we were little, I used to think that Christian was going to start talking when he turned 30 years old. I still always hold on to the hope that one day he will suddenly start talking.
Growing up with a sibling who has autism was not easy. We were born in the late eighties, right before the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities. The goal now is to keep people with disabilities at home and in the community. Before this, it was common for these individuals to be locked away in hospitals. I have come to realize that it is difficult to break this thought pattern in older generations.
People always ask me, “Does he live at home?” While, unfathomable to some people, I strive to include Christian in my daily activities. We go to so many places together. He is actually my bestie!
My entire life revolves around Christian, and having a sibling with autism can be challenging. I never had children because I know that Christian will eventually become my full responsibility. I also never moved away from home because I felt too guilty to leave him. The good thing is, growing up with someone who has special needs has taught me empathy and compassion. Christian has also been the wind beneath my wings, always inspiring me to be successful, resourceful, and the best person I can be.
Autism is a spectrum disorder. Some people associate that with a high form of intelligence. Christian is on the lower part of the spectrum, which means that he is also intellectually disabled. No, he doesn’t do any special tricks. He can’t read nautical signs or memorize every bus route in the city. He can’t perform incredibly complex math problems, or write code for Apple. In fact, he can’t read, write, or talk.
Not everyone with autism is an idiot savant. Christian does understand simple commands, and most of the time we know what he needs. He has never committed one sin in his entire 34 years of life, which I consider pretty special and sacred. He also never committed an illegal act or hurt anyone. While Christian cannot say “I love you” in ten languages, or even in one, he is truly the definition of love.
Gabrielle Mattina is the owner of Gypsy Parlor, a very highly rated restaurant that gets rave reviews, located at 376 Grant Street, Buffalo, NY 14213. Learn more about the restaurant at www.thegypsyparlor.com or call 716-551-0001, where you can check out some of the many great items on their menu.