My mom and dad are a study in selflessness when it comes to caring for my special needs brother. Now 21 years old, my brother was adopted at the age of 2 months. No one knew anything was wrong with him at the time, but at the age of 5, he was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, a disorder on the autism spectrum.
John has been in group homes for the past 7 years, visiting his parents every weekend. Recently, however, it became obvious that his needs were not being met in this setting. The clients living with him were severely handicapped, but John craved conversation and interaction with "normal" people. At this point, my parents decided to have John move back home with them.
The job of caring for an adult autistic man is not without its struggles, but it is also very rewarding. "I haven't felt this alive in years," my father stated. John makes them laugh constantly by saying exactly what he thinks, never bothering to worry about little details like tact. He is also one of the most empathetic human beings they have ever encountered.
On the more difficult side, there are pills to be given twice a day, monthly psychiatric visits, and overseeing basic grooming and hygiene, not to mention making sure John is on task at school and attempting to teach him basic reading and writing.
There are also concerns about my parents' increasing age. Both are in there mid-60s, and my mother is already frail due to having polio as a young child. My older sister has volunteered to help shoulder the load, and she now has John with her about half of the time.
Balancing John's needs with the needs of the rest of the family is not always easy, but my parents and sisters make it work. He is truly a blessing in our lives and in the lives of so many others around him.