Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – Seeking a Connection

In Their Own Words – Seeking a Connection

This is a guest blog post by Ali Dyer, the Social Media Coordinator at Autism Speaks. Her older brother Jeff has autism. 

As I read  a diary of a mom’sa pink sock sorry,’ I immediately fell back to my younger self trying to connect with my older brother Jeff. I understood what it was like expending endless amounts of energy just to have my brother see me. It seemed back then he just never did. Like my friend Katie, I just wanted to love my sibling.

For years, we worked to have Jeff let us in and for years he wasn’t ready. He used to watch the television with his face practically touching the screen. From the moment I could stand, I would try and wedge myself between him and his object of interest, always to be knocked over. My oldest brother Tom and I never stopped loving him – we actually became more fierce and protective.

My mother is a very talented photographer and so much of our life is captured on film. The photos over the years show us clinging to Jeff. He is either staring off into the distance or running away. I think they are beautiful. They are honest. That is how it was.

Eventually, he came around. Now he can’t get enough of us! But there are times when we go back to the old days, and I have to respect his need for space. He knows that I love him and I’ll be waiting when he is ready.

The photos look more like this now.

Jeff is twenty-six, which comes with a whole new set of challenges. We made it over the hump of him transitioning into a group home. It is more than a year later and we are still making adjustments. To be honest, I don’t know that we ever will fully adjust. Despite that, we will try and keep moving ahead giving Jeff the most productive and full life possible.

I know as time wears on Jeff will need me, but in truth, I will need him so much more.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. CaroL Dyer
    August 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Those pix really do bring back memories as we would make Jeff be part of things!! I love them all!! As usual, my dear daughter you have brought tears to my eyes with your ability to write about our lives. I realize how “lucky” Jeff is to have you and Tommy as his siblings and how lucky Daddy and I are to have you all!! xoxo

    • Noreen
      August 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      Love this comment :)

  2. August 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Beautiful. So beautiful. Made me cry buckets of tears. My son loves my daughter more deeply than I ever thought possible. She lets him in as often, and as sincerely, as she is able. I understand that someday he may take on the added responsibility of caring for her in some way. I also understand that if any sibling was ever prepared with heart and soul to do so, it is my son.

    For that, and so much more, I am so very blessed.

    Thank you for sharing, Ali.


  3. August 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Those pics r beautiful beyond words because your love for yur sibling is unconditional…It gives me hope for my youngest daughter bcause she has Autism but her siblings love for her is unconditional…Even though theirs moments when Esia staring off n space in her own world our family loves her n I know she feels our love….One day I kno Esia will b verbal that gives me hope.

    • Noreen
      August 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      Unconditional Love is the BEST, isn’t it!

  4. August 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Ali, what a wonder expression of the love that siblings have for each other. Your entire family has been inspiring to witness as you all share an amazing love for Jeffery for who is, one of God’s Greatest Gifts.

    You expressed yourself wonderfully, and gave some of us who have not lived with Autism in our daily lives just a little better insight into the life of an Autistic Family.

    As one of the countless “Bulldogs” who have watched all three of you grow up and the love your mom and dad shared not only for The Dyer Kids, but for all those in Irvington, this was a very touching to read.

    Peace be With You,

    Deacon Peter Roy

  5. Maria DiNardo
    August 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Ali, you have once again brought tears to my eyes with your touching stories. You write so beautifully, everytime I get something from Autism Speaks, I can’t wait to read what you have written and so enjoy your Mom’s postings of anything you have written. Your family is just so special – we just love the Dyer’s – in and out of the classroom!

  6. Bill Dyer
    August 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Hey Al….Have tried not to brag about my daughter like many parents do to falsely impress, like the 3 year old beauty contestants mothers….yuck ! However, Your heart has filled us all. Always knew you would make a mark on our society. You have enriched us all and continue to do so. You are our Blessing as is Tom and Jeffrey, and Autism Speaks is so lucky to have you. You have touched us all. During the “tough” years, Jeff would knock you across the room if you were standing in front of the Television set and you would come charging back every time. Jeff laughs about that now….you bet he remembers. He wants to know where you are and what you’re up to at all times. Keep it up Al…”Lasso the Moon”………….You are special……Love you…Dad

  7. Peter Bell
    August 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Ali…you are a true gem! Your insights, your love for Jeff, your beautiful writing. You are a wonderful model for all of us. Thank you for sharing all of your talents with our community. We are so lucky to have you. Warmly, Peter

  8. Nicole Horton
    August 18, 2011 at 9:16 am

    beautiful story and pictures! thanks for sharing!

  9. Phillip
    August 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

    The combination of your own loving words and your mom’s wonderful photos combine to make a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Shari
    August 18, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Ali- Once again I am sitting at my desk with tears running down my face because of a beautifully written piece by you. You capture the bittersweet memories of a time long ago…
    Keep spreading the word. We are “lucky” to have you in our special “lucky” family.

  11. marie
    August 18, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Dear Ali-Thanks for spreading hope to people who really need it. The understanding and true honesty of having a “special brother” crosses all disabilities. Keep up the wonderful work. I am so proud of you.

  12. Rodney Starkey
    August 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you Ali, for sharing your life with us. I think that we are truly blessed because of the challenges we walk thru everyday with our loved ones. They touch our lives and our hearts as maybe no one else possibly could. Yeah, sometimes I find myself thinking what it would be like if our grandson Mason wasn’t challenged…… And then I think…I KNOW… that I would not have been able to find he kind of LOVE and UNDERSTANDING That I have today…. Trully GOD DOESN’T MAKE MISTAKES…

    Thanks Again
    Rodney Starkey

  13. Noreen
    August 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I think the lessons having a sibling with ASD are life altering and lessons we all could use. We go the extra mile to really get to know the beauty of the soul/individual and truly do learn the unconditional love, respect, teach/challenge and help one another.

  14. Noreen
    August 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    P.S. He’s lucky for his lit’l sis!!! They are persistent and have a way of getting through to them then even the Parents have. It’s a very special bond indeed.

  15. candice
    August 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    this last photo gives me hope..I watch my 9 month old try to engage his 3 year old brother on a daily basis but he too is lost in his own world. Thank you for sharing

  16. August 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    It is always more powerful when the words go so perfectly with the pictures! You have a beautiful family and the love comes through clearly! It’s wonderful to see your story…thanks for sharing.

  17. August 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    How nice that you found a way to get through!

  18. August 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    We have never met. My daughter has never met you, but I am printing out your post and I am saving it for her. I write about my journey with my son who has autism. I write about my daughter who is typically developing. But I write it through my eyes-not hers.
    What you wrote is honest, beautiful and so full of love! Please tell your mother that the photographs are just wonderful. Please know that your words and your mother’s pictures are a gift to all who read and see them!

  19. jackie
    August 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    i hope my two boys come around like that they are both autistic
    they love their yungest bother alot but they cant open any space for their sister she follows them everywhere talking to them but they walk pass her but with your story its a relief knowing one day they well see that she loves them so dearly ..thanks again for sharing your pictures and a lovely story….

  20. Jennifer Nendza
    August 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    this story touched me so much!!! my 2 year old has recently been diagnosed with autism and the fact that i can believe she will have a strong connection to her younger sibling like you guys did, is the best gift i could ever dream of! thank you so much for your photos and story!

  21. Barbara Burns
    August 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Allison I so wish that we could have known each other while you were growing up, I did get to meet Tommy when he was about two years old and then not until you were a teenager did we get together again, living in different states that can’t always be helped, but I must tell you just reading what you have written about your brother tells me what a wonderful young woman you are and how proud you make your parents I know I am proud to say you are part of my family. Love Cousin Barbara

  22. Eric
    August 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Your heart is as beautiful as you.

  23. Kim Carbone
    August 22, 2011 at 8:45 am

    As in many of the previous comments posted by readers, I too, was moved to tears. Someone wrote “buckets of tears” that is an accurate description….you see Ali…I also have a nineteen year old daughter named Ali, she has 3 brothers with autism. She has been immersed in the world of autism since she was about 3 1/2 years old, after each brother arrived and their subsequent diagnosis also arrived, she continued to roll with us, getting through it all. The love that she shows them, is an incredible, unconditional love, one that warms my heart every single day. Thank you Ali for sharing your story and photos.

  24. Joan O'Brien
    August 22, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Ali, you are a beautiful young lady, inside and out!!
    And our family is so lucky to be related to all the wonderful Dyers, love you all!!
    We absolutely enjoyed the pictures, brought back so many memories!

    Joanie and Frank

  25. Patronus Charm
    October 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I never get tired of reading this — what a lovely family, and such a special sister!

    Your sharing lifts us all…

  26. November 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I have an autistic brother, and I was very moved with your article which was so beautifully written. I also enjoyed all the wonderful photos that I could deeply relate to. Thank you for this warm and positive story.

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