Home > Autism Speaks U > What Autism Means to Me: Natalie Davis

What Autism Means to Me: Natalie Davis

This guest post is by Natalie Davis, a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota majoring in chemistry. Natalie serves as Miss Minnesota 2011 and has adopted autism awareness as her pageant’s service platform.  

As I am sure is the case for most people who are touched by autism, I have always seen my disposition as the sibling of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as both a blessing and a curse. When I was a child, I knew my brother Trevor was different. He spent hours silently lining up toy cars into perfect rows instead of playing with other kids. He didn’t speak until he was 3, and he couldn’t produce a full sentence until he was 7. Trevor seemed to be in his own little world, but he and I were connected.

Natalie and her brother, Trevor

Even though Trevor couldn’t speak, I always knew what he needed. I was constantly on high alert regarding his emotions and any environmental factors that might upset him. For as long as I can remember, I have been his helper and protector. When kids bullied him, I quickly tried to explain, “He’s special ed.,” hoping they would have mercy. When he threw tantrums because he didn’t want to do his schoolwork, I slyly suggested a game of “tutor” instead. I helped him cover his ears when the sound of a fire truck was too much for him to bear.

Things have always been harder for Trevor. I went to a prestigious private school; Trevor was in public school in special education. I was invited to countless birthday parties; Trevor wasn’t invited to any. I was the star. I was the pageant queen, singer, athlete, and brilliant student. I seemed to have it all, but I had a brother who struggled.

Growing up with a brother who has ASD has not been easy. But when things get tough, my parents remind me to count my blessings. Despite his challenges, Trevor graduated from high school in the top 50% of his class, and he is currently a part-time student at St. Cloud State University. He plays piano, he is an excellent public speaker, and he is an Eagle Scout. His dream is to become a best-selling children’s book author. Just because Trevor is different does not mean that he is less. Yes, he faces challenges that most individuals never have to face, but the fact that he has continually overcome many those challenges makes Trevor extraordinary.

Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.If you are interested in raising awareness on your college campus visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U.

  1. Courtney
    October 3, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Very touching :) you are an awesome sister

  2. Barbara Pons
    October 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

    What a beautiful story!! I have a typical daughter and a special needs son. He is older by 1 year. They are very close and protect each other all the time. My hopes are that one day Jacob will like school. He hates it right now and gives me a hassle pretty much everyday about going to school. I hear so many autistic kids end up going to college. I sure hope the same for my little man. Thanks for sharing and giving me hope that he may like school some day.

  3. October 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you! I really apreciate your article, it brought tears to my eyes knowing others are and have gone threw this. It isn’t easy living with children with Autism. I am in the process of re-repainting my house because of my autistic son who had a fit because of the change. Now I have to paint it again the same color it use to be to keep things right for him.

    • Austin mom
      October 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      Oh wow….I still hear the “yellow paint under the green wants to come back out. The yellow paint feels like it is in prison. Why did you paint the walls green?” I can totally relate. I didn’t paint them yellow again though. We are cautious and limited on the changes we make compared to those we would like to make, but we try to prepare her and let her know it will be OK. Things do change, she will get used to it. She can keep her room the same color, but we decided we would like the walls to be green. When she owns her own house she can choose the colors for her her hallways too. That seemed to work. She does bring it up again, when she is stressed or something triggers the thought for her. We also had months of adjusting to a new bedspread we bought for ‘our’ bed. She climbs in our bed at night and would refuse to go to sleep until we put the old cover back on. So we had both on for a while and faded out the old one. It IS a challenge having kids with autism, but they CAN adapt with patience and supports and lots of persistence and LOVE!

  4. October 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Kudoos!!!!! What an awesome sister!

  5. Kathryn Smith
    October 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Awesome! God Bless you!!! =0)

  6. Darren M
    October 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    God bless you and your brother. Thanks.

  7. Becky
    October 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I have a special daughter who is a great sister just like you! She has a non-verbal younger brother! Bless you for setting such an awesome example of just how awesome that relationship can be! :)

  8. October 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Blessings to you for being an awesome sister! Your brother is blessed to have you!

  9. October 3, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    My 4 year old was diagnosed with Autism, the year and a half we went through to get that diagnosis was a nightmare. I started creating simple jewelry for the cause to raise awareness after a 19 year Autistic girl I met gave me all the inspiration in the world to do so. Like my page on Facebook and view some of the jewerly I have created so far and let me know if you like it or spread the word or special order a specific one. I will be participating in the Oct. 30th Tempe Autism walk and I am using a portion of each sale to go toward that walk. The Face Book page can be viewed by Looking up the name “Wear it with purporse” ~ Andrea, mother of two great boys Connor and Kingston

  10. ileana
    October 4, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I agree!!!you are an AWESOME PERSON!!!!! and Trevor is very lucky to have you in his life!.God bless you!!!!!!

  11. Bushra Jabeen
    October 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    It great to know that Trevor is an excellent public speaker,good piano player and has reached to university.It was not possible for him without your support. May allah give him success him in his wishes and intentions

  12. Shanavia
    October 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    This story reminds me of how close I am to my younger cousin with autism. He’s thirteen and he moved up to the sixth grade, even though that is not his grade level of learning. When we go to family reunions or out to eat, people always stare at him because he rocks his head back and forth and mumbles. I ignore them because not all people are going to be sensitive towards people with autism or other disorders simply because they may not have experienced anything like that. Little kids always say things like, “What’s wrong with him?”, “Does he speak Spanish?” I just tell them to leave him alone he’s okay. He and I are very close because he feels safe around me and he knows that I won’t let anyone hurt him. He rarely shows emotions, but when it’s time to leave after we visit them, he looks a little melancholy. I love my little cousin even if he is different and I am not ashamed of him. I’m glad to know there are other people who feel this way about their family members who have autism.

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