Getting married when a sibling has autism

I think, until less than a year back, I wasn’t sure (because of many reasons) whether I would ever get married.

Karan’s autism is such that it is unlikely he will ever lead what is considered a full, normal life and will need to be cared for, for the rest of his life. My mother and I are not interested or will even consider sending him to a residential care centre; it’s completely out of the question. Karan stays with family. So when it becomes impossible for my mother to take care of him, it is up to me – as his one and only sibling – to be his parent. I admit, even though right now I’m not his regular caregiver, I feel like I have my first child already.

It’s not a responsibility I grudge. I’d considered a long time ago whether I would marry because that would mean finding a man who was comfortable and accepting of Karan. I had heard enough horror stories about this: a woman my family knew had a tough time finding suitors because every time the nugget of information came up that her sibling had special needs, the parents of the man swooshed in and shook their heads. No doubt the prospective suitors were conspirators in their refusal too, but I think some men can be amenable to the situation while older generations who are comfortably ensconced in their disgusting belief that “special needs” is a dirty phrase step in.

Here’s the thing: I understand fully well the implications of marrying into a family that has special needs. But then again, I could reject you for having cancer in your family, you for having heart problems floating in the fringes, you for arthritis and you because of diabetes. When it comes to rejecting a proposal, there are a million reasons to say no.

And yes, if a man cannot accept my brother, it’s a deal-breaker. I’d rather live alone caring for Karan than live with someone who spurns him, thank you very much.

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Dealing with an autistic sibling

When they told me Karan had autism … I didn’t know what it meant. I was only 13-years-old and they could’ve been telling me he was left-handed for all I knew (Karan seems to be ambidextrous though).¬†Even months later, it didn’t make much sense to me. All I knew was: he was different.

I resented it for a while. I had been the only child in the house till I was 9. Then a new baby came in and it seemed as though he never grew up; he never moved on from being a child who needed constant attention. At the age of 13, which is when he was diagnosed, it was as if I was told: ‘Hey, you had your Mom till you were 9. That’s it. She can’t pay attention to you anymore.’ Instead of Karan growing up and Mom giving both of us some attention, I felt then, wrongly, that it was all about him and I didn’t matter anymore.

The resentment lasted a few months, sadly enough. I wish it had never been there, but there you go. I grew up in some aspects faster than I should have I think, had he not been autistic. 

There isn’t anything of the sort now. Karan is my darling, the apple of my eye.

It’s hard enough as it is for a kid for deal with the arrival of a new baby in the family – it means you’re not the baby of the house anymore. Handling a sibling with some kind of special needs is a slightly different ball game. I think it depends on how you’ve been brought up, as well as your individual desire to be a part of your sibling’s life.

I must confess, I wanted a sister when my mother was pregnant. I got a brother. I imagined a brother with whom I’d have stupid fights. Instead, I got a brother who is intent on picking up my stuff and breaking them.

You know what?

I wouldn’t have it any different. I know better now.