I should probably start by saying that my story is unfinished. I'm 20 years old and my brother is 23, he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when he was about six and every day I hope for a silver-lining that is yet to appear.
I've always been very sociable, and I'm writing this story to any other siblings, or anyone for that matter who has felt the same guilt that I have - the guilt of non-participation, as it were, in my brother's AS.
When we were younger I went to my local grammar school, while James was sent away to a specialist boarding school about 90 miles from our house - something that killed my mother at the time, even though she knew it was for the best. James was bullied and often felt isolated, while I was popular and surrounded by a close group of friends.
Even though we have always been very close, I was lucky enough to have made my own friends and it tortured me to see that my brother did not.
I still feel terrible about going out of the house to spend time with my friends, knowing that James is sitting at home watching a DVD, bored out of his mind but too fearful of rejection to leave his comfort zone. I also feel that there is nothing I can do to help, and it is the feeling of utter helplessness for siblings which baffles and angers me as I write this.
With every ounce of rejection in his teens it seems that a little glimmer of light inside of James faded, and we have all been trying to re-light the spark inside of him for years.
What I would like to say to other siblings is that we cannot blame ourselves, as I have often done, for any suffering that our siblings are - or have - felt in their lives, and that we can make a difference. Even though James isn’t in a good place right now because he craves the relationships that I have so easily made, I will continue to do everything in my power to make him a happier person, as I know that I use my experiences, and my skills to teach him skills of his own.
The fact that we cannot fully understand AS does not mean that what we are doing will not help. Has there been heartache over the years? Yes. Would I change my brother just a tiny bit? Not for the world.