I never thought I could miss someone so much until I moved away to university. I can speak to most of my friends and family when I miss them, but my brother, Chris, doesn't like the telephone so I am lucky if I get the same few words out of him; always 'Hello, Melanie' and 'I'm good' when I ask how he is, before dissolving into a fit of giggles and running away.

It breaks my heart when my parents tell me that he asks spontaneously if he can see me, as he doesn't quite understand why one day I was there and the next day I wasn't. They try to make sure he knows when I'll be back to visit though, and I try to make sure I spend time with him when I'm home. I just hope he doesn't think I've abandoned him or that I'm not ever coming back.

I know that later, my life won't be like most middle-aged people's. I know that one day Chris will live with me and my family and I'll be taking care of him. My parents say that all they ask of me is that I make sure he's happy wherever he is, but I can't think of anything worse than sending him somewhere he doesn't know with people who don't love him the way we do. Growing up with an autistic brother has taught me so much; it has enriched and bettered both me as a person and my life as a whole. I would not want my little brother any other way.

By Melanie Howell