Ashley's assembly 

Hi, I was asked to talk to you today about my experience with autism. Some of you might not know but I have a big brother with autism. Sam likes things that other boys like. He likes football, wrestling, playing on his computer and watching TV. Sam is very friendly; he loves to meet new people and is very chatty.

Living with Sam is the most amazing thing in the world… sometimes… He’s still my brother; he's super smart, he's funny, and he has taught me so much.

I’ve learned that when talking to Sam, I have to be calm and quiet, because it's better for him if things are calm and it's easier for him to understand me. With that in mind, a good thing to remember is no shouting. If I shout at Sam, he can't process the information and he can get confused and upset. Talking not just with Sam, but with any person with autism, don't use lots of words keep things nice and simple. It's so much easier for them to understand.

Sam has some amazing talents but one of his is that he can use a special sign language called Makaton, which helps him communicate. I've learned some basic Makaton sign language from him. Here's the sign for toilet (right hand across to left shoulder use two fingers to rub), and he's always trying to teach me more. At our Christmas concert, Sam sat and signed all the songs. I think that makes him pretty special.

It's not only cool things like sign language. He's made me a better person. I've learned to be patient, I've learned that Sam’s needs are sometimes bigger than mine. It doesn't mean he's the favourite in the family; it just means I might need to wait an hour for that cuddle and a chat with mum because she is dealing with Sam. I can tell when he's getting upset and can help distract him, and if sadly he has a meltdown I like to sit with him until he's nice and calm. We don't talk; I might just hold his hand but it's enough to help him.

For those who don't know, a meltdown is a completely overwhelming feeling that makes an autistic person temporarily lose complete control of themselves sometimes. It's verbal, like shouting or screaming, or sometimes physical like biting or kicking.

I help to look after Sam now I'm bigger. Sam likes to go out on his special bike in our street and he needs help to safely cross roads, so I go out on my bike and we ride side by side and I help him to cross the street.

I'm sure you can imagine it's tough sometimes living with a brother with autism, but I get something pretty cool. I have a Befriender, a lady that comes to take me out to do fun things. I get to go bowling, to the cinema, out for lunch, ice skating, basically lots of things that gives me some time to be a proper kid. Which is important.

I asked Sam to name a positive thing about me having an autistic brother his answer "You don't treat me different to a normal boy.”  this is where I'll end my talk using Sam’s words: it's nice to be different.

Thank you for listening.