“What is it like to have autism?”
“The thing about autism is that you flaws that you just can’t help, for yourself. But you have to have other people, you know, help you deal with it more maturely and more responsibly,” responded my brother, Polyvios.
It’s a question I had never asked my brother before. During that interview for the first time ever, Polyvios told me in his own words what it’s like to live with his developmental disability. One that he did not ask for, but one that he was born with, that will stay with him for the rest of his life. It will be a part of my life forever, too.
Polyvios and I only have a 14-month age difference. I was there for every step of his journey, starting from the very beginning.
By the age of 3, Polyvios was diagnosed with PDD, pervasive developmental disorder, which is on the autism spectrum. It started out with a lack of communication. He just wasn’t hitting milestones and saying words by the time he should have.
He also struggled with behaviors. What do I mean by that? Having a meltdown if he couldn’t find something. Banging his head on the ground. Hitting and biting. A low tolerance for loud noises and confrontations.
As a child, I had a tough time dealing with these behavioral quirks of his and wanted nothing to do with him. I felt embarrassed when other kids asked me questions about him, and wanted to run and hide whenever he had an outburst in public.
Now at age 26, he has come a long way. He is on the higher functioning side of the spectrum, and could talk your ear off for hours! But the early years weren’t easy. No matter what he was struggling with though, his artistic talents came to light. He always had a pencil and tablet of paper on him. Still does to this day. He loves to draw cartoons, and would often draw scenes from TV shows he recently watched.
Through the years, my mother always wanted to cultivate his artistic talents. She enrolled him in art classes, and he learned how to work with acrylics and use different art techniques. He painted beautiful sceneries of Greece, and titled one “Dusk at the Acropolis.” That painting was entered into the New England Congressional Art Competition, and he won first place. His painting was hung in the House of Congress for a whole year! The competition judges had no idea the grand prize winner is autistic!
He has sold his artwork on mugs, postcards, and even magnets to raise money for autism research. His artwork is also hanging in Massachusetts hospitals, and local art galleries. He even spoke before a large crowd for the Boston chapter of Autism Speaks, and he’s in the process of working on a children’s book. This guy amazes me everyday.
Polyvios has goals and dreams, like the rest of us do. Autism is part of who is he, but it does not define who he is.
He’s a talented artist, a son, a brother, and a shining example of what can be accomplished when you don’t focus on the prefix dis and focus on the ability.
Angela Christoforos of News 4 WIVB-TV in Buffalo was a guest blogger for #HopeRises. We appreciate her honest and compassionate take on having a close family member diagnosed with autism.