A-Z

Graham: Interview 03

Age at interview: 24
Brief Outline: Graham's younger brother, Richard, was diagnosed with autism when they were both very young children. They are very close and Graham loves spending time with Richard.
Background: Graham's younger brother, Richard, was diagnosed when he was two years old.

More about me...

Graham’s younger brother, Richard, was diagnosed with autism when they were both very young children. Graham describes how having Richard as a brother has had both good and bad bits to it. He says they have had “different relationship experiences which are just as important” and he wouldn’t want to change him for a different brother. He feels he knows him “in and out” because he has looked after him over the years and knows which buttons to push to wind him up and how to calm him down too, which is something Graham values. 
 
There were some difficult times growing up as Richard’s behaviour could be quite unreasonable and he could have “stress outs”, particularly around holidays when his routine would change significantly. These stress outs would often happen in public places and Graham describes feeling embarrassed for his brother, because of the way people looked at him. Graham didn’t discuss this with people because it was something he’d just grown up with.
 
Graham says that having a brother like Richard is like having a “halfway relationship” because he’s missed out on the bit of the relationship where he could tell Richard’s things about his life. In some ways, he feels it is similar to being an only child. Their family dynamic has also been altered in some ways as his mum has spent a lot of time with Richard over the years and they haven’t been able to do things as a family unit. On the other hand, Graham describes how close his relationship is with his parents and how hard they have worked over the years to raise both boys. The future worries Graham a bit, though he says his parents are very well organised and have everything in order for Richard. He has also thought about whether or not he might have a child with autism himself.
 
Graham’s friends get on very well with Richard and they find him “hilarious” as he tells them jokes, plays computers games with them and shares his intense dislike of Dora the Explorer with them. Richard is growing up and Graham, who has been working abroad in his job as an environmental consultant for the past year, has noticed changes in him. They enjoy spending time together; they are now able to go to the pub together and Richard often beats Graham at computer games!
 
 
 

Graham recalls how a family holiday was disrupted by his brother’s behaviour.

Graham recalls how a family holiday was disrupted by his brother’s behaviour.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

No a good example is when we went to the Norfolk Broads when we were about…I must have been about 15, 16 I think and we’d got there and Richard had forgotten one of his consoles. And he screamed and shouted and wouldn’t get on the boat. And then my parents eventually managed to, because my dad was saying, well I’m going to have to drive home like three hours, four hours and go and get it. And my mum was like, no, no, no. We managed to reason with him, that they went and bought him something at a shop to kind of calm him down. And I remember that, and that was like a perfect example in my recent memory of like when things have been difficult and then you have to just kind of reason with him, which is normally quite difficult to reason with him. But yes... but something like that I wouldn’t go home and like talk to my mates in depth about it or anything at all.

 

Graham’s friends have a good relationship with his brother. They share computer games and chat on...

Graham’s friends have a good relationship with his brother. They share computer games and chat on...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

 Yeah, my friends have actually been incredibly supportive around it. I mean when I was younger I didn’t go blabbing it about and stuff. I didn’t like... there was certain people, they wouldn’t make comments deliberately about him, but I didn’t like it when people made jokes about autistic people as such when I was younger. That used to make me quite angry, and had quite a few scuffles as a result of it and things, but no one would be directly like horrible about it, and I was never really embarrassed to talk about it. It’s not like one of those situations where you don’t want anyone to know. And yes, no one really thought anything different of it. My friends they’ve been amazing, the ones who live round here. And they love him. He gets on so well with them, and he still even Facebooks with some of them and exchange computer games with them and stuff, so my friends have, yeah they’ve been great with him and stuff. And I’m still very open about talking about it. It’s nothing I’d shy away from talking about at all. Something I’m quite proud of having a brother and I’m quite happy that I’ve looked after him and things. Very open about it I’d say.

 

Graham has a close relationship with his parents but also feels their family life has been...

Graham has a close relationship with his parents but also feels their family life has been...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Yes. I think we don’t spend as much time as a family unit as maybe we would if Richard was normal. And they didn’t have to look after him so much. I think we would have spent more time together. So the result I think like mum would spend a lot of time away and as a result dad had to spend more time at work to kind of support, when she had to like leave work. So, yeah, I probably, yeah, I think it’s definitely, probably changed the dynamics of the family, I think, is the best way to put it.
 
How did you feel when he was getting more stressed when you were younger? Did you feel left out? Did you think you weren’t getting enough attention?
 
Maybe, but again it’s something that you, I would have just got used to. So I would never, I didn’t really go misbehave to get attention or anything. I don’t feel like I ever needed to scream out for attention. My parents have been really good at, yeah, I’ve never felt that I was being left out and they were concentrating on very much on Richard. But to an extent I’m sure that a lot more, they have put, done a lot of hard work to look after him, and raise him, so. But, I mean me and my mum are very close and me and my dad are also very close, we get on… we have lot in common and stuff. So, I have good relationships with my family. But yeah, I think, maybe, I think, as I said before there’s like a push and pull, I mean because of Richard, me and my mum talk a lot, about in depth things like that, and we’re very close and I can tell her anything that’s bugging me about stuff so. In the end, in the same sense I think maybe it’s pulled us together in maybe more, in certain circumstances but I think because like a family, like we haven’t gone out and done like, independent holidays and gone out. And me, Richard and dad, have only recently started like going to pub together, as such, because, he hasn’t really wanted to do that before, but he’s growing up a lot at the moment. So it’s nice to be able to go and do things like that.
 
 

Graham did not think autism was genetic, but discussed the possibility of his children having...

Graham did not think autism was genetic, but discussed the possibility of his children having...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
No, that’s crossed my mind. I, we went for some check up I remember, or some talk at the hospital when I was about 11 or 12 and I mentioned it to them there. They didn’t really have an answer for me, I would really know now, but it’s something that yeah, that does worry me, a little bit. I don’t know what the answer is really. I don’t think it would give me a heightened chance, but at the same time I know that once you’ve had one autistic child the chances of having a second is like multiple, up kind of thing, so… it’s something I’d like to look into more, but I’m not near having children yet so it’s nothing that like plays on my mind everyday or anything so. But no that’s definitely something that worries me.
 
It’s interesting you raised it quite young isn’t it?
 
Yeah, yeah. I remember, yeah, it was, I must have been like 11 or 12 or something. Maybe even younger, but I remember speaking to my mum about it when I was younger before that as well, and saying that does it make, does it mean that it’s like in my genes as well or something, kind of thing. 
 
Do you think it is a genetic thing?
 
I hear a lot of stories about what they think causes it. I don’t think it’s genetic, no. I think it’s random. I think if it’s genetic there would be links to two generations and I don’t think, there’s nothing through our generation line or anything. And, I think you’d also hear more about it now, I think, where people are having children who have had autistic brothers and sisters, and it would come out and I think there’d be more studies and more information on it if it was true. I’d hope.
 
 

Graham knew that he will become his brother’s guardian, but worries because he doesn’t know “what...

Graham knew that he will become his brother’s guardian, but worries because he doesn’t know “what...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Yes. Yes, that’s the one thing that would worry me. I think mum and dad are in control of what’s going on and stuff and they’re very up on where he’s going to be and stuff but I’d worry about his long term future. I mean I know I’ll take over guardianship when they pass on. I wouldn’t know at the moment where that would leave me, because, I mean I’d assume he’d be in permanent care at that time or something. But it more ignorant, the fact that I don’t really know what level he’d going to be at when he’s older. I mean I know he’s not going to be able to live on his own, without some form of person looking over him or in some form of community. But again that’s because I’m not really sure where he’s going to be. But that does worry me a bit. Not that I don’t have trust in the National Autistic Society and everything, it’s just more, I wouldn’t know where he’s going to be, so …

 

Graham doesn’t think about autism anymore, and doesn’t need to know anything more about it...

Graham doesn’t think about autism anymore, and doesn’t need to know anything more about it...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I don’t really think about it anymore. When I was younger my mum used to have stacks of information. I know enough to get me by, kind of thing. I even feel now that I don’t really need to know anything more because Richard’s Richard now. It’s not that some… he’s growing up and he’s obviously changing and maturing, but even if he stayed at his level now it wouldn’t be an issue for the rest of his life, so, I don’t feel like I need a anymore, but when I was younger, I found that useful and I did have information when I was younger.
 
Was that information geared at being a sibling or was that just general information?
 
No it was just general information. There wasn’t anything geared at being a sibling.
 
 

Graham is pleased to have a close relationship with his brother; unlike a lot of his friends.

Graham is pleased to have a close relationship with his brother; unlike a lot of his friends.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Well what, through my whole life really? I don’t really know where to start. There’s been a lot of good and bad times I’d say. It’s something that I wouldn’t want to change if I could go back and change and have a different brother as such. But yes, I mean being with Richy is amazing, I think, it’s a different experience to what you can get normally as having a brother. It’s... because he’s just constantly there, he almost needs your help, so he’s very reliant on you. It really means that you build a strong relationship I’d say. When my parents go away, as in, my Grandma wouldn’t really like looking after him without me being there, for example. So again, growing up with him, I know him kind of in and out in that sense. I know exactly how to wind him up when I want to and how to calm him down when he needs to calm down and things so...So that’s been a nice thing I’d say, where I know that a lot of people don’t, a lot of my friends don’t have a good relationships at all with their brother. Even though they can still go down the pub and have a drink. I’d say, I mean I can’t, well maybe more so recently it’s been possible to do that, but I haven’t been able to grow up and share certain things with him, like talking about girls and that, but at the same time we’ve been able to have different kind of relationship experiences together, which I think is just as important in certain ways. 

 

Graham feels like an only child in some respects and misses out on not being able to talk to his...

Graham feels like an only child in some respects and misses out on not being able to talk to his...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Well that’s the one thing that I think I miss not having a normal brother where I can’t talk to him about any problems I have. Which I know like which is nice that, like my ex-girlfriend like is really good friends with her sister. They would go out together and they would like always talk to each other first if there was any issues and stuff. And that’s the one thing I do really think that I missed out on. In that sense though, I feel like an only child in certain aspects, when it’s like, when people talk about having brothers and sisters and I will say, “Well I’ve got an autistic brother.” And it’s kind of like a half way relationship where there’s like half of having a brother I’ve missed out on, but there’s still the other half that’s fine. But as I said before there’s lots that’s made up for it and I wouldn’t change it. But that would be the one difficult thing.

 

Graham doesn’t like the fact that chunks of his brother’s life are not known to him, now he works...

Graham doesn’t like the fact that chunks of his brother’s life are not known to him, now he works...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
But again I haven’t really witnessed him having any bad instances for the last few years because he’s been away and I’ve been away for the last year so, I only see the nicer bits at the moment. But I know my mum calls up and says he has trouble sometimes at school and things, so he’s a bit different to what I’m used to. I’ve never really seen him like swear or anything, but apparently sometimes he can swear like a sailor at school [small laugh]. And I’ve never really witnessed that though. So that’s kind of weird actually, it’s almost like I don’t know everything about him now that he lives away and I’m away as well.
 
So what does that feel like? If you say you used to knowing him inside out?
 
Yes, yes, it’s not amazingly nice, I wouldn’t say. I much preferred it when I knew everything about him and I knew how he was getting on, and it’s more distant now, but I mean I guess that’s just growing up, I mean it happens with normal brothers as well you learn less and less because people go off and have their own lives. But he’s always here, and my mum’s always going to be, Mum and Dad are always going to be in contact with him so it’s not that I’m going to lose contact, but it is, it’s weird that I don’t know everything about anymore. Especially since I’ve moved away. Because I hardly ever see him. I mean I contact him on Facebook when I can and when I call home and speak to him and things, but he’s not one for conversation on the phone. He’ll just ask what computer game you’re playing at the moment and stuff, so. It’s nice like when I came home last night and he had a new show he wanted to show me and so we sat down for a couple of hours and just watched TV together. And although you don’t really talk, it’s just nice spending time together and he, he’s like pig in mud, he’s really happy with it and stuff. And you can tell he gets a lot more relaxed and stuff.
 
Keeping in contact with him is quite difficult isn’t it?
 
Very difficult without seeing him in person because his communication skills as I say aren’t amazing. He’s a lot more, yes, a lot of the time we spend together we like playing computer games and watching films and stuff, which is really nice the time we spend together. But we don’t normally sit and have an in depth conversation about stuff…
 
Previous Page
Next Page