Thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois has officially declared the month of April to be Autism Awareness month.

Autism is near and dear to my heart because my younger brother has Autism. My brother was born a healthy baby boy but at the age two, everything changed. It was as if someone turned the light switch off. My parents were very concerned and they did not understand what was going on. After several doctor visits and receiving two different evaluations my brother was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two and a half, almost three years old. My parents were shocked and were told that there was nothing they could do to help my brother and to just let him live a comfortable life.

My parents were determined; they knew that he spoke before, so they believed he could do it again. After seeking out adequate help and not finding any, my parents took it amongst themselves to get educated and to advocate for my brother. My parents went straight to the library and immediately began to read as much as they could about Autism. They even started attending seminars. All of their research paid off, because they finally came across the Applied Behavior Analysis program and attended a seminar in St. Louis.

Upon returning from the seminar, my parents got to work and began advocating for my brother by setting up their own team consisting of a case manager and four therapists. The team would provide my brother with forty hours/week of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy in the home.

In the beginning when he was non verbal they used the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Eventually the pictures turned into words and by the age of five he was fully verbal again.

My brother’s therapy was something that the whole entire family was involved in. We all participated and helped out wherever and whenever we could. Although I am only a year and a half older than my brother, I remember being so interested and involved in his ABA program. I admired his therapists who were there for my parents whenever they needed respite care. I also admired them for helping my brother and including me in the process. I remember sitting in on sessions and asking him to repeat words or prompting him to ask for items before I gave them to him, even if it meant he would kick and scream for them.

This therapy continued until he entered middle school. When he got older and as he improved, the therapy sessions began to consist of helping him with his homework and teaching him things such as work skills, manners, personal hygiene, etc.

My brother reached all of his milestones on time. He graduated middle school with the rest of his friends and the same with high school. He even started college right after high school, but is currently undecided on his major so he is taking the semester off.

I would never change my brother, because of him I am the person that I have become today. His autism brought out my passion to help people. Therefore, I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Psychology so that I can advocate for others which is what I do at my current job.


My brother will lead a normal life thanks to my parents, the teachers, therapists and case managers that advocated for him.

Don’t ever give up on your loved one with autism, because you never know what they are capable of.

We were told to let my brother live comfortably, if we had listened we would’ve never gotten to know who my brother really is.



To see a video of how my brother is doing now, check out www.facebook.com/qualicarepalos

 Samar Shelby

Transitional Care Consultant at Qualicare


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