Queuing up to look at the next Gromit, she was excited. She had her camera ready, and was talking non-stop about what the Gromit was, its name, colour, who made it. Much to the annoyance of the waiting crowd, she took a photo of every side of the Gromit, and it’s face, and then I took a photo of her stood next to it. People were looking at us, not quite sure what to make of my sister, 5’8, size 10 feet, dressed in leopard print leggings, with denim shorts over the top, with a tiger jumper on the top, her short hair put into pigtails either side of her head. She has a hello kitty bag, which contains her purse, and her prized possession, her Galaxy Note.
My sister is 17. My sister has learning difficulties/disabilities. My sister has ‘severe emotional immaturity’. She is my sister and I love her. But now she is 17, the gap between her and her age group are just becoming more and more obvious.
There has always been something different about her. She has always been obsessive, demanding and has a terrible temper. She collects leaflets, magazines, toy animals, you name it. As a little girl she was obsessed with Baby Annabel, and it is only very recently we have been able to stop her playing with it. She will still say she believes in Father Christmas, and will write him letters. She is obsessed with the royal family and writes to them regularly (especially Kate and William). She has had a lifelong love of horses and animals. She has no concept of time, can not tell the time unless it is in digital format.
My sister is growing up, albeit slowly but surely. She is very set in her ways, so much so so reminds me of someone on the autism spectrum. However, when she was assessed last year, they said she was not on the spectrum. However, being assessed at 16, and with a load of coping mechanisms she had created herself to survive at school, I doubt she was ever going to fit the criteria of the assessment. Being assessed by someone once, someone you don’t know, someone who doesn’t know the history, it is a very odd system if you ask me.
People query nature or nurture. What has made my sister this way? My parents were too worried and anxious about the whole system so didn’t get her assessed until things started to get out of control. They put up with her behaviour and created rituals and routines at home to help them cope. But now she is older, these things are being tested to the extreme. She is the youngest in our family, yes she was babyed a bit when she was younger and my Mum and Dad did wrap her in cotton wool. Was it our fault she is like this, the way we all treated her?
Who knows. I am passed worrying about diagnosis and questions why. I love my sister and who she is. She can be very trying, and her temper is something a 2 or 3-year-old may wonder at. She only eats a very limited diet: Her main meals consist of plain rice, pasta or noodles, with chicken nuggets and tomato ketchup. She eats bacon and omelettes, cheese and tomato or pepperoni pizza. She eats macaroni cheese or cheese and tomato pasta. She will eat chips but won’t touch roast potatoes. She doesn’t eat fruit or vegetables. She will however eat junk food and her weight is something we are all concerned about. If she has money she has to spend it; we have spent hours in WH Smith before. She buys magazines about sullvainian families or animals. She loves the soaps with a passion. She likes to buy Now CDs and has them every birthday and Christmas.
I love spending time with her. We get on very well. She will listen to what I say, and we don’t tend to have too many strops and tantrums when we are out and about. I guess my training helps me with her. Sometimes it can be stressful, sometimes it can feel like I am at work all the time, but I have really enjoyed being able to spend more time with her whilst I have been on Maternity Leave.
It hurts me that people look at her strangely, questioningly, as we search for Gromits. It hurts me that we will never really be on a par with each other. It hurts me that when I was pregnant, she got very upset about it and I feel it is her realisation that she may never get the things I have. I worry about her vulnerability, she has been bullied terribly throughout her school days and it was really nasty stuff. I am so glad she is now at a wonderful college on a foundation course and has made friends with other people ‘like her’ as she describes them.
She dresses in her own style, and as she is a little overweight, we have had issues in the past because she will choose unsuitable clothing. She will also obsessively wear clothes day after day. Currently its the leggings/shorts combo that she wears everyday. She doesn’t look as bad nowadays as my Mum has worked hard with her to get her modern looking clothes. Being so tall and so ‘big boned’, she stands out from the crowd. And people stare.
She is wonderful with Bubs. She plays with her, and sings, and talks. She is not able to babysit unsupervised however – she can’t see danger, or consequence, and she is ‘selfish’ in that she can only see things from her perspective – she can’t understand why Bubs may be crying, for example. It upsets me that she will not be able to do this.
She wants to learn how to drive, and whilst she has nailed the theory test practice DVD, she struggles with the hazards. I don’t know how I feel about her getting behind the wheel, but I do hope if she wants to do it, she will succeed.
I do not know what the future holds for her, but I want her to be as independent as possible; and she has a lot of potential to do this. She just needs a little help along the way. I will do all I can to support her.
The next time you see an oddly dressed person, looking a little different, just remember that somewhere there is a family, a sister, a loved one. When I was at school I used to laugh at the odd kids, I used to smirk at people out on the street. Now my heart just goes out to them.