My cousin has helped me understand autism


Having a family member with a disability has opened my eyes.

My cousin, 14-year-old cousin, Preston, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why my cousin couldn’t talk until he was a little over 5 years old. I am a year older than Preston.

But his precious smile and thoughtful nods were not enough to keep me happy. We also used to talk using our family’s form of sign language. If he pointed to his mouth, it meant he was hungry.  If he acted like he was drinking something, it meant he was thirsty, and he used to draw a heart on his chest as his own way of saying “I love you.’’

Once Preston started talking, the two of us grew closer. However, his vocabulary was limited at first, so we still used some sign language to communicate.

My uncle and Preston’s mom got divorced shortly after they moved to Macon. This meant that I could only see him every other weekend because he went to school in Florida, where his mother moved.

Having Preston in my life  also has made me realize how much words can hurt people. ”

— Anna Caroline Hutchinson

This really upset me because even though I didn’t understand divorce, I did know that I was not going to see my best friend as often. Even though it was sad not having him around as much, we spent more quality time together. This was because my uncle had to work on Saturdays, so Preston used to stay with us during that time. This made me very happy and I think it was beneficial for Preston because he was able to interact with me and my sister, who treated him as if he didn’t have a disability.

Having Preston in my life  also has made me realize how much words can hurt people.  I often hear people laughing about kids with disabilities, which absolutely breaks my heart. I don’t understand how picking on someone who can’t defend themself, or can’t help the way they act is funny.

Whenever I hear this, I picture my sweet cousin and family, who do everything in their power to help Preston. I think about how much it hurts them to hear these things, myself included. if the people saying these hurtful things realized the effect their words had on other people, then they might say these things less frequently.

Over  the years, Preston has taught me so much. One thing is to never give up even if what you are trying to achieve seems impossible. My uncle was told that Preston had less than a five percent chance of ever being able to talk. However, Preston proved them wrong, and talks to people all of the time.

Preston is also very brave and has taught me to be brave, too. Children with autism typically do not respond well when they hear loud noises. While Preston doesn’t like loud noises, he loves fireworks and has learned to cope with this fear.

One day, Preston and I were at an amusement park. Preston knew that fireworks were going to go off at some point in the day, and spent the whole day talking to me about how excited he was to see them. When the fireworks finally went off, Preston grabbed my hand and ran inside of a building. It didn’t take much explaining to convince him to walk outside and see the fireworks, and when he did, he was thrilled. He couldn’t believe how bright and colorful they were, and appreciated every firework he saw that night.

Preston also has the ability to make you feel like the most important person in the world. I specifically remember one day when I went to my uncle’s house. My family and I had just parked the car when I saw Preston walking away with his grandmother. I remember watching him look up right as I got out of the car. When he saw me he screamed “Anna” and ran towards me, smiling from ear to ear. He gave me a big hug and told me how happy he was to see me. He acted as if he hadn’t seen me in a long time, even though I saw him earlier that day.