Psych Central

Why is my brother behind developmentally?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My brother is 21 years old. He does not have a job, nor is he attending school. He has no interest in obtaining a driver’s license. My sister and I are concerned about him because it seems as if he is not where he should be developmentally. He does not pay any attention to personal hygiene. Since he was young, he never had many friends and was picked on by the kids at school. He is very awkward in social situations, and only has one friend. He never makes eye contact with anyone either. He was born premature, and was initially placed in Special Ed classes until 1st grade. However, he was always a B, C student. Oddly enough, he is able to retain enormous amounts of trivial information. He still wets the bed, although much more infrequently than he did as a child. He does not express interest in women, or drinking, or partying like most 21 year olds. He hardly ever leaves the house unless I drag him along somewhere or he goes over to his best friend’s house. He has a difficult time following verbal directions which often leads to him misunderstanding someone’s intent. My mom recently told me that she suggested to our father that my brother was possibly autistic years ago, but my father brushed her off. Now, it seems as if both my parents are in denial. My sister and I are very concerned and we would like any insight into why he is the way he is. Why is my brother not normal?

A: What a good sister you are to be so concerned. I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a short letter, of course. But I think your mom may have been on to something. The behaviors you are describing are often found in people with Aspergers Syndrome. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, your brother is smart. It’s social skills that give him trouble. Why don’t you do some research and see if Aspergers helps you make sense of your brother’s behavior?

It’s very scary to parents to think that there is something wrong with one of their kids. Your folks might not be in denial so much as they might be feeling helpless to help their son. That’s an awful feeling. Often naming the problem and having some sense about what to do about it changes the situation entirely.

Aspergers is not a sentence. People with Aspergers can and do contribute a great deal to society and can and do learn to make friends and find romantic partners. They just need the support of some sympathetic people who can help them get the education they need. There are therapists who specialize in helping people with Aspergers learn to function in the world and many communities have support groups for both the individuals and their families. With a little research, you may be able to find the support that your family needs.

“Look Me In The Eye” is an inspiring book written by John Robison, a man with Aspergers. Stories like his help us neurotypicals understand what it’s like to live with Aspergers and show us that success in life isn’t an impossible dream.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Why is my brother behind developmentally?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/04/why-is-my-brother-behind-developmentally/

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