We were opposites at birth,
I was steady as a hammer,
No one worried because they knew just where I’d be.
And they said you were the crooked kind,
That you would never have no worth,
But you were always gold to me.
From “Always Gold” by Radical Face
These words epitomize Spencer Timme’s life with his older brother Mitchel, who has autism. This song inspired Spencer in part to make a video about his lifelong bond with Mitchel, and to celebrate the fun times they have had as brothers.
Spencer is busy with studies at James Madison University in Virginia but was gracious enough to be interviewed about growing up with his brother. Here is part 1 of 2.
Autism United: What were the most successful therapies that helped him get to where he is today?
Spencer: Behavior modification was the vital therapy that allowed him to also advance in speech and occupational therapy.
Autism United: What is Mitchel really good at? You mentioned that he has a great memory for dates and times.
Spencer: Mitchel loves to draw and is self-taught on the computer and printer. He likes to print various pictures and create mosaics by cutting out pictures and pasting to a page, making a copy of that page, and adding more pictures again, make a copy, and then again, until it is a layered picture.
I mentioned in the video that Mitchel remembers dates, our family has been fortunate to travel to Disneyland and Disney World, and Mitchel can remember everything about those trips.
He can recognize almost any Disney song whether it be a sing-a-long or just an orchestral soundtrack arrangement within the first seconds of a song. It takes me a while to stump him when I quiz him on Disney songs!
Mitchel is also fascinated by the Presidents and can recite all of them in order.
Autism United: What were the details of your parents being told to stop therapy when Mitchel was 8 or 9?
Spencer: Basically, Mitchel was stuck at three-word utterances that needed heavy prompting. The therapist at that time told my parents that it was common for autistic people like Mitchel to have a certain window of opportunity to learn and advance, and once that period ended, that they would then stay at that level.
My mother felt this specific therapist didn’t connect with Mitchel and wasn’t able to deal with his behavior of biting his finger in frustration during therapy. This therapist attempted to terminate his therapy.
My mother arranged a meeting with his supervisor and presented her with documentation from teachers, in-home aides, and previous therapists stating that Mitchel was capable of further advancements.
The therapy was vital to that process. She was able to convince the hospital to continue servicing my brother up until he turned 21 years old. He now speaks in sentences.
Autism United: What specific things does he do to cheer people up?
Spencer: He sings to the drivers that take him to work or therapy. He sings Broadway songs to the ladies in his aqua aerobics class. He prints out pictures that he thinks people will like at the desk and writes a note on the picture for them.
On overnight trips at friends’s houses he will talk to their dogs or babies as if they can understand and will talk back to him. When we are in the stores he bear hugs me and pesters me while I’m driving as you could see in the video. He likes contact.
Mitchel is rarely upset and in our family, he is the light that always shines. He is a clown and is very loving.
Part 2 to come.