Spencer Timme has spent his entire life as a younger brother to Mitchel. But now he is an older brother in certain respects as Mitchel has autism.
Spencer was asked many times, “What’s it like to have an autistic brother? Is it hard? Frustrating? Is it different?”, so he made a video in tribute to the brother he loves. Part 1 here.
In Part 2 of this interview with Autism United, Spencer talks about what it was like growing up with Mitchel and what he would have done differently if he had the chance.
His advice for people in his situation is to develop patience. Lots of it. He also recommends that people get involved with the Autism community through volunteering or online forums.
Autism United: What were the greatest challenges you faced while growing up with Mitchel and how would you advise someone in your position?
Spencer: Finding out how to communicate with Mitchel was challenging in the beginning because it isn’t how you would talk with people without autism.
Sometimes I would say something as simple as, “Have you seen my wallet?” and sometimes he would become so upset and cringe intensely, and I just couldn’t understand what I did wrong and that would frustrate me.
When he was upset or agitated, he can’t express to me why he was in that state, and that would hurt me because I would worry that something happened when he was at school or on the bus and he just couldn’t tell me what exactly was on his mind.
I would say the biggest thing for a sibling of someone with a disability to have would be patience. I had to learn to be very patient with Mitchel because he’s a laid back guy. He hates it if he is rushed because it makes him very anxious.
Another tip for a sibling of someone with a disability would be to get involved with the Special needs community whether it be volunteering with Therapeutic Recreation Classes, Special Olympics, or joining online forums/communities where people can connect.
I have been volunteering at the Recreation center my brother has been going to for 7 years or so and that has helped me in my understanding of Mitchel and other special needs participants with different disabilities.
It not only allowed me to spend more time with my brother, but it allowed me to grow as a person and make some pals with the participants. Getting involved is the big thing you can do.
Autism United: How did your family find out about Surfers Healing and what was that experience like?
Spencer: My parents were involved with the Tidewater chapter of the Autism Society, which sponsors the event every year. It is an amazing event!
It doesn’t matter what the ability of the participants is, the surfers adjust to each rider. Some only lie down on the board, others are carried by the surfer.
This past year was Mitchel’s fourth year and during the three previous years he always rode in tandem with a surfer on the board also. This past year, the surfer said that after watching Mitchel pop up on his first ride, he felt Mitchel could ride solo.
Next thing we know, watching from the shore, Mitchel stands up on his own and rides a wave all the way to the shoreline. It was mind-boggling to see that! I’m pretty sure my whole family was tearing up when he rode a wave on his own because in a way, it had some sort of symbolization.
Him riding the wave solo showed how far his abilities had come and that he can do things independently. We were so proud of him. It was phenomenal.
Autism United: How have you had to defend your brother?
Spencer: There were times in elementary school where kids would go up and talk to my brother; and at that age it was hard for any kid to grasp what autism was, so if he was ever bothered by them I would go up and make sure everything was ok.
But thankfully I haven’t really had a moment where he was in danger, but obviously should anything happen where he was in trouble, I would be there to protect him in a flash.
Autism United: If you had the chance to do one thing over again, if you knew back then what you know now, what would that be?
Spencer: It’s hard at such a young age but I wish it didn’t take me till I was 14 to really become close with him and then I hung out with him more throughout middle school. But at this moment right now I would say our bond is at its strongest and I’m blessed that we are at the level of friendship we are at.