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Autistic Brother Has Destroyed Our Life

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Sep 18, 2018

Question

Asslalam Alaikum. I have a problem with my brother. He is 30 years old and suffers from Asperger’s, an intellectual disability. He suffers from Epilepsy as well. This may seem just another diagnosis by a doctor, but believe me, it has shaped my entire family's dynamics for the worse.

He was diagnosed at age of 27. His life has been pretty unfortunate. Getting bullied by his peers at school, failing in subjects, not being understood well by even us his family at times changed him from being quiet and isolated initially to being an aggressive adult who is highly sensitive to his environment.

He's stubborn, rigid, anxious, jealous of other people's achievements and himself struggles to do even normal basic tasks in life except eating, washing etc. He can't keep up a conversation with anyone for too long as his brain can't process people's behaviors, emotions, and different situations no matter how normal they are. When his brain gets confused or worried, he resorts to violence like throwing things and banging doors without even a proper reason. We try to reason with him and he does try to understand, but it is pretty hard with him.

He even refuses to take meds for his epilepsy often which leads to him becoming violent again. My family's lives and mine are trapped in this horrible mess. We end up having no time for ourselves and constantly have to cater to him.

I know Allah is testing us and we are patient & remember Him always, but will there ever be an end to this seemingly permanent problem? I know patience will be rewarded by Allah, but what about the quality of this life? Are we to live depressed and anxious?

After my parents, I often think about who will take care of him. I have another older brother who's empathizing but doesn't exactly understand all this. He has a weird relationship with my autistic brother who gets jealous of him. This has taken a toll on his mental well-being and career as well. Our lives are stressed. My brother and I can’t focus on our careers and lives. Our constant care is my brother only. I really started to feel as if I don't deserve to be happy and blessed.

Other than this, my life is pretty fine; financially we are quite ok and our parents are super supportive and understanding, especially my mom. I have never seen a patient person in my life like her. I also pity her as she is the main one to deal with all the mess. I am actually worried about her; for how long will she keep this up? I am afraid of the future of my brother; how will he be taken care of later?

Counselor

Answer


Autistic Brother Has Destroyed Our Life

In this counseling answer:

• When people behave in an unacceptable manner, the best thing to do is to try and see things from their perspective.

• You may also find that support groups are available online.

• Work with him to identify triggers; The key is to get to the root of the problem before it becomes an aggressive outburst.


Wa Alaikum salaam wa Rahmatullah wa barakatuh sister,

May Allah reward you for looking out for your brother despite the difficulties that his condition and behavior cause you and your family. It must be very distressing. It must place a great strain on the family.

There are, however, some things you can do to try and ease your difficulties and, in sha Allah, make things easier for everyone.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,

“Anyone who wants to have his provision expanded and his term of life prolonged should maintain ties of kinship.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 56)

A frustrating childhood

Often, when people behave in an unacceptable manner, the best thing to do is to try and see things from their perspective.

In this case, it looks like perhaps this was a condition he had always had since childhood, yet just did not receive a diagnosis. He went through a lot as a child and bore the brunt of it at home and school. People didn’t understand him and it made his childhood difficult and frustrating. Imagine how it must have felt to be living with this and no one was there to support or understand him. He must have felt very isolated at this point whilst the frustration continued to build up inside him. It is understandably difficult for you and your family but swing it from his perspective will help you to understand him more.

Learn about his condition

There are plenty of resources available online where you could turn to learn about the condition. Much of what you describe are typical traits exhibited by people with autism. You may also find that support groups are available online, or even face to face where you can get support from other careers.


Check out this counseling video:


Understand how he is feeling

Of course, violence is not acceptable, but understand that one of the primary symptoms of autism is lack of understanding of social cues. He might not understand his behavior as inappropriate. He is probably feeling very frustrated that he can’t express himself or what he wants to in the right way.

Identify his triggers

Work with him to identify triggers. Keep a diary for a bit of exactly what is happening before an angry outburst and analyze it together after a week. Notice if there are specific things that are happening before an angry outburst and if there are any patterns.

Do you notice anything in him before he becomes violent? Rocking? Humming? And how does he recognize it? Does he feel sweaty? Hot? Shaky? Does it always happen at a certain time of day? Or in a certain place?

Do this task together as he understands himself more than you. It will empower him to make changes, and allow you to support him in the most appropriate way. It will also build strong supportive relations between you too which will be helpful in overcoming his anger problem.

Once you identify them, either help him to avoid these triggers or work with them in the future by following the steps below.

Understand his cues

If you learned to understand his condition and feelings, then you can find better ways to communicate with him he will get less frustrated. His frustration comes from him not understanding you or the other way around to be very clear in your communication with him.

The key is to get to the root of the problem before it becomes an aggressive outburst. You can only get to the root in each case by carefully understanding what he wants. Ask lots of questions and carefully pay attention to his usual routine.

Anger in autism often related to feeling inadequate, vulnerable or misunderstood. Or if he can’t find the words to express himself, often it can simply be due to sensory overload and the inability to process or cope with too much going on at once.

To avoid these typical triggers:

 

  • Keep communication simple and
  • Do one thing at a time to avoid overwhelming him
  • Turn the TV off if it’s not being watched and limit all background distractions
  • Don’t all talk at once
  • Identify healthier ways to channel and express that anger when it arises, such as relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, reading a book or walking away to somewhere quiet.
  • Promote better impulse control skills by encouraging him to resist when feel it coming by holding his hands still!

Test from Allah

Alhamdulillah, you understand it as a test from Allah and that the rewards will come with patience and in sha Allah they will. Working with him to try some of the things above will in sha Allah make this test of patience more bearable as you all manage to work together more effectively to make for easier situations.

‘And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.’ (Quran, 8: 46)

Share the caring

Like his sibling, you feel it is your responsibility to take care of him. However, it is understandable that it is having such a huge effect on everyone to do this.

There are ways in which you can ease these difficulties such as taking turns with him so that someone is always with him but everyone gets a chance to get out as well. Every now and again, you could ask a friend to come in to assist too.

Care for yourself

Often when caring for others, we forget to care for ourselves. This, unfortunately, can easily lead to burnout which will only make the caring even harder. Make sure to eat well, exercise and get sufficient sleep. Safeguard your obligatory duties such as daily prayer and even use this as a space to get 5 minutes to yourself to reflect and share your feelings with Allah.

Also, make time to be with other people, socialize and do the things you love to do.

Summary

Your brother’s condition causes great strain in the family mostly due to his angry outbursts. There are several things you can do to lighten the load and make things more comfortable for him as well as yourself and the family.

First, try and understand things from his perspective and how frustrating the symptoms and subsequent difficulties must feel. Work with him to identify the triggers to his outbursts and identify healthier ways to cope and manage these feelings when they arise.

Furthermore, accept the positives of facing such a test and don’t neglect to take good care of yourself in the meantime.

May Allah bring you all ease and help you to find ways to manage the situation most effectively.

Amen,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Muslim Kids and Autism: Help on the Way

What Does It Mean to Have an Autistic Child?

Homeschooling an Autistic Child




About Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)

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