• I always used to laugh at kids. Not normal kids like me, but weird kids. Those who needed those special people to follow them in school, or those who had to go to special schools. Kids who had ‘special needs’. I would point and laugh, and say they are ‘retarded’, ‘stupid’ and other mean things. Sometimes they would be upset, sometimes they would have this big, naïve grin, as if they were in on the joke. I don’t think they were.
    Mom always told me it’s not nice, but I did it anyways. I did until a couple of years ago; when my little brother was born. Nicolas was just a normal, pink and fat baby. I thought he looked ugly when mom showed me him. But he wasn’t normal. He was ‘special’. My brother had autism.
    He was nearly ten months old when I tried teaching him to talk, but he just ignored me. I taught him to name three different colors, but even if he remembered them for a while, he suddenly would forget! I thought he might have a memory loss problem, because he could remember the words we taught him. But he didn’t even look like he tried, so that couldn’t be it. Mom and dad would be upset whenever I asked them ‘why won’t Nicki learn to talk like other babies?’ I always wanted to have a little sibling, a sister or brother; though I preferred a brother. But Nicki was not a good brother. I wanted to hug him, but if I did he would cry and even bite me. I hated that baby!
    I thought he would outgrow it. Mom and dad thought he would be normal, too. But they went to a doctor with Nicki and found out he had autism when he was one year old. I wasn’t sure what autism was. All I knew was that kids with autism were spazzes and stupid. I told my best friend my brother was a retard, and I regret it; Nicki is not a retard. He’s more intelligent than I am. But my ‘best friend’ acted like I had acted before. He laughed. When he came over, he would point and laugh, and he would tell other kids, and they would laugh. It made me want to punch them.
    Nicolas was five years old when I really came to love him. I think it was because he was really funny. I told him that I was looking for a needle in a haystack while I was actually looking for my homework in my book pack. He looked at me funny with that cute face of his and said in his singsong tone “but you’re not going to find a needle in your book pack, and a book pack is not a stack of hay.” I remember laughing so hard that my stomach hurt. Of course he didn’t understand the joke.
    I hated it when Nicolas went to school. I walked with him to our elementary school and walked him to his class everyday. And every time I walked past a few of the older kids, they would turn around and laugh. They would call out “special needs” at us as we passed. And even the younger kids would laugh. Kids would say weird things on purpose, like ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’, so Nicki would ask me what that means and I would have to explain. I didn’t mind the explaining part, just the kids saying stuff part.
    But these kids had no idea! People say autism is a disorder, but Nicki is doing well for himself by having it. He is really into math and science, though he hates English. I like English, so I help him with it. Nicki focuses on all those little things, so he is super smart in math, which I hate. And he likes science and he can remember all the vocabulary words from it. I can’t even remember the scientific name for humans. But if I ask him; and here I’ll do it now, he says ‘homo sapiens’ as if I was asking him what flavor ice cream is his favorite!
    And even though Nicki doesn’t like English and language, he has really good vocabulary. He says ‘beckon’ instead of ‘call’. I think that would be used in a sentence like ‘she beckoned him over’. I had to ask mom a few times to tell me what that word meant, it’s so weird I can’t remember it. And he always talks as if he was old, using those really old words. I almost half-expect him to say ‘thy’ instead of ‘you’! He will be good with understanding “Romeo and Juliet” when he reads it in school.
    But even though he is really smart, people make fun of him.
    Today was the last straw, the moment I regretted ever being mean to people who had special needs. The day that I regret pretending to be friends with them and then laughing at them. Today I saw Nicolas at the playground during recess. He was standing under the monkey bars and was surrounded by five kids. They were all laughing and he looked uncomfortable. They said things like ‘we like you; we’re your friends; you’re really smart; we care about you.’ And because he didn’t understand their body language, didn’t understand the faces they pulled, didn’t understand the tone they used, he was sure they did care. When I told him they were making fun of him, he accused me of lying, because it was just my word against five peoples’ words. And I tried to hug him and tell him I’m his big brother and I love him, but he screamed when I touched him and kicked my leg.
    The kids weren’t his friends, though, and I knew! They moved the tables around on purpose to confuse Nicki, and he started to cry and held his head between his knees as the kids laughed at him and chanted ‘special needs’. I walked into the classroom and punched the first kid I saw, even though I knew hitting little kids was bad. I grabbed Nicki even though he fought against me and dragged him out of the room. I dragged him to the end of the hallway and pulled out my cell phone and called mom to get us and take us home. Nicki stopped crying and was counting out loud with his fingers curled around the bottom of his shirt. As I hanged up the phone I wondered if it would be this difficult to be Nicki’s brother if he was normal. I wondered what fun we could have if he was like other kids. But then I thought ‘well if Nicki was like other kids, he wouldn’t be Nicki.’ And he wouldn’t be Nicki. He would be some other kid. Because my little brother Nicki doesn’t like when furniture is moved, and he doesn’t like to be touched, and he likes math and science. People can call him ‘special needs’, but he is just Nicki, my little brother who is really smart.