A loving sister goes the distance to raise autism awareness
My name is Freya O’Horo and my brother Dian has autism.
I’ve always been overprotective of Dian because I felt that the world has been very cruel to him. He could start his day as a very happy, energetic boy and end it being very upset and hurt. This would usually happen when we would go places like a shop or restaurant. People would constantly judge him whether he spoke loudly or started running and jumping; the stares and judgment affected him and it was always apparent.
I thought that if people were more educated about autism, then they would stop staring at the boy having a difficult time on the shop floor and realize “maybe he isn’t having a tantrum, maybe he’s having a meltdown.”
During my transition Year to St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Foxford, Ireland, I was given the opportunity to take part in the Student Enterprise Awards programme. For this competition, the students had to set up a business, create a product and sell it. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to help my brother. I wanted to create a booklet to raise awareness and help people understand autism. So I teamed up with my friend who had an autistic aunt, and we created All About Autism.
From November 2015 to February 2016, we sold hundreds of booklets to national schools and to members of our community. However, we felt that young children weren’t benefiting from these booklets, so we created The Children’s Activity Book. This book told the story of a boy with autism from his family’s perspective.
It was important for us to get the message across that people with autism may act differently, but they are not less, and autism is something that must be accepted in our society. Overall, we won 6 awards and sold over 500 books.
As the school year came to an end, All About Autism was to end too, but I couldn’t allow that to happen. There was still so much I wanted to do and for that reason, I kept it going. Raising autism awareness and seeing a difference in the community’s attitude towards my little brother, and others affected by autism, meant that I couldn’t give up.
To keep this initiative going, I started a website so people could purchase the books. In addition to the site, I created a blog where I share whatever I think may be helpful to other autism families. I also share news about Dian’s progress and all the fun days we have together.
All About Autism has been one of my greatest accomplishments because it made me feel like I was no longer helpless to Dian. I finally felt I was making him proud.
Freya and her brothers Dian (middle) and Tuan (right)
As a sister to someone with autism, I know and understand the feeling of helplessness other families may feel. But something as simple as making a fort with lights, or jumping on the trampoline and pretending to be a monster, can make a world of difference. And when my brother smiles back at me, it makes all of the hard days worthwhile.
To learn more about All About Autism and The Children’s Activity Book, please visit www.all-about-autism.co.uk