My Brother Will

My brother Will is “weird.”  Well, that is what a lot of people I knew throughout the years thought.  “Your brother is so weird.” They would say to me.  I often remained silent, feeling guilty that I allowed these people to insult my brother, but hesitant to risk a loss of their friendship if I argued in his defense.     It is not Will’s fault that he is perceived as being different.  Will struggles with a little known and even less understood disability called Nonverbal Learning Disorder or NLD.  Individuals with this disorder are average to above average in intelligence, often gifted, and very verbal.  However, due to neurological deficits they struggle with math, coordination, and most importantly, they do not learn social skills naturally.  They are oblivious to nuance, implication, and body language.

As young children, Will and I were always close, and good friends, but as we grew, I developed many friendships and became a “social butterfly.” Meanwhile Will remained at home, usually alone on the weekends.  He had few,
if any friends, and had trouble fitting in at school.  I found it painful to observe him struggling to be accepted, and I often felt guilty for the ease in which I was accepted and made friends.   If only people knew Will like I did, maybe they would change their minds.  He was a normal guy in most ways, who liked video games and movies.  He was a great impersonator, too.  He could keep my family laughing for hours imitating scenes from our favorite movies.  If only people took the time to try to understand my brother, they might know all these things that I had
come to know.

I am very proud that Will is my older brother.  I have learned life lessons from him that I could not have learned as well anywhere else.  Knowing him and having him as my brother has made me a far better person.  I have
learned patience and understanding as I have painstakingly taught him to comprehend social situations.  Peers often see me as being compassionate and I am frequently the person people come to for advice.  You see, Will has made me a good listener, and from him, I began to understand that you can learn a lot more by listening than always talking.  I have learned that accepting people who seem different can open up doors to interesting people and valuable experiences, and that everyone should be treated with kindness and respect.

I believe that the experiences that you are exposed to in life shape you into the person you become.  Although it has not always been easy, I am thankful that my brother has played such a large part in my life, and I am certain that my best attributes are due to his influence.  So, when people say, “Your brother is so weird,” I smile and think, “If you only knew.”

Rachel Stedman

Thank you for sharing your poignant, beautiful tribute to your brother. You have captured the NLD that those of us who know, understand. We see our students, sons, daughters, clients and patients just as you see your brother. We know the 'if only's' all too well. Surely, all who read this online will benefit from your insightful and loving essay. JL, NLDline