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My brother is autistic | Royan Lee | TEDxKitchenerED

Jun 09, 2021
When I was in elementary school, I desperately wanted a pet dog, like many kids. He dreamed of having a hyper-intellectual canine like Snoopy. Every time he read those peanut comics, he would go to the library and read every book he could find about dogs from cover to cover. cover as many children have done throughout generations. I used every persuasive tactic I could think of to try to get my parents to buy me that dog. Very soon my request led to embarrassing tantrums, but guess what worked. One day we went to PJ's pet store in We went to the mall and got a little dog. white and fluffy one that we named muffin muffin was a terrible dog that bit people on a whim He barked like a horrible electronic wind-up toy and treated our entire house like his own personal bathroom seemed like a big mistake when buying muffin, the truth is that that muffin was not the problem, we were the incompetent ones and we were not prepared to take care of a dog, in fact, we had a lot to be grateful for in her, you see, my


, he has always had different abilities.
my brother is autistic royan lee tedxkitchenered
I was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder by a doctor who may not have read psychiatric literature in decades and finally


. My mother and father had difficulties with them, as you can imagine, when you have a child with a disability, it is difficult. at best, but when that challenge intersects with all kinds of disadvantaged people, you can feel hopeless at best or just numb at worst. My parents grew up in pre-Samsung South Korea and both stopped going to school at some point before that. puberty and came to this earth like millions of other people to try to find a better life for their children to find that American or Canadian dream to this day even after living in Toronto for over four decades my mother speaks English with great, if not charming, difficulty. and I don't see my dad much because he has problems of his own that are very similar to my


s when I was young, by far the hardest thing about living with him was that he was a runner if there was a crack in the door he was closed with the speed of light a small hint of daylight like a road runner an open road or sidewalk like Forrest Gump in career mode that's where muffin comes in she was like a superhero every time he took off usually without us knowing how to be behind him like a guided missile.
my brother is autistic royan lee tedxkitchenered

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I want you to visualize a little chubby Asian boy in various states of dress running out the window of your house while you're having a cup of tea and I can see that you're appreciating both the hilarity and also the tragedy of that, but the genius of Martin was that she would be relentless in trying to grab the butt of his pants to drag him home. It wasn't the era of Instagram, so I don't have many photos. and I loved the video, this is the best I can do, it was actually a lot like that, but my talk today is not about dogs and how wonderful they are even though they are.
my brother is autistic royan lee tedxkitchenered
Today I want to talk to you about people and how wonderfully weird they are. Am I going to talk to you today about things that all of you can relate to growing up in a strange family teaching strange children and why the adjectives I am using now should be considered strengths and positive aspects that we can recognize and build on rather than to eradicate and fix. talk to you today about how much better the world is when we let go of our inequitable and fruitless pursuit of normal and instead embrace the different ways people use their brains, so let's start with this thing called special education if you're a educator in the audience.
my brother is autistic royan lee tedxkitchenered
I ask you how many times you have heard or thought this phrase before, don't worry, you don't have to feel guilty. I know this even as a special educator. I have said or thought it many times, it is such a common discourse in education that we are rarely admonished for it, but to elucidate how destructive this type of narrative could be, let's compare it with other cases where we use this mentality. You probably have my apologies. For Nickelback fans, don't worry, we've all enjoyed a Nickelback song. Let's be real, how about these terms? I know they seem a lot less offensive, but I feel like sometimes the implicit meaning can be more sinister than the explicit one when saying I don't know how you do it or she's a saint doesn't seem like we're saying it exactly the same way we say it to someone. an Olympic swimmer or someone who works as an emergency surgeon, educators and parents of children. with special needs do not need a discourse about their work that presents compassion as praise or describes everything they do as an act of martyrdom or an act of abandonment of that martyrdom when we say how to deal with what we seem to be suggesting that working with some of the most marginalized people in our society is inherently an undesirable task, shouldn't we all simply consider ourselves educators and even parents of children with special, complex and diverse needs, instead of leaving it in the hands of a small group of nobles? individuals who go a step further, of course, this narrative only reflects the broader society we live in, everywhere we go we inflame the stigma around being differently abled, for example, if we go by numbers like these, one I would think that his encounters with people who were different or special would be quite common, not that it is always visible of course, but I ask you how many times do you feel like you have these encounters with people like my brother at work in your office walking the dog or waiting in line? for your skinny Dolce Cinnamon Latte, let me connect this back to my own experience of being the sibling of an


It was when he was in his final years of elementary school that my brother began to become someone that we didn't necessarily want to show to the world before. that when he was younger running through the streets with a fluffy white dog foot on his tail it was like people gave him a pass for being too jovial and weird and a little quirky as he got older and not that cute, it's like It became his personality. more of a behavioral issue with regret deep in my heart. I remember thinking why can't my brother be normal. The little boy he used to hug and wrestle with whom he used to sing songs with now felt a little more like a burden.
I always used to wonder these things and it was around this time, perhaps not coincidentally, that I was having my own existential crises as I decided that work and global travel would be my only way out of these problems, although there is a part of me that feels Guilty for leaving him. my family at a time when they needed me most, in retrospect I realize it was best for everyone involved. The old saying that you can't help someone unless you help yourself really rings true for me, there was no way I was going to be able to support anyone here if I didn't fix my own ship, so my adventure is to work and traveling abroad culminated and some wonderful things were meeting the woman of my dreams, becoming a citizen of a different country, both in the literal and metaphorical sense, and starting my own family.
I was one of those, it's a cliché to say this, but who really found themselves traveling the world. The growth I experienced and my self-awareness and effectiveness were exponential, to use the simplest term I just became. a significantly better version of myself and one of the ways I did this was by exposing myself to sharing my stories by being as open as possible, although even when it resulted in negative situations that allowed serendipity to actually help my life, I had no idea. for example, that I would end up being a teacher passionate about pedagogy and so deeply connected to my own personal experience that I didn't know that in my first teaching job there would be a boy in the class with almost exactly the same learning profile as my brother.
So many strange things happen like this, so six years passed while I was abroad and things were not good with my family, their health and finances were in a risky state and my brother was finishing his degree in public school, a sinister time for many families who with the child with complex needs, strangely in contrast, I was thriving abroad. I was honored to receive an academic scholarship to continue my studies in critical pedagogy, so a new passion of mine at that time had become my own family while still being my wife. and had created a very beautiful creature, she was certainly the apple of my eye, if not a bruise, as she was very difficult to care for, she had a lot of colic, but our challenges as young and incompetent first time parents were nothing compared to What was happening.
In my first home in the great white north, every time I called home I felt pangs of regret as I was electrocuted over the telephone line, because now my great life abroad had to be put on hold, my beloved wife agreed to come and support me and return. home in Toronto from the moment we stepped off the plane from the height of the southern hemisphere tropical summer into the depths of Toronto in January, things got very difficult, it was winter and, as they say, we were unhappy, my brother was unrecognizable to me, was physically huge. Angry and unstable, the boy with the light shining in his eyes that I knew as a child was replaced by an almost lobotomized thousand-meter stare.
I was always the one who could make my brother happy by singing the theme song to the Sonic Hedgehog video. game or talking about the Toronto Blue Jays, but now he acted like I was a stranger to him. I will never forget the day he ran up to my one-year-old daughter and pushed her to the ground, completely distraught by something only he himself could understand. I remember having to make physical contact with them and wondering if I will have to fight with my brother today. I have to fight with him every day, I was so stunned and angry about this incident that I just didn't know what to do.
I felt helpless. I was searching everything I could on Google with the terms Ontario Disability Supports. Financing the process was like trying to herd puppies in a blizzard. I went from one voicemail to another without knowing what the best strategy was. I would talk to a person. would tell me to go to that person that person would tell me to go to another organization and then I would end up, after several moments of passing the buck, talking to the same person I started with, it was and often still is very demoralizing, but It was then when I learned the first lesson of supporting and caring for someone with special and complex needs.
Don't take no for an answer. I learned that if someone says, "Oh yeah, we'll get back to you," then I would have to call back. the next day and stop listening to that part of our brain that tells us, "Oh, you might be annoying or rude if someone told me they had to contact me in a week, I would call them back right away." The next day I also learned something else I had to stop feeling sorry for myself I had to stop waiting for the day when my brother would be normal I had to stop waiting for him to be fixed like a car that won't start I had to I stopped wishing that go out with me and have a beer and talk about things that men are supposed to talk about.
Basically, I stopped wanting it to become something. It was not so? I realized that my brother has so much to offer the world. I realized that he was. so kind and that he only knew how to be kind I realized that it was just that he was baffled as to how to get reciprocated love I realized how determined he was in stoic and greedy as they say and that he never thought about selfish attention like many. And you? I also realized that when he understands the context and you can figure out what is going on around him, he is more trustworthy than many people you know and I began to appreciate how much strength and wisdom my brother was sharing.
For me, he is my constant reminder that the social norms we have in the world are just socially constructed concepts that vary from context to context and evolve over time. He is also there to remind me that the world, even though we have progressed so much, is still there. an inequitable place is still exclusive my brother also reminds me that communication is not something that happens just because you tell someone something or send them a message by email or write it in a note, it is when messages are sent, received and They are reciprocated, he also taught me There is a lot to explore this great new concept and movement called neurodiversity, as Steve Silberman states in his open-minded book.
Neurological tribal conditions such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD should be considered natural cognitive variations with distinctive strengths that have contributed to evolution. of technology and culture rather than a checklist of deficits and dysfunctions, so I want you to think about people like my brother that you know and Rhea and try to go to a place where I am now where I appreciate the strange much more than the normal that I have rejected. ItI pursue it because when we try to hold that concept in our hands like they are granules of sand, it is much more freeing to let it go and, believe me, the beach is much more beautiful when you do.
I am very grateful. to my brother for making me a better educator and a better father and husband, my main callings in life and I thank all of you for listening to my story today, thank you.

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