Who has influenced your life? Why and how?

When I first met Brandon, I’m sure that I was too young to understand autism; but I did know that he was different. At that time, for Brandon at age 4, basic communication was a challenge and his frustration seemed to engulf anyone who attempted to interact with him. His movements and outbursts often scared me and other children and he never seemed to listen to what adults asked him to do. My parents assured me that Brandon, although different, was just another good kid and he needed friends like me. I still have a certain faint memory of Brandon permanently stained into my mind. I see a silhouette of him walking - flailing his arms about in the air with his head jerking while foreign sounds resonated noisily from his mouth. Today, a powerful vignette dominates that faint silhouette when I see Brandon walk through the halls of Suffern High School joking with friends and conversing with our peers.

My friendship with Brandon never wavered. Brandon speaks complete sentences now and often tells elaborate and exhausting stories. He participates in sports and many other activities that “normal” kids do. His mom, who for 12 years assured that Brandon had the medical attention as well as educational and emotional support HE needed to...

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