My brother Clarence has autism. He is 41, I am 43. Many years before the influential National Alliance on Mental Illness formed in 1979, and before Mental Health America launched its powerful online community this summer, it was left to sisters and brothers of those with disabilities to put up our dukes and protect our defenseless loved ones from bullies and discrimination.
Years before I even reached puberty, I had to learn to fight for the rights of my brother who was openly derided as “Cheryl’s retarded brother.” Society’s expectations for my dear brother, who wanted to be a cartoonist, were so abysmally low that my other siblings and I had to form a protective web of love and support around Clarence, and encourage him to live out his artistic dreams in spite of those who sought to relegate him to a subhuman status. Along with our mother, we created a defensive strategy to ensure his inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As he grew older in the 1970s, a network of dedicated mental health activists joined in our advocacy.
via Cheryl Wills: Siblings on the Frontlines for People With Disabilities.
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