This month’s Family Spotlight features a speech written by Salve Regina student Andy Cirioli on the impact that his brother Carlo has had on his life.
I would like to thank Amy and the Mercy Center for inviting me here to share my story of Mercy. I believe the stories, which have been and will continue to be shared during this Jubilee Year of Mercy are extremely important. Mercy is a personal experience, and my story is one which many of you probably do not know.
I am 21 years old and the eldest of three. I have two younger brothers, Carlo who is 20 and Matteo who is 19, but this story focuses on my brother Carlo, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three.
I am not sure if any of you know much about Autism — to be honest, not many people do. There is no known cause or cure, and each diagnosis is unique. Autism is a spectrum disorder. Some individuals are high functioning like Asperger’s, and some are low functioning like my brother Carlo.
Carlo’s developmental growth is much slower than you and I. Some fine motor skills are challenging for him. And he is predominantly non-verbal, which naturally means he has difficulty expressing himself.
For me, this was normal. I only knew a life with Autism. I would sometimes wonder what life would be like if Carlo was “normal”, and I could imagine life would undoubtedly be easier. But I also know part of who I am would be different.
Carlo does not know this, and even if I tried explaining it to him he might not get it, but he has made such an impact in my life. He has showed me Mercy in ways I do not think I would have discovered it otherwise.
Carlo has taught me patience. When we were growing up Carlo would sometimes run out of the house and down the street, other times he would wake us all up at 4AM by yelling and screaming, and I am not sure if remember VCRs, but Carlo somehow managed to unravel the tape inside a VCR and get it all over the house. Through this, I learned patience. I learned to reflect and understand.
Carlo has taught me to help and give. Whether it was my mom cooking dinner or my dad working in the garden, my brother Carlo always tried to help. For Carlo there are many obstacles between point A and point B, but he would give all he could. Today, Carlo goes to a soup kitchen weekly to serve food.
Carlo has taught me to love. Although he may not be able to verbally express himself he has this way of touching your heart. He is hilarious, affectionate, and caring. When he laughs you laugh. When he smiles you smile and know that everything is okay.
Carlo is extremely talented, he can cook, swim, attempt to play guitar and sing, he has memorized the entire script to all three Toy Story movies, and he can drink a gallon of milk in 24 hours. He continues to prove that nothing is impossible and with persistence you can achieve you goals.
Like I said before, Carlo does not know it, but he made me who I am, the leader I am.
I am gifted each day to have Carlo as my brother. I hope each of you will get to meet him or someone like him. He touches the heart of everyone he meets and is a shining lamp in a sea of darkness.
Andy received much positive feedback after presenting this speech including this note from a fellow student:
Hello Andy, I am a sophomore here at Salve Regina University. We have never met nor talked before, but I felt the need to send you this message. Last night I attended mass at the Mercy Center where you delivered your speech about your younger brother who is diagnosed with autism. You explained his disability and how he has impacted your life in more ways than one could count and how he continues to do so. The reason I am messaging you is because I wanted to thank you for sharing your story… autism runs in my family as well. I have an older 21 year old brother and a younger 18 year old sister both diagnosed with autism. Somehow, with being the middle of the three, I got lucky and was not born with the disorder. Your story was so compelling and empowering that it brought tears to my eyes. I always feel connected to people, whether I know them or not, when I learn that they have a sibling (or more) diagnosed with autism. Unfortunately, there are only a few of us who truly understand what it’s like to experience certain struggles in regards to autism on a day to day basis. After your speech, I wanted to approach you to thank you and tell you all of this; however, I left mass early to attend another commitment. It is nice knowing that although there are a few of us, there are people experiencing similar situations and no one is ever alone. Once again, thank you for sharing your story, it has made a difference in my life. I hope to see you around campus this year and know that if you ever need to talk to someone about your brother, I’m always around. I hope you would do the same for me. I hope you have a wonderful day.