By Clare Beswick
I can remember clearly the Easter Sunday morning my baby brother was born, at home, even though it was more than fifty years ago.
Paul entered our lives all blonde curls and blue eyes, the youngest in our family of five children. He proceeded to twirl, spin and flap his way through childhood; running, jumping and climbing at every opportunity. Paul’s autism and learning difficulties soon became all too obvious, but so did his sense of mischief and deep joy of the simplest things in life.
Family life was challenging to say the least but it all seemed oddly ordinary in our happy, hectic home. Life today is peppered with moments of wonder at Paul’s fleeting insight into and understanding of the world and deep despair at lost opportunities for him. There are also the inevitable challenges of ageing with severe learning difficulties and epilepsy.
Since he was nineteen, Paul has been cared for, loved and helped to develop by Autism Together, a ground-breaking organisation established by parents desperate to create a safe and sustainable future for their autistic children. My parents, I am proud to say, were part of that original cohort of parents.
So, today Paul lives with four other adults, all whose lives are profoundly influenced by their autism, each in a different way. It is such an individual journey for each person with autism and for their family, friends and carers. Paul still can’t talk, understands little and needs help with every aspect of his life and personal care, but he loves to go out in the car touring the Wirral and sometimes further afield. He loves to feel the breeze on his face and the sand under foot on the peninsula’s beaches.
Paul has taught me so much about unconditional love, about trust and about courage. He lives totally in the moment, enjoys the world through his senses and his body and takes delight in the smallest of things in life. As he ages, and his autism appears to soften, he finds it easier to interact with the people close to him, and of course he has still retained his playfulness and sense of mischief. He is a wonderful brother. I could not have wished for more.
As my own family life becomes less hectic I feel it is time to do some fund raising for Autism Together. Paul and I walked an admittedly very short stretch of the coastal way with the Rotary Club earlier this year, with Paul raising more than £500 in sponsorship. I plan to continue this sandy odyssey with a Dune Trek in the Sahara later this month.
We’ll hike past fields, dunes, palm trees and cliffs and get to climb the largest sand dunes in the region at L’erg Zaher. We’ll camp in the desert and explore Morocco. Please consider sponsoring me for this once-in-a-lifetime fundraising adventure. All the money I raise goes directly to Autism Together. Thank you.