“There really wasn’t a defining moment when my parents said ‘Nathan has autism,” David Kaplan explains. David was 6 years old when his brother was diagnosed, at age 3. “Autism is something I’ve grown up with and always known.”
Yet over the years David has gained perspective. He has grown to have a profound appreciation for Nathan, for his entire family, for the support of his friends, and for the strong bonds of the autism community.
David, now 21, and Nathan, now 18, share many interests. “Although we can’t necessarily communicate with full words and sentences, we can both understand each other, David says. They enjoy watching sporting events together and share a love for the outdoors, including hiking, biking and sledding excursions.
It isn’t always easy. “Autism can be stressful,” David acknowledges. “There have been phases of my life where things have been challenging, especially during middle and high school.” David credits his parents for creating time for him to spend alone with them, and also for respecting his need for private space. “Taking time for yourself can help with the overwhelming burdens we sometimes have as siblings,” David now understands.
David now also sees that all his friendships flow back to his brother, and will continue to do so. “My friends accept Nathan, with his disabilities as well as his wonderful abilities, and throughout my life I will continue to make relationships with people who are welcoming of Nathan’s challenges, and the reality it creates for me.”
David understands the role he will play in Nathan’s future. He has a profound respect for his parents and all they do for Nathan, and is extremely grateful for organizations and resources, like Generation Rescue, that have provided support and created a community for his family. This matters all the more to him because he knows that one day he and his other brother Daniel (Nathan’s twin) will be Nathan’s primary caretakers.
“By no means do I feel upset or sad about this,” David says. “My whole life I’ve always stood by Nathan. And Daniel feels the exact same way I do. We will continue to support, love and help Nathan with everything, no matter what the future brings.”