Simon Baron-Cohen: My special sister Suzie
Simon Baron-Cohen loved his sister unconditionally and wrote a piece about her after she died, to honor her. This piece is special since Baron-Cohen’s sister Suzie had a rare disability that kept him from seeing her for many years. Suzie was born with a medical condition called Sturge Weber’s Syndrome. Suzie was born in the 1960s when the feeling towards individuals with disabilities was much different and much less favorable than it is today. When Baron-Cohen was 5 and his older brother Dan was 6, Suzie, at only 2 years old, was sent to a children’s home; severing the strong attachment the boys had to her. They could visit Suzie on Sundays, but when Suzie turned ten she was moved to a more restrictive institution in which children under 18 years of age could not visit. Baron-Cohen lost touch with his beloved sister for many years. After he graduated university, he took a job working with children with autism. He decided that if he was to work with this population, he first had to come to terms with his own relationship with disabilities. At the age of 22, Baron-Cohen visited his sister for the first time in many years. This day he regards as one of the most special days of his life. Since that day Baron-Cohen made sure to make Suzie central to his family. His kids grew up seeing Suzie and they often met as an extended family to visit with her. The death of Suzie was heartbreaking for Baron-Cohen as well as for his family, but he used it to reflect upon what he learned from her. He states four lessons he learned from Suzie. The lessons were, 1) that you can be happy with absolutely nothing materially, 2) that no matter what life throws at you, you can keep your sense of humor, 3) that you can build a deep relationship without words, just by being with another person and 4) that social policies can try to break up a family, but they won’t succeed. Knowing and spending time with individuals with disabilities can afford you a new and better outlook on life. It makes not only prevents you from taking life for granted, it helps you to see the beauty in everyone.
Read the complete piece here