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Zack Peter Autism Sib: The Blame Game

Zack photoBy Zack Peter

As soon as I found out that my baby brother Ethan was diagnosed with autism eight years ago, I knew I was on a mission. No matter what, I was going to be Ethan’s soldier. I was going to defend him, fight for him, love him, and do everything in my power to save him from this cloud of autism. I was going to make sure he had the opportunity to live to his fullest potential. After all, I was his big brother, protecting and guiding him was my job.

Now here we are, Ethan is eleven and growing so fast. And the reality is: Ethan still has autism. And with everything that has happened with my family in the past few years, Ethan isn’t where I expected him to be.

“I feel guilty,” I said while out to lunch with my best-friend.
“What do you feel guilty about?”
“I don’t know…”

For the next couple of days, I just kept asking myself, Why do I feel guilty? The question was beginning to haunt me more than the guilt itself. And after a little reflection, I realized that I had subconsciously blamed myself for Ethan’s autism. Which may sound a little crazy—it is. But the way I looked at it, Ethan was my baby brother. I remember him perfectly fine, developing well. Then his sparkle dulled and he was label “autistic.” I was supposed to protect him. I was supposed to make sure nothing bad ever happened to him, and this bitch named Autism came into the picture and took over. It flicked him off like a light switch. Why didn’t I protect him? And most importantly, why haven’t I been protecting him lately? 

I blamed myself for Ethan’s recent regression. I blamed myself for living my own life, instead of dedicating more time to him. I blamed myself for helping other families and letting my own family fall back.

But then I had to ask myself: Was I the cause of Ethan’s autism? No. At ten/eleven years old, was there anything I could have done to prevent Ethan from developing autism? No. Am I the real reason for Ethan’s recent regression? No. As a young adult still figuring things out for myself, do I deserve to live my own life? Yes. Is it wrong that I’ve been able to help other families? No. Could I have done more? Maybe?

But if I really could have done more, I would have done more. I would never give up on my brother. That’s a fact. So why blame myself for things I couldn’t control? Why hold myself accountable for things I have no power over? I am a firm believe in Everything happens for a reason. So sure, things may suck at the moment. Ethan may not be where I would like him to be right now. But I still have hope. I still know that one day, I will sit down with Ethan and he’ll tell me all about how his day was. All about that bitch that broke his heart. All about how hilarious I was on my show, because let’s be honest, I’m pretty freakin’ funny. I look forward to laughing with Ethan again. To being in sync with him and having the sibling bond I know we’ll have one day.

We are starting Ethan up on biomed again. He’s back on the GFCF diet and I got him all the supplements and enzymes he needs. And now it’s time to take this next chapter in our journey. One step at a time. And I’m telling you right now, I’m going to write a post one day (or maybe Ethan will write it) about how by never giving up hope, we had our first real conversation as brothers.

So let this be a lesson to you. Don’t feel guilty about anything. If things could have been different, they would have. It’s just a fact of life. Accept the things you cannot change and look forward to a better future. Stay optimistic and never give up hope. Because you know what they say, (like that annoying Kelly Clarkson song) what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And one day, you’ll be so strong, not even a Trojan condom can stop you. Though I’m sure your lack of a Trojan is what got you here today. But that’s okay. It just means you were chosen for one hell of a mission. So take the good, learn from the bad, make yourself a strong drink, and keep your head up like the bottom of your glass!

And if you have any questions for me, feel free to send them over! Nothing’s off limits with me. I’m here to answer. Tweet me @JustPlainZack or leave them in a comment and I might just address them in a future blog post!

Stay Sexy,



beth johnson

Zack, you are a great brother because you care. Our NT oldest is fairly close in age to our non-verbal son, and because they can't communicate, and because our son's needs are so great, it has really interfered with their relationship. I wish our oldest had the same level of commitment you do.


Oh my gosh, I did not expect to laugh and cry while reading the same article! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on being a sibling. I hope you were able to have something of a childhood while sharing so many adult concerns.

PS: Your web page is a stitch!


Great post Zack! It's been wonderful to see you grow and flourish over the past few years. Ethan is very lucky!

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