Advice on how to help my disabled brother

For issues related to specific conditions and disabilities.
Hi everyone,

Thank you for reading this.

I have a brother (he is in his mid-twenties) who suffered brain damage when he was born. The damage was to his cerebellum, which has resulted in his speech being slurred and his balance and fine motor movement being quite bad.

Today he has achieved a lot in his life. He has a BA in graphic design and a level 8 in Web Development. We live in Ireland.

However there is one significant problem - he is quite unhappy. He was bullied in high-school right after the death of our father (he went to a different high-school to myself and the other brother, we had no idea at the time) and has failed to make friends at university and to this day his only real friends are his family.

The problem is that he is very shy and afraid of social interaction. He (somewhat rightly) believes that people judge him to be mentally handicapped based on his speech impediment and so avoid social interaction with him. This has happened in shared accommodation and at university.

My brother is convinced that he must improve his voice, which will allow him to socialise and so his problem will be alleviated. I believe that his voice can be improved, but I'm not sure how significantly. I have tried to tell him that yes, he should try to improve his voice/speaking/pronunciation, but that he should also be trying to improve his social skills in general. He does not agree.

He is also carrying a great deal of anger over the reason he has a disability - the hospital were at fault when he was born. This resulted in court proceedings being issued and the hospital settled out of court. My mother is also not the best emotional support (but fantastic re: taking care of legal proceedings etc) for this sort of thing and that is another source of contention for him.

We are three brothers and we are all very close. I love my brother to bits. He is a normal man who is trapped by his disability (speech impediment) in a way that he has not come to terms with yet. He has at times mentioned suicide.

My question is this: How can I help him? I wan't him to be independent, to be able to source help on his own and to overcome his disability in order to get out into the world and socialise. He can do all these things, but he has extreme negative thought patterns which are are debilitating.

Are there councillors out there for people with disabilities likes this? Are there any books by people with disabilities who have over come their problems successfully?

My family are trying their best to help him without being too overbearing. He does not want to listen to any advice I have because I don't have his disability and therefore cannot understand his situation. I agree with this and have suggested researching into speech therapists and councillors. I have also suggested he join different groups in the city, like reading clubs, improv sessions, social anxiety groups etc. Perhaps I was wrong to do this? I would like to know how I can help him without being mean about it... which I sometimes feel I am. Please, if you can offer any advice, I would be eternally grateful.

Thank you.
Hi Patrick,
What a lovely supportive group of brothers you are. I think you are right, your brother does need counselling. In England we have a charity called Scope, do you have branches in Ireland? If so, they would be able to advice re counselling.

As you rightly say Speech therapy won't be able to cure your brothers speech, but will be able to help your brother to speak as clearly as is possible and teach him techniques re breath control, pacing, chunking etc Some people with indistinct speech use devices such as a Lightwriter to suppliment their speech, but I suspect you brother might not be open to that suggestion.

Improving his social skills and confidence is definitely a priority. Does he communicate with people online? Going to activities where everyone has a common interest sounds a good idea, but try and think of activities where verbal interaction isn't the main focus.

Lots of folk with a physical disability are also very intelligent so it might also be worth looking for clubs for the able bodied/ physically disabled, we have such groups here but the name escapes me just now.

Must dash, my caree is waiting. I'll post some links later.

Melly1
Was it MENSA you were thinking of?
No it wasn't, but that's another one.

Melly1
Hello Patrick
I would put counselling top of the list, but having learnt from experience with my own socially anxious son, do involve your brother in choosing the counsellor if at all possible as it must be someone he feels comfortable with and who understands his particular problem.

Yes anything social too, groups etc but doing something he enjoys doing and is good at.

I do wonder , if having coped so well and for so long, he is now experiencing depression which is very common after ending uni then facing rest of life thinking "what now?". It may be that a course of antidepressants helps, especially if this low mood isn't normal for him.

Also do everything you can to boost his self esteem. Build on any talents/abitlites he has and praise and tell him you love him.

Hope this helps
MrsA