Arts·Poetic License

'I used to tell people my brother was deaf': A powerful story about having a sibling with autism

Faduma Mohamed performs an excerpt from her one-woman play Oughtism for this season of Poetic License.

Faduma Mohamed performs an excerpt from her one-woman play Oughtism

Faduma Mohamed still remembers struggling to explain her brother's autism to people outside their family while she was growing up.

"When I was younger I used to just tell people that my brother was deaf, because it was just a lot easier than facing the reality of trying to answer people what autism was," she says. For this season of Poetic License, Mohamed is performing an excerpt from her one-woman play Oughtism. "The play, for me, fits that place of not knowing and finally coming to know — and wanting people to know that it isn't what they think it is. There's so much more to autism than what meets the eye."

Watch Faduma Mohamed perform an excerpt from Oughtism:

Faduma Mohamed performs an excerpt from her play Oughtism reflecting on her brother, who has autism, and growing up in silence. 2:48

As the world around us grows more and more uncertain, eight young poets speak their truth in the third season of the CBC Arts series Poetic License. Watch all eight performances now and read Faduma Mohamed's performance below.

Autism: the force that's changed my brother's entire life. I couldn't tell you what the toughest part is. Maybe it's dealing with the people — all the stares, the pointing, the giggles the laughter. Everything I had to stand through without knocking somebody's teeth in. All of those faces.

I could never forget the people who made me feel dead for claiming my brother as my own. Or maybe the toughest part is dealing with the embarrassment. He used to throw off all of his clothes in the middle of the mall, and sometimes he would lay down and scream a fury when we couldn't afford to buy him another bag of chips. Or maybe the toughest part is that I'm actually trying, I'm actually trying to give this love away but no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I try to make a home out of disorder, it still happens. 

He still bites, he still scratches, he still kicks and screams and...and I have to pretend like I'm okay. I have to always pretend like I'm okay.


And I hate pretending. And I used to resent him for forcing me to pretend. I used to blame him for everything. And I thought that the toughest thing I had to deal with was blaming him, but now I know the toughest part is having no one who understands. No one who can look you in the eye and say, "I understand."

Follow Faduma Mohamed here.

About the Author

Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.