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#actuallyautistic voices

How my Brother Changed my Life

I am a 31 year old woman. I am so many things. I am probably like you in so many ways. I am a daughter, a wife, a niece, a cousin, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a sibling and the most unique of all a sibling to an autistic brother. 


Richie was born when I was only 4 years old. Born premature, he spent the first 95 days of his life in the intensive care unit struggling to survive. 


Miranda holds a teeny tiny Richie's hand while he lies in the incubator at the NICU.
Miranda holds a teeny tiny Richie's hand while he lies in the incubator at the NICU.

I spent much of my younger years in the hospital and grew up with different therapists in and out of my home. This was normal to me. I didn’t know of a world without it. 


Richie was diagnosed as a person with autism when he was just 18 months old. And to be honest, at the time I’m not sure that it impacted me in any way. Richie was my little brother and I loved him. 


Two kids, a smiling Miranda and her sister Jessie hold Richie as a toddler.
Two kids, a smiling Miranda and her sister Jessie, hold Richie as a toddler.

Like most older siblings it was my job to protect him and teach him everything I could. Little did I know he would be teaching me. Richie has impacted my life in more ways than I can count. 


For half of my life Richie had autism and was nonverbal. He communicated by pointing, grabbing, using gestures and minimal sign language. I always found a way to understand him. My family and I believed he was so much more than his diagnosis. This inspired me to pursue a career in special education. 


Miranda, Richie, and Jessie pose in their holiday pajamas
Miranda, Richie, and Jessie pose in their holiday pajamas

When he was 16, Richie had the opportunity to go out to Texas and work with Soma Mukhopadhyay. Soma is the Executive Director of HALO (Helping Autism through Learning and Outreach) and creator of RPM (Rapid Prompting Method). This visit completely changed Richie’s life and my family’s too. Richie could spell! We were ecstatic!


Which meant he could understand.


He could understand us on a level we had no idea about until he picked up that pencil and began to communicate. This gave us so much hope. We knew he was going to start communicating with us reliably. 


It wasn’t until Richie was 20 years old when he had the opportunity to communicate by spelling on the stencils more frequently. Richie was intelligent, we always believed that. But now he was able to show us and the others in his life. 


Richie points to a letter on a blue board held by his mom.
Richie and his mom join in a game at REV in 2018.

During this time period Richie wrote me a birthday message in one of his sessions. He wrote: “Happy Birthday my amazing sister. All you give to the world lets so many people live happier lives. I am so proud to be your brother. Can't wait to see you soon. Love you.”  


This is when my mindset changed completely. My language and knowledge surrounding autism changed.


Richie is an autistic person and identifies as a nonspeaker. 




My mindset shift opened up many new doors for me. I wanted to learn how to communicate with my brother and help others in the nonspeaking community as well. 


I was introduced to Lisa Mihalich Quinn in 2017. I wanted to know more about Reach Every Voice and the opportunities it provided to other nonspeaking individuals. That summer I started out as an intern, learning alongside Lisa. 


During her internship, Miranda kneels next to a student and holds a letterboard, which the student is pointing to.
During her internship, Miranda kneels next to a student and holds a letterboard, which the student is pointing to.

During that summer all I dreamed about was finding a way to communicate with Richie. Little did I know this internship experience would turn into a full time job with REV.


My dream of communicating with Richie led to communicating with multiple amazing students. In 2022 after working in the Baltimore County Public School system for eight years, I joined the REV staff full time and created our weekday Co-Op program.


Reach Every Voice has truly changed my life in so many incredible ways.  It is now 2024 and I am a full-time communication teacher.


This has by far been my greatest accomplishment and I owe it all to my brother Richie. 


Jessie, Miranda, Richie (now adults) and Miranda's husband lean in together and smile.
Jessie, Miranda, Richie (now adults) and Miranda's husband lean in together and smile.





1 Comment


Rahel K
Rahel K
5 days ago

I love this so much! Thank you for sharing. I have an 11 yo speller and plan to join the IASC webinar tonight about becoming a practioner! I feel compelled to be a part of this journey for others also!

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