I treasure your hugs

Artist Residency Breda Photo 2022

Growing up with her autistic brother, Sonja Luesing wanted to learn more about autism and question her own perspective of this topic. In her work, I treasure your hugs, she depicts the life, personal relationships, and daily struggles of autistic people in today’s society as seen from a sibling’s perspective.

Read here the stories:

My sister Robin and I both have Autism. With myself, you can sometimes tell by little things, if you pay attention. For example, I flap my hands. Robin often hides her autism when away from home. She wears a kind of mask. But even though her autism is invisible to many people, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have autism. At home, we do notice that her head is too full and that she tends to get very angry when daily routine activities get hectic or even when she’s not wearing her socks correctly.  I do find that difficult, but I understand that it’s not easy for her either and that she’s really trying her best. We often race on our hoverboards or watch exciting movies. We both like that. I love her and will remain her big brother forever!  


I’m Maité, I’m 11 years old and I have autism. 

My brother’s name is Mattis and he is 14. We often play together, but we can also argue a lot. Sometimes he doesn’t understand me and I find it hard to explain what the problem is, which makes me angry. I get angry because he keeps asking what is going on or  why I’m staring at random things again. But sometimes I just want to be alone doing crafts in my room, watching a film on the phone or baking something in the kitchen. I just try to unwind after a busy school day, parties and outings. I need that since I can be very busy myself sometimes, especially when I’m excited about something, when I’m happy or nervous. Sometimes I play with Mattis in my room or in the attic. From time to time we also go and play in the woods and watch TV together. Playing together is fun but I don’t always like to choose which game we will play next because it’s hard for me to do it and I don’t know what to do in these situations. This year we started to cycle to school together, but not every day. Mattis goes to school 5 days a week and I only go 4 days because the doctor tells me to

I am Mattis and I am 14 years old. My sister Maité is 11 years old and has autism. I am social and regularly meet up with friends and also go to the youth movement. My sister prefers to stay at home and do things like crafts, baking or playing on her phone. I this she acts weird and busy sometimes. If I am busy, then she wants peace and quiet. I really can’t follow what’s in her head sometimes. When I ask her what’s wrong, she gets very angry and then starts to fidget. At that point she doesn’t want to say what’s wrong and that makes me mad. It would be so much easier if she just said what’s wrong, but that’s hard for her, therefore, I just leave her alone. After a while, she comes back and acts like nothing happened. However / despite that, we also play together regularly and go to the forest or the attic. I always choose what to do since she hardly ever manages to make a decision. Moreover, we cycle to school together, and that goes well. stay home one day a week to relax. I like that and really need it. On my day off, I do my homework, study the lessons and visit my autism coach Veronique, who teaches me lots of things. When I am having a hard time at home, my dog Jits comes to comfort me. We have trained Juist to be a therapist animal. Our autism dog Jits senses when I am stressed and comes to comfort or calm me down. 

Hi, I’m Isabella and I’m 14 years old. Most of the time I suffer because of my sister, but sometimes we also have very nice moments. What annoys me is that she says she like rules and she makes her own rules, but she sticks to them only when it suits her. She also often keeps me awake which causes me to be tired the whole next day. Moreover, I am embarrassed that she doesn’t go to school. She can be very nice with animals and rides a horse. Unfortunately, I don’t get to ride a horse because I am not allowed to. There are still some really nice moments we share that make both of us very happy. In the evening she always starts talking a lot, however, sometimes she wants to listen to what I have to say, which I find quite pleasant. On top of that, it’s nice when she bakes something we like from time to time. The best part is when my siblings and I play games together, which makes me very happy and makes me laugh a lot. Plus, my funny laughter makes them laugh even more.

I am Emma and I am 17 years old and I have autism. I got the Diagnosis 1.5 years ago when I stopped going to school. I was always stressed but I thought everyone else felt the same so I didn’t say anything about it. When I got the diagnosis, everything suddenly made a lot more sense to me. The changing of classes, the changing of teachers, the crowds in the corridors, the presentations, history with the open-ended questions I just couldn’t think of an answer to and much more. Regarding home, I believe that my brother and sister did not fully understand what it means to be diagnosed with autism. They think it is not fait that I don’t go to school and my little brother even started swearing with increasingly nastier words because of this. He doesn’t understand me and I don’t understand him. We are the exact opposite of each other. He wants to take risks. I, on the contrary, do everything by the rules. Fortunately, all 3 of us like gaming so we can do fun things sometimes. 

Milah is my little brother who is 9 years younger than me. I used to not always understand him but I am a listening ear whenever he need it. I cherish the moments when he comes to give me hugs. I do because I know what he used to be like. I think the beautiful thing is that I understand so much about his emotions and why he does things. I find such development really special because you can see it so well because of his autism. He also has a certain face which he has that I call ‘Neutral’. This face is emotionless . A person without autism will never be able to pull this off so purely. I love you Milah!

My brother Jüllien has ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I can really hate him, but mostly I love and care about him a lot. Jüllien is usually very frenetic here at home on weekends. He ofter takes things from the fridge or cupboard without asking. However, he’s very funny and sometimes he is a real sweetheart. I can’t live without him. Whenever Jüllien is having a hard time, I try to make him laugh again or comfort him. I do miss him during the week while he is at boarding school.