Posted by: Autism Speaks | September 24, 2010

Why I Walk – Neil

Submitted by Pauline MacLellan, mother of Neil MacLellan who spoke at the Southern New England Kick-off about why he walks.

Good Evening.  My name is Neil MacLellan.  I am 13 years old and in the eighth grade.  I do karate, cross country, track, and basketball.  I am also a straight A student at my school in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts.  I am the oldest of 5 children.  My dad is a cancer nurse and my mom is at home taking care of all of us. 

I am here tonight to talk to all of you because I have 11 year old twin brothers (Shane and Jake) and 9 year old twin sisters (Seana and Kelsey).  Shane, Jake and Seana have autism.

I want to tell you what its like for me to be the big brother of 3 kids with autism.  I hate autism!  I feel bad that my brothers and sister have difficulty communicating.  They can be hard to understand.  They get really anxious if they don’t know what’s going to happen or they don’t get to do their rituals.  Sometimes they tantrum or get upset and nobody knows why.  Sometimes Seana even bites and hits herself.  This is frustrating and embarrassing.  Especially when we are out in public and people stare.  Some of my friends are nervous around my siblings because they don’t understand their disabilities.  I wish all my friends could be comfortable at my house.

Sometimes I’m not comfortable in my own house.  Shane, Jake and Seana need a lot of help.  We have personal care attendants and therapists in our home a lot.  This can be frustrating because I feel like I don’t always get the alone time that I need.  We don’t have a lot of privacy; it can be hard to talk to Mom or Dad by myself.  I feel judged and I get advice I don’t always ask for.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t be myself.  I have to put on an act in my own home to feel like I fit in. 

I know the work these people do is important and I appreciate the help but sometimes I just wish that no one else was in our home.  I wish sometimes it was just our family and we had a normal life.  It can be hard but its how I feel sometimes. 

When my Mom asked if I wanted to do this, I was surprised that people wanted to hear my story.  I got a little nervous because I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?’  but my Mom told me to talk about how I really feel about autism, to explain what the Walk and Autism Speaks means to me.  So that’s what I’m doing.

I don’t want people to think my life is all bad.  I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.  I have a good life.

Shane, Jake, Seana and Kelsey are my best friends.  I love all of them and we have a special bond.  Our relationships are just different.  They make me laugh and I love to make them laugh.

I like to play Wii with Jake and wrestle with him; he thinks it’s hilarious.  Shane likes it when I tickle him and we look at family photo albums.  Seana (we call her Boo) is a little more difficult; I’m still trying to figure her out.  She does like to watch me play video games.  Kelsey and I don’t have autism.  She seems to handle living with autistic siblings well.  Sometimes we fight but i’m glad we have each other.

We all watch videos together, go to the movies, go out to eat, attend church, play soccer, go swimming, jump on the trampoline, go to the beach, take walks, visit cape cod, and go to the library and playgrounds.  We do a lot together.  I even share a bedroom with my brothers, but I wish I didn’t. 

I think my brothers and sister have taught a lot of people that it’s okay to be different.  I believe they should always be included.  Shane and Jake have a lot of friends in West Bridgewater.  The ladies really like them…I’m jealous.

They have a really good energy and a knack for making people happy.  They accept you the way you are; they don’t care if you are cool, what kind of clothes you wear, or even if you smell bad.  They just like you for being you.  That’s nice…

I wish people knew they can’t help the way they act sometimes.  I wish people knew they aren’t stupid, but really smart.  I am a better person because of them.

I accept people for who they are.  I feel like I’m more sensitive and understanding to other differences.  I wanted to do this because I needed to feel like I’m doing something to help our family and other families struggling with autism.

I believe that with hard work, dedication, education and technology we can find a cure.  We have to keep believing!

The walk gives me hope.  Hope that things might get better and easier for people with autism.  

When we walk and see all of the other people around us affected by autism I think…

  • We are not alone.
  • We can do this.
  • We can make a difference.

I want to make a difference.  I want to inspire you…

  • To help
  • To raise money
  • To come and walk with us
  • To understand

Because Shane, Jake and Seana are great, smart and loving kids that deserve the best life they could possibly have.

Thank you for listening.  Thank you for believing.  Please walk and spread the word.  To make a donation, please visit the team page of maclellan miracles.



  1. Dear Neil,
    I read your article and was very touch by your personal experience on the impact that autism have on you and your family.I am doing research for school on autism and your article gives me a better insight on autism. You are a strong and brave person. I pray that God will bless you and your family.

  2. Hi kido, I have a 6 year old with autism and adhd…..I never know when he will have a meltdown. My sons’ name is Steven, and I am his mother. So many folks just love him and adore him (as I do). Dad works a lot and I am a stay at home mom and Steven is so so bright…but he can be a handful. I am going to walk alone with Steven and I am determined to do all I can to help him with his disability. My husband and I are in our 40’s. We all love Steven…..everyone loves Steven…he is a God send. I get frustrated when he has his meltdowns. They can last anywhere between 10minutes to 45 miniutes. I am searching for advise. Unfortunately for Steven he is an only child and we live in a neighborhood that does not have kids. Steven does excellent in school, he is verbal and very social…but out of no where He will say something cruel like (I hate you, bad mommy, bad dada, your fired and I quite) So if you have any advise, please send it my way…I truly appreciate it. Love and Respect Arlene Arvizu-Hewitt

  3. God Bless you and your family!

  4. What a thoughtful brother you are to put so much effort into what you wrote. It must be tough on you, yet you are strong and loving. I will be walking for my little niece and will see the other families and think about what you said: we are not alone, we can do this, we can make a difference. Thank you for your inspiration, young man!

  5. Neil, you my friend should be soo very proud of yourself! You are wise beyond your years. Adults have a hard time dealing and you well, you just make sure that you talk to your brother and sister’s therapists, they probably can offer some help, with you and your siblings for whatever it is for dealing with the issues at hand (remember 1 at a time) I try.
    You are an inspiration. Can’t help your team right now, but boy when I get a chance it’s coming RI’s way.. for this team….
    We walk greater boston as Cooper’s Clan – just wanted to say so proud of you – use your words! Someone, somewhere, sometime – the right person will be listening/reading!

  6. Neil, I am an old friend of Mom’s from work but I haven’t talked with her in a long time. I am so happy that Mom and I have found eachother again so that I can meet you and your brother’s and sister’s. I can tell by the way you speak of your family that you are a very compasionate and loving young man.I did not know about the autism that effects your brothers and sister. I don’t know you yet but I am so proud of the way you are handling yourself and the way you love to help Mom and Dad with the kids. You know when you do good for others good will always come back to you in life.You are brave to speak the truth and everything you feel is understandable. Your Mom is a wonderful ,loving person and you definately take after her . Keep your chin up and you will see someday that the terrible disease of Autism will make you a better person and dad. Hope to meet you soon! Love Lisa Leary

  7. Neil you are AWESOME and you have made your MOM so very proud of you and all the ladies in her bootcamp class think you ROCK !!!

    You are a wonderful young man who is already so wise beyond his years and understands life and what it deals out better than most adults. Keep up that positive attitude and being the great son and brother that you are. You DO have a Good Life and you are truly blessed ..never forget that.

  8. I feel exactly the same! My autistic brother, Ben can’t really control what he does in public, too. It makes me feel kind of embarrsed…but glad that I can handle it. I hate that people don’t understand why he acts like that. I tell my friends what’s wrong with him, so they understand. I wish they would do this walk, too. I’m glad I am doing the National Walk for Autism. I want to help my brother!

  9. Thank you again Neil. I was at that kickoff where you gave that speech and I will let everyone here know that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. You and your mom were very brave to come and talk to us and an inspiring force. May you continue to advocate for your siblings.

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