Story by Sara Paul
It’s dinner time, and Maximus “Max” Duran is screaming with anxiety and frustration. As an eight-year-old boy who has autism, Max was non-verbal until age six. Now with limited speech and frequent outbursts, there is just one little voice that can calm him: his brother Donnivin.
“I like to try to talk to him and help him talk to me. He is so quiet, like a little ninja, but then he’s really loud when he’s upset,” says Donnivin, who has a natural ability to sense what Max is feeling and what can bring things down a notch.
“Sometimes we just need to leave him alone. If he’s mad, he needs some time and might not want to be bothered. Max just needs his space,” insists an over-protective and gentle brother, who enjoys playing tag and hide and seek and, of course, jumping on the bed with his favorite sibling.
Though younger than Max, seven-year old Donnivin has come to embrace his role as big bro and best bud. From his soothing words to his insights on what makes Max happy or sad, Donnivin has always been close with his brother, according to their mom, Najm.
“They have a really special relationship and love each other so much,” she said, adding that though the boys have their own bedrooms, Max often calls out for his brother to sleep in his bed.
At a young age, Max was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PPD-NOS), a condition “… applied to children or adults who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another Autism Spectrum Disorder… PDD-NOS can occur in conjunction with a wide spectrum of intellectual ability. Its defining features are significant challenges in social and language development,” (www.AutismSpeaks.org).
To be sure, Donnivin wishes he could converse more with his brother, who “does not use the words I use,” however, he gladly communicates with Max as Max is able to, through body language and sweet touches on the cheek.
Mom is grateful to have Donnivin’s assistance in not only caring for Max, but also for their ten-year-old Shih-tzu, Candy, as well as helping around the house.
“Honestly, we just could not do it without him. He’s just awesome and always wants to help,” notes proud dad, Robert.
The Durans also have a daughter, Naja, 21, and a son, Ian, 18. Their mother notes that having mature siblings has provided a good example for Donnivin to follow.
“Our older kids are amazing, just like little parents, and he takes after them,” she said.
“It’s so nice when he lets Max touch his face and helps him with video games,” said Naja.
Ian agrees that, “They’re always side by side and making each other laugh.”
Enjoying a sweet summer before Donnivin begins second grade at Sanfordville Elementary School in the fall, our young hero’s advice to his peers is plain, simple, and even poster worthy: “Be patient. Be calm. Be helpful.”
The Warwick Valley Dispatch would like to feature young people of Warwick who are doing meaningful things. Whether in school, athletics, in the community or at home, we know there are many moving stories that need to be told. These “hero” stories can be from the incredible to the mundane, from the kid who saved his dog from drowning to the teen who takes care of a sibling with special needs.We ask that if you know of any young individuals who would be appropriate for these human interest pieces, that you contact Sara Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-702-3091.