The Miceli Family Raise Autism
Awareness Through TikTok
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography courtesy The Miceli Family
One Windsor family is using social media to share their love with the world.
The Miceli’s are an exceptionally close family of six. There’s the parents, John and Rita, the eldest Lauren, there’s Giaci and then the twins, Carolina and Maria.
Although, as Carolina points out, Giaci is clearly the star of show.
“Our parents have helped us embody how Giaci is the centre of our family and our universe,” Carolina states. “We’ve always known, ever since we were little, that we had to protect and take care of him alongside our parents. That really helped us develop that close relationship that you see in our TikTok account.”
Giaci is a 25-year-old man with autism. Even though he’s their older brother, Carolina and Maria have always been heavily involved in caring for him.
“For as long as I can remember, we’ve had such a close relationship with him,” Maria explains. “He is a very fun-spirited, loving guy. We have this very joking relationship. The connection and the bond we have is one that, if I’m having a bad day, I come home and see Giaci and my day is immediately better.”
The twins describe Giaci as their family’s mascot and star player. And now, thanks to his TikTok account, they get to share his glowing personality with hundreds of thousands of people.
“Back in April, I finished my undergrad,” Carolina recalls. “So, I had a week off in-
between my winter and summer semester. Previously, I had been making TikTok videos for myself and my boyfriend, mainly just to keep up with my friends. Then, one day, I was redoing my room. There was this painting that I had, and I didn’t like it. So, I decided to repaint it!”
Carolina conscripted Giaci’s help in repainting, knowing that her brother would grace the canvas with his signature smiley face.
“I decided to make a video of him painting with me,” Carolina states. “I posted
it on TikTok and decided I’d see what happened.”
At the time, Carolina had around 50 followers. Upon posting her first video of Giaci, the video accumulated 200 likes. Within a week, that number had ballooned to 100,000 likes.
“People kept asking for more Giaci content!” Carolina explains. “People kept saying, ‘Your brother is so handsome! He’s an angel!’”
Inspired, Carolina changed her account over to Giaci, and Maria made him an Instagram page. Since then, the twins have created dozens of Giaci videos, showcasing their unique, loving bond with their older brother.
“Through our account we’ve been able to help people with Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), which is a type of therapy a child with autism can undergo,” Maria explains. “We’ve been able to show them what Giaci can learn, whether that’s house skills like cooking or cleaning or life skills. He does have a job, so we can show them Giaci at work. It’s very inspiring for them.”
“It’s all about giving people hope,” Carolina states. “It’s all about giving people things to look forward to when their child with autism becomes an adult. It’s been monumental for us as a family. Just the fact that the things we’ve been able to do in Giaci’s life can impact other people.”
And what an impact it’s had. Presently, Giaci’s TikTok account has accumulated over 500,000 followers.
While the twins have a difficult time narrowing down their favourite videos of their brother, they do point to a couple of his standout performances.
“One of my favourites is one where Giaci is laying in bed and being grouchy,” Maria recalls. “We don’t really post a lot of videos where he’s in a bad mood, because 95% of the time he’s smiling. He’s a very happy-go-lucky guy. So, Carolina went into his bedroom and he told her to get out of his room. And obviously we would never invade his privacy. But this day, Carolina could tell something was different. He didn’t really want her out of his room. So Carolina said, ‘I just want to lay down with you.’ And he just cracked right up and said, ‘No!’ He just wasn’t having it. That one kills me.”
“My favourite video is where we explain Giaci’s stim, self-regulating behavior,” Carolina states. “It really let’s people into our lives and let’s people see what Giaci does. I think that was really inspirational because they don’t know what a stim is. It’s something a child on the spectrum—or someone with anxiety—might do to calm their nerves or release some pressure. Giaci has a different stim for every one of his feelings. So, I was able to make a video and educate people about that.”
Giaci’s TikTok account has also been extremely beneficial in allowing the public a greater understanding of the wide spectrum of autism.
“I think autism is often misrepresented in the media,” Maria explains. “When a lot of people think about autism, they think about the higher functioning types, like The Good Doctor. Or maybe even Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. But it’s such a big spectrum. There’s so many in-betweens. So, it’s nice to represent our version of autism and our brother.”
And the tidal wave of support Giaci has received means the world to the Miceli family. “When we made this account, we had no intention of it rising to the extreme that it has,” Carolina explains. “We’re amazed that we’ve been able to touch as many people as we have. Our parents have worked so incredibly hard to make sure that Giaci has an independent life and a life with purpose. It’s amazing to be able to share how hard my parents have worked and how hard Giaci works every single day.”
Giaci’s example has become especially inspiring towards parents of children with autism.
“People look up to Giaci, because he’s an adult with autism,” Maria states. “Them being able to see what their future, or their children’s future, might look like is very inspiring. It’s something we wish we could’ve had. It’s very motivational. It inspires us to keep making these videos.”
“Now, more than ever, we need to capitalize on what’s good in the world,” Carolina explains. “And my brother reminds me of that every single day. And we’re so grateful that he’s able to do that for us and the half million people who follow him!”
“We always knew he was amazing,” Maria states. “Now the rest of the world thinks so, too!”
Additionally, Carolina, Maria and Giaci are raising funds for Autism Ontario Windsor-Essex.
“They’ve lost all of their fundraising initiatives due to COVID-19,” Carolina states. “So, they aren’t able to have any physical fundraising initiatives. All those opportunities are gone. So, we’re launching a GoFundMe page. That money will help go towards people within our local chapter who have lost their regular schedules and therapy time.”
More information is available here: https://bit.ly/35L1IhR.