Friday, April 8, 2011

Doesn’t Look Like Autism

I don’t know if I should be happy or mad when people say that my son doesn’t look like he has autism.

On one hand, I suppose it’s a good thing. After all, for a time after he was diagnosed, I don’t think too many people would have made such a remark. Back then, he didn’t speak or make eye contact so his autism was more readily apparent. Nowadays, he can be quite the chatterbox – though usually just when talking about elements or numbers – and because he doesn’t show some of the other stereotypical signs of autism, he can seem like a typical kid at times.

But, that is true of many kids on the spectrum. And so, autism is often an invisible disability. And it makes me upset when people don’t realize it, as if autism has to “look” like a certain way.

But, about the time I’m jumping on my high horse and expressing frustration over others’ insensitivities, I realize that I, too, sometimes don’t see the autism in my own son.

Take last night for instance. We were having a great evening. I was helping him with his homework and he was doing it nicely. All was well.

But then I discovered a mistake on one of his math problems. I suggested that he check his work. He started to get frustrated. Without just telling him the answer, I tried to explain where he went wrong and what he needed to look for.

He didn’t seem to pay any attention to me. I tried to get his attention. He didn’t respond. His mind was wandering off elsewhere. After awhile, I got frustrated. He got upset. I ended up yelling at him to listen to me. He ended up biting a hole through the sleeve of his shirt.

If his autism was more apparent, perhaps I may have been more patient with him. But sometimes he seems so much like a typical kid that I, in that moment, forget about his autism. I forget that it might be contributing to his inability to focus or stay on task. I forget that I need to be patient and perhaps take a different approach.

And so, I’m not going to throw stones at others who don’t see or understand my son’s autism. I need to do a better job of that myself first.


  1. You're so right, it's difficult for others to see often. It is a hidden disability. But then we spend so much time trying to manage it the right way, and trying to keep the peace, that it's no wonder you get tired and forget - and revert back to treating them like the autism has gone. Which we kinda all wish it would of course!

  2. Great post! What a beautiful boy you have! I can't help but feel a little satisfaction when someone tells me that my daughter doesn't seem autistic, but your point is well taken!

  3. Thank you, Lynn! I know what you mean about feeling a little satisfaction, but there are also times I think "if you only knew..." :)


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