Do not say my autistic child looks normal



Dear Friend,

There is one phrase that I keep hearing from family, friends, colleagues, etc and I have to be honest it drives me totally mad. Please can you stop telling me that my autistic son looks normal? 

I don't blame you. Previously I would have given the same response, after all only the extremes of autism are depicted in the media; from the child genius who knows all the routes and stops on the subway to the non verbal, rocking child locked in their own world. 

Where does my son fit into this?


There is no mark of autism, no tell tale sign. In fact Hans Asperger noted that many of his patients were strikingly beautiful with large eyes. Scientists are conducting research into identifying autism using facial scanning techniques but to the naked eye there is nothing to see. Yes, my son is very handsome, very tall and a typical boy of 9 obsessed by computers, getting a bit cheeky and growing up fast.

When you say; He looks normal or he must be high functioning or but he's not that bad...
I know you are trying to show support, to make me feel better but I don't need that, really.



My son is an amazing, happy, healthy, fun, handsome, charming, caring and smart young man who happens to have autism. I am immensely proud of him not disappointed or ashamed. 

Perhaps my son does appear 'normal' to you but you spend a short amount of time in his company and he is very clever as he has learned how to behave around others, how to respond normally. I know how much effort and energy this takes out of him. It must be exhausting spending your life acting the way people want, following the many social rules that seem like a foreign language to you.

Occasionally the act slips or he makes a mistake and then what happens?

 


For instance, the day we went for a walk in the woods with friends and their son wanted to take a different route from our usual one. To say this didn't go down well would be an understatement. Later I was subjected to a lecture from my 'friend' about how his behaviour had been difficult to explain to the 'normal' children. Or the family member who accused me of being more loving towards my youngest son but then complained when the big lad didn't want to kiss them.  Or the teacher who complained that he takes 15 minutes to find a book when she asks him to 'look on the shelf'.

People react with disappointment or wonder. Why is he behaving like that?

He is autistic!

When the next person tells me my son looks normal, I will try and resist the urge to reply; You look intelligent. I will not list the difficulties he faces because I don't need to prove his autistic credentials.

Instead, I will smile and say;  Thanks, he is amazing isn't he?!




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