Sunday 10 September 2017

There is no one look to Autism.

On a fairly regular basis I have the pleasure of speaking with people who have very little clue about autism and all that it entails.

Some times it is a pleasure, other times not so much.

Some of these people are simply ill informed about autism, some are people who have no connection what so ever with autism and are genuinely curious and want to know more and some people are just down right rude.

Over the last 2 years I've found that people who genuinely want to know more about autism, will ask questions. And people who aren't interested, well they are just rude.

This morning after O and L's swimming lessons was one such occasion.

Prior to swimming and after his lesson L was doing a lot of sensory seeking. I'm talking bouncing, spinning and just being boisterous in general. But he wasn't hurting anyone as we walked to the change rooms.

As it was just myself and the two little superheroes, I headed to the family change rooms but unfortunately they were both occupied, so we went into the female change rooms.

After entering the change rooms and getting both little superheroes into a shower, an elderly lady who should know better when it comes to using manners towards others, approached me and told me that I needed to control my child.

I very politely told her that L was doing lots of sensory seeking this morning due to his autism.

Before I could continue, she responded with "He doesn't look autistic, they look ........" and I will not repeat the word that she said. No one should ever say that word about others. The R word should be removed from the dictionary.

Now normally I would have taken this opportunity to spread a little autism awareness but she was just down right rude.

I've stopped taking comments like these to heart and I've become quite skilled at reading faces as to whether or not people are interested in learning more about autism.

When I get the inkling that learning is not possible, and sometimes it just isn't possible to enlighten members of society, I fall back onto one of my sarcastic comments like the one below from my good friend over at It's A Tink Thing.

But each encounter with someone who utters the phrase "but they don't look autistic" gets me thinking - what do you say to someone who doesn't think that your child looks autistic?

What is the look of Autism?

The thing is autism doesn't have a look.

No I'll take that back, autism does have a look.

At superhero headquarters autism looks like a child with red curly hair and bright blue eyes. Autism in our place looks like a child with a wide smile on his face whenever he is engaging in his most favourite pastime - playing with his superhero figures.

Autism looks like a child who loves green apples and strawberries but who will not touch a red apple.

Autism looks like a child who spoke a grand total of 20 words up until his third birthday.

Autism also looks like a child with strawberry blonde hair that goes super frizzy when the air is humid. Autism looks like a child whose eyes change from the brightest of blue to grey when she is confused, sad, frightened or tired.

Autism looks like a child who loves to read The Complete Works of Shakespeare for fun.

Autism looks like a child who taught herself the three times table when she was three years old.

Have you figured out where I am heading with this?

There is no one look to autism.

Each encounter also leaves me feeling either grateful that I have been able to spread a little autism awareness OR feeling incredibly angry due to the rudeness of the other person.

When someone says "they don't look autistic" I don't think that they consider how hurtful the comment is to parents or to individuals with autism.

The comment invalidates all of my efforts as a parent to assist my children to understand the world around them. 

The comment invalidates all of the battles that we have gone through as a family and all of the triumphs that we've celebrated so far on our autism journey.

The comment invalidates all of the hours that have gone into taking L to therapy so that he can learn new skills.

When someone says the comment to be rude, I take it that they are implying that we have wasted our time over the last two years first in gaining L's autism diagnosis and also in seeking therapy for him, because to them he "just looks normal." But then what does normal look like?

And by them comparing their experience with autism, which let's face it may have been watching the movie Rainman, they have made an error. 

They have forgotten that autism is in fact a spectrum, and a very wide spectrum at that. 

And because autism is a spectrum, there is no one look.

The look of autism is L and it is also O. It also every other individual that you may meet who is on the spectrum.

Autism is a very beautiful thing!


  1. You gave a new perspective to it's awareness...thanks for sharing this... people's comments hurts always probably they don't understand that every child is unique

  2. Hugs to you to be so brave and so honest in this blog. People are insensitive and some people are plain stupid. More power to you and I hope with regular efforts from bloggers and parents around the world, people will eventually understand that all children are beautiful. All children are special, some more than others. That's all.

  3. I seriously cannot believe some people (like the elderly woman mentioned in your post) can be so incredibly rude. I think you handle it all very well though! I love this perspective on autistic children and I think that It's time more and more people did their research on it before making stupid comments about it to parents.


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