Saturday 3 November 2018

They look normal to me!

There is something that I need to get off of my chest, and it is all about the following statement ....

"Are you sure that they're autistic because they look normal to me!"

That statement is like a double edged sword. Depending on who says it, and I'll explain later, it can be taken as a compliment or taken as an insult.

I'm at the point that I can tell simply by the quizzical look on a persons face and by their tone of voice if they are genuinely not familiar with autism. Likewise I can tell when someone is being downright rude and ignorant - usually by their tone of voice.

I've touched on this subject in a previous post in regards to what does autism look like but feel that I need to write about it again. It honestly astounds me how regularly we hear this statement. It is heard at least once a week, and this worries me.

It worries me equally as much just how little society knows about autism.

If this statement is said by someone who is genuinely unsure about what autism is and how it affects individuals, there is a look of curiosity on their face. When it is said in this manner, the statement can be taken as a compliment. As a compliment it means that my children appear to be no different than their peers.

When the statement is uttered by someone who has a preconceived idea about what autism is and what autism looks like, it can be taken as an insult. It is usually uttered in conjunction with their eyes being rolled and a tone of "look-I-really-don't-think-you-know-what-you're-talking-about." I've even had someone say this and then ask a bystander if they agreed with them about my children not appearing to be autistic.

Depending on how this statement is made, my response will alter. I will either take the opportunity to spread a little autism awareness OR I will walk away after making a smart alec comment.

But regardless of how this comment is made, it is really hurtful. It is hurtful to my children, it is hurtful to our family, it is hurtful to others who are also on the sepctrum and there are many reasons why ....

It is hurtful because that statement is made when viewing a child, or adult, who has come to realise that they have to suprress part of themselves so as not to stand out in the crowd.

It is hurtful because that statement is made when viewing a child who I know has been desparately trying to hold in all of their anxiety from having their routines changed at school.

It is hurtful because I know that my children have successfully mastered the art of putting on a mask in social situations so that they blend in with the crowd.

It is hurtful because the person making the statement has engaged their mouth before engaging their brain!

Please, please, the next time someone informs you that their children, or they themselves, are on the spectrum, do not respond with "oh, but they look so normal!"

1 comment:

  1. I remember my grandmother would park in the disabled spot at the store and people would come up to her and tell her she didn't look disabled and wanted to know why she was parking there. I think people are just ignorant or curious. It's like the debate about older kids trick or treating or kids who aren't "polite" during trick or treating, and some just don't realize the child is autistic. It's probably also a generational thing, since autism really only spiked in the last 10 years or so. Not defending insensitive comments but I like to educate people as much as possible.


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