Ah, the mother of all comments to a mother of, well that’s confusing. I’ll never forget the first time someone told me my child didn’t “look” autistic. I was sitting in a local motor vehicle waiting room, swimming in the sea of hours of lost time, when I struck up a conversation with a lovely older lady next to me. We chatted, like most people do in those types of places, about the weather, the long wait, the misery of it all. Then, she asked me, “So, do you have any children?” I told her I have three and she smiled. She asked me about them and what grade they were in. Eventually, she revealed what I had suspected all along: Her grandchildren were grown and she missed that time.
So here we are chatting along and I show her a photo of my kids and I talk about the school my son goes to (special school due to his Autism) and she remarks with such enthusiasm, “Wow, you’d never know he was Autistic! He doesn’t look at all like he has it!” Perplexed, I asked her whatever did she mean and she replied, “Well, the Autistics, they have that ‘look'”. My name was called and I never found out how she described this special look all the Autistics have. I wasn’t mad, just kind of amused.
My son is a bit on the high end side of the Autistic Spectrum, so he’s able to get away with most people not noticing until they are in his life a bit more. His social interactions, the subtle way he avoids eye contact, the beyond extremely picky eating, his fixation on certain activities, all cues into his unique personality and world. I think we’ve reached a point in society where so many people know how often Autism occurs due to the 40 billion commercials telling us that Autism is talking to us and we need to listen etc, and how often it occurs in society due to modern measurements of occurrence. However, we never actually learn anything ABOUT Autism. Society seems to rely on this, “I know a cousin who has a boyfriend whose niece’s stepson has it” and the person will go on about how “different” or “unique” they are. What we don’t have is a true, comprehensive insight into what exactly it is. For a psychiatric condition that’s being diagnosed in under 1 in every 100 children being born, we need to learn much more about how this disorder is affecting our children and what we can do as a society to help them navigate this world in the unique way they do.
Our schools are trying to flounder through missed diagnoses, poorly structured plans of action. Employers are dealing with unique individuals who need special training and often a different kind of supervision. People with Autism living on their own need to be looked in on in many cases so they can have the reminders they need to pay bills, keep up with household tasks and get to work on time. (Heck I need all that and I don’t have Autism). Where all this training and funding and help is going to come from is beyond me. I work tirelessly to ensure my children get what they need, but every day I’m fighting someone about some aspect of their education and life. Autism isn’t just a blue logo on a screen or a light bulb you turn on to make your yard or porch blue one time a year. It’s something that we need to learn more about, delve into, get interested in.
Even if you don’t know someone with Autism now, if the statistics are true, you will. Soon.