“He makes great eye contact!”
He doesn’t look like he has autism.”
“But he seems so normal.”
“Oh my kid does the same thing.”
If you want to know what an autistic child looks like, look at your own child or grandchild.
Look at the children who live next door to you and take a glimpse at every child next time you are at the park. These could very well be the faces of autism. There is no visible indication that a child is affected by this neurological disorder.
Autism can be tricky and often look like bad parenting at times. I have read and hear several stories where parents receive “the looks” in response to certain behaviors. So many times parents with children find themselves always informing someone and raising awareness about autism in these situations.
I find myself educating parents when Cody stims. I can remember a recent time when I was at Target and a lady stopped to ask me, “Why is he so excited and what was he looking at on the ceiling?” 10 minutes later, the lady received knowledge about Autism and explained that truth be told, we ALL stim. I asked her, “Have you ever tapped your pencil, bitten your nails, twirled your hair, or paced?” She nodded her head yes so I explained to her that she too engaged in stimming. I explained that Copy was looking at the straight lines of the ceiling tiles and florescent lighting while being pushed in the cart and that was making him nervous and excited and filled with lots of emotions that sometimes makes his hands flap. Like anyone else, people with autism stim to help themselves to manage anxiety, fear, anger, and other negative emotions. Cody may stim to help him handle overwhelming sensory input (too much noise, light, heat, etc.).
The tricky part in my personal experience with autism is it is limited to one person… Cody Rivers. What my experience can be can be completely different to others. In the last 14 months, Cody has attended 368 hours of therapy. Yes ,that was not a typo, 368 hours! During those hours, I personally have never met one child that is even similar to Cody. So, when I share about autism and parenting a child with autism it is from the perspective of Cody’s Mama-lama. So, in return what happens it can be frustrating because often I get responses like the quotes above.
So does Autism have a look? Yes, I suppose it looks like a handsome big blue eyed boy with eye lashes that every woman would kill to have. A smile that will melt your heart and a giggle that is such a sweet sound that it can make you laugh or sometimes in my case make me cry with joy.
Autism can look like eyes that never quite meet your gaze or eyes that have learned to make contact due to repetition or 368 hours of therapy or who has been photographed since the day he was born and knows the steps to strike a pose when I start singing a song. Have you caught on yet? There is no one look to Autism.
Autism is a spectrum – a wide spectrum of incredible people with varying gifts, interests, looks, and struggles that affects social and communication skills. If you ask for general information about autism, you’re likely to be told “when you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.”
Here are just a few of the more obvious differences among people on the spectrum:
- Some people on the spectrum have no spoke language but others talk a mile a minute.
- Some are very engaged (often too engaged) with other people, while others would be happy to spend most of their lives in complete solitude.
- Some have no problem with crowds or noise while others are upset by the buzz of a fluorescent light bulb.
- Some autistic people are capable of high level academic achievement, while others have severe cognitive and/or learning disabilities.
- Some autistic people have aggressive and/or self-aggressive behaviors, while others are gentle and slow to anger.
There is no one look to autism and there is no one face of autism.