“But he/she Looks so ‘normal!'”
One of the misconceptions about Autism is that it looks the same on everyone. People hear the word “Autism” and automatically picture someone rocking in a corner, repeating phrases over and over, screaming if someone touches them.
In many cases, this is true; as I have indicated in previous posts, this is not always the case. Autism is not a one size fits all condition.
Asperger’s Syndrome, sometimes known as high-functioning Autism, or Asperger’s Autism, does not always give itself away at a mere glance. The child may look “normal.” A brief conversation with the child may give the impression that he/she is just like every other child.
One of the most frustrating things I have heard is, “But he looks so normal. How can he be Autistic? Are you sure he has Autism?”
I feel like saying, “Do you not think that I would have have him checked multiple times, done all of the research, and observed his behavior extensively myself, before accepting the diagnosis and telling others about it?”
It is only when more time is spent with the child, that the differences become more noticeable. You may notice that the child stands too close to you when they speak. They may touch your face or your chest to get your attention. They may come up and give you an unexpected hug; they may also strike out at you if you touch them unexpectedly.
There are many other things to look for, which I address in my post called What is Asperger’s Syndrome? The point is, it may not be immediately noticeable that you are seeing or dealing with a child on the Autism Spectrum.
This is often a source of frustration for the parents of Aspies. When we are in a store, and our child starts to have a meltdown, he/she may be perceived as being a brat. We may be seen as being bad parents who cannot handle our children, or who are unwilling to take extra steps to make them behave.
We have been on the receiving end of glares, rolled eyes, judgmental whispers, unsolicited advice, and much more. We can feel very alone in this struggle. We are each doing the best that we know how to do. We educate ourselves, we try new methods of positive reinforcement, we attempt to gently educate the public.
However, perception is not always in our favor. People can be very close-minded. If they do not open their hearts and minds to the possibility that things may not be what they seem, all of the education in the world will not get through to them.
I know the situation from both sides. I was once the person who made the judgments in the stores. I wondered, “Why can’t she handle her kid? He is such a little brat. She must let him get away with whatever he wants.”
I am no longer in that mode of thinking. I see a child who is screaming and throwing themselves around, and I wonder if there is more to the situation. I wonder if the child has special needs. Perhaps the child’s senses have hit an overload. Maybe this particular trip to the store has seen the child exposed to a flickering light, or the buzzy sounds some of those lights make.
Things that are not necessarily picked up by our senses send these children into a sensory overload. Sometimes, they are actually in pain. They react in ways that do not seem normal or sometimes acceptable to the general public, but they cannot help it.
Next time you are in a public place and see or hear a child who appears to be having a fit, try not to stare. Try not to make judgments. Yes, there are people out there who fail to discipline their children or teach them proper public behavior, but not every situation is like that. If we could feel your support instead of your judgment, it would go a long way toward making us feel that we are not quite so alone.
Autism can be a lonely place, for both the child and the parents. It doesn’t have to be that way.