We’re always open about our son’s autism. It’s not like we make him wear a “Hey I’ve got autism!” t-shirt or badge. But we try to share his difficulties with the hope that people understand and then support him and us. Problems arise when we meet new people. Autism is invisible; they don’t see it. So many times we’ve heard the phrase, “But he looks normal; you don’t know by talking to him.”
Recently we had a family photo shoot. The pictures are beautiful, but for me they’re tinged with regret and disappointment. The photographer wanted us to pose in certain ways. The big lad really had trouble following the instructions. The photographer quickly lost patience, and it made him uncomfortable. Hubby and I stepped in, of course; we helped to place our big lad correctly and quickly explained he’s autistic. We tried to protect him, to spare his feelings. It hadn’t entered my head that he may have trouble with this, so we hadn’t prepared the photographer. But he could’ve had more patience and shown more kindness.
Autism isn’t invisible; it is always there …
In the shoe shop when he can’t hold his foot against the measuring device because he doesn’t feel it.
In the restaurant when he spills his drink or has trouble coordinating his knife and fork.
At the playground when he takes his time climbing to the top of the frame, up the slide or avoids anything that spins.
When he can’t find his shoes, bag, pencil, the iPad, etc., even when they’re in front of his face.
When he forgets to flush the toilet again.
When he has trouble buttoning his shirt or fastening his laces.
When he loses every race at sports day despite trying his best.
When he struggles to respond to a question asked.
In the library when he talks too loud.
When he can’t get the game out of the cupboard.
When he doesn’t look at the camera or in your eye.
At the hairdresser when he can’t stand the sound of the trimmers.
When the school year ends.
When he goes to a new place or meets new people.
When he misses verbal instructions.
At the birthday party he wasn’t invited to.
When he gets lost in the supermarket or restaurant.
When he worries that his brother is talking to strange kids (he is making friends).
When he repeats the same question or phrase over and over.
Autism is there when he runs, sleeps, eats, plays and speaks.
My fun, kind, clever son is often made to feel lazy, stupid, dumb, weird and unsuccessful. Not because he has autism, but because of the impatience of other people.
Thank you to the lady in the shoe shop who shows an enormous amount of patience and takes a long time to make sure the shoes fit properly.
Thank you to the teaching assistant who attends courses in her own time to learn how to help my son.
Thank you to the kids who wait patiently at the bottom of the slide.
Thank you to the kids’ club staff who know when to leave him alone and when to encourage him to join in.
Thank you to the friend who encouraged him to climb, who told him, “You can do it!”
Thank you to the therapist who showed him all the positive things about being autistic when he could only see the negative.
Thank you to the teachers who read the books and learn how to help.
Thank you to my friends who always listen.
Thank you to everyone who reads this story.
Thank you to all those people who smile.
Finally, thank you to the people who try to understand!
I don’t want my son to wear a badge or carry a card proclaiming his difference to the world. He shouldn’t need to! A little bit of kindness — a little bit of patience — make a huge difference.
Follow this journey on Diary of an Imperfect Mum.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.