When I Tried to See the World the Way My Son With Autism Sees It


You look may look at my son and see a child with autism. Or you may look at my son and think he doesn’t “look autistic” at all.

But when I look at him, all I see is his bright toothy smile, his infectious giggle and the long locks of brown hair he seems to hide behind when he talks to people. I see my son!

(Who has autism.)

One of the wonders of humanity is that two people can look at something and see very different things. It’s all a matter of perspective.

You could see a hurdle where I see a challenge.

You may see sadness where I can feel joy.

You may see difficulties where I see strength over adversity.

You may see weakness where I see bravery.

You may see a puzzle where I see wonder.

You may see a label where I see my son.

If all you see is the label when you look at him, then you are missing out on so much!

But this is the complex world my son has to navigate his way around. And as his mother, I had to learn how to support him to make sense of it all.

How could I do that when we live in a world in which people’s opinions differ so vastly, and their past experiences shape how they interact with him? How could I understand how he feels and help him make sense of this world, and help others see who he really is?

Simple… I had to change the way I viewed my son’s world. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, and the challenges he faces daily. Not to mention the inner strength and talents he has within. I had to change my perspective and try to step into his shoes to see the world as he sees it.

You see, people may think he just chooses not to leave the house and is a “recluse.” But imagine a world in which complex interactions and going beyond the safety of home floods you with all-consuming anxiety that can make you feel physically sick. Now can you understand why stepping outside is so daunting for him sometimes?

People may think he doesn’t understand what they are saying, so they talk over him or ignore him completely. However, try to imagine how it feels to struggle following the ebb and flow of conversations. Not knowing how and when you are meant to respond, or what people’s facial expressions actually mean. I feel it’s no wonder he avoids conversations with people who don’t know him very well.

People may think he has no sense of humor or can’t take a joke. But instead, try to imagine living in a world where people say things they don’t really mean and make jokes about things that just don’t make sense. It’s not that he doesn’t have a sense of humor, he is really funny and makes people laugh every day. In fact I say he has a giggle that is infectious.

People may think he wants to control things. For a second, just picture how it feels to not be able to predict what is going to happen next, and how out of control this would make you feel. And maybe then you will realize why he feels the need for control or routine.

He may have difficulty seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening around him and seem like he is in his own world, and people might think he is ignoring them. Just remember that his world is rich and full of intense experiences. He sees and feels things so vividly that sometimes it can be hard for him to switch his focus to anything else.

Sometimes people think he is rude or that he doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. Try and keep in your mind that people’s rules can seem unwritten, confusing and mysterious. Imagine not being able to understand how other people feel, what they could be thinking or even that they are giving clues about their emotions through their body language. It’s not that he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t experience emotions like you do. 

Just imagine…

woman putting her face on shoulder of young son
Michelle and her son.

How would you feel if you had a really creative mind full of amazing ideas but no one recognized your potential just because you didn’t have the words?

How would you feel if you had so much love to give, but people didn’t know because they didn’t enter your world to feel it for themselves?

How would you feel if you could see the beauty in the things other people might ignore and people dismissed the things you were passionate about?

How would you feel if people wanted to change you, and said that the things you like to do weren’t socially acceptable?

How would you feel living in a world that doesn’t recognize the potential that lies within you because of a label?

Imagine…

Just for a minute, put yourself in his shoes! How frustrating must it all be at times for him?

If people don’t learn to see things from a different perspective, my son’s perspective, then they may never see the wonderful talents that lie within him. They may never see beyond the challenges and labels he faces, to view what he has to offer the world.

And this is why I do what I do. This is why I fight so hard to raise awareness, understanding and acceptance. No matter what day or month it is. Because autism is part of who he is, but not all he is.

I want to open the window of perspective and blow away the cobwebs of ignorance, so my son can hopefully live in a world that is far less confusing, much more aware, and has a greater level of acceptance than ever before.

It’s all just a matter of perspective.

Follow this journey on A Slice of Autism.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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