When People Say 'He Doesn’t Look Autistic'


“I never would have known he has autism!”

“He doesn’t look autistic!”

“But he’s so cute.”

“He’s ‘high-functioning,‘ right?”

These are some of the many statements that have been said to me over the years about my son. I never know what to say, I’m not sure whether or not I should be offended. I just smile, maybe offer an eye roll or two.

What do you say to someone who says your child doesn’t look autistic? What does autism look like? Does it have a look? Is there one specific physical trait he should have that I’m unaware of?

I’ll tell you what autism looks like to me. It has big beautiful brown eyes with long, thick, full eyelashes that even the most famous supermodel in the world would envy. It has a contagious laugh and a smile that lights up a room. It has soft brown hair and a cute button nose. It’s long and lean and rapidly growing right before my eyes. Too fast for my liking, but I can’t stop the aging process. It can also look anxious when something is out of place or when things don’t go exactly as planned. That’s what autism looks like to me.

To others, autism can look frightened or confused. It can appear bothered by loud noises or joyful over something so simple as the ceiling fan above. Autism can have green, blue or brown eyes. It can have brown, blonde or black hair. Autism can be any race, color or creed. Autism can look like spinning, hand-flapping or rocking back and forth. It can be quiet with an iPad or intense while building the next Lego creation.

There is no one look to autism; there is no one face. Autism comes in all shapes and sizes. So when someone tells me my son doesn’t look autistic, I become confused.

What does autism look like to you?

Learn more at Autism Journey.

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Thinkstock photo by Brian A. Jackson. 

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