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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Brian A. Jackson. 

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Sad woman looking into the distance.

When My Partner Refused to Accept My Autism Diagnosis

It was early 2014, and I’d just moved into a new rented house in town. Things hadn’t been right for a little while and I was feeling very low, anxious and generally not coping with life. My partner at the time had always had a lot of issues of their own, based on their gender [...]
Woman holding phone, standing near car outdoors

How a GPS Game Helps Me as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

I never really had many friends growing up. I’d struggle with social and communication skills at times. I didn’t “fit in” anywhere. And learning to drive was a challenge due to being overwhelmed on the roads. (I would typically stay on small roads within a mile or two of my home.) In 2005, when I [...]
Group of people sitting and talking

My Experience as the Leader of an Adult Autism Support Group

I have written extensively about having pets. I have written about adults on the autism spectrum and employment, volunteering and living on our own. One issue I have not written about yet is running an adult autism support group. Well, here goes! First of all, it is not easy for me being the leader of [...]
The author at age 9.

To an Autistic Girl and Her Family, From an Adult on the Spectrum

Someone I met in one of my Facebook groups, upon finding out I have autism, told me that she has a 9-year-old family member, a little girl, who has Asperger’s.  She wanted to know what advice I could give to her family and what I might say to the little girl herself. I’ve actually been [...]