The Mighty Logo

When Strangers Say They 'Can Tell' My Son Has Autism

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

My son was running away from me in the supermarket again. I had held him tight as we went through the checkout but let go of him for a second or two to pick up my bags. That was all it took. As I chased after him towards the automatic front doors and into a very busy car park, I noticed a stranger was gently holding his shoulder.

“Is he yours?” she asked as she saw the sweat appear on my forehead.

“Yes,” I puffed as I once again held his wrists.

“He has autism and he is heading right for the car park lift. Thanks for your support.”

“I knew right away he had autism. You can tell.”

If I was given just a small amount of money each time someone told me something similar, I would be rich.

So what makes his difficulties and diagnosis so obvious?

Is it the fact he flaps and stims constantly? I really mean constantly — he cannot seem to sit or stand still. He shakes things, chews things, flaps things, flicks things, squeezes things and licks things all the time. It is difficult not to notice. His body movements are not hidden.

Is it the fact he cannot talk? That may seem like something you would think would not be noticeable, but the noises he does make are noises most people probably don’t hear every day. His noises are not hidden.

Is it the fact that he screams? He can scream longer than a fire alarm and more high-pitched that a whistle. He screams randomly and whenever he feels like it. There is nothing hidden about that.

He runs, he flaps, he has learning difficulties, and he behaves quite differently from other children his age. He is sometimes in a wheelchair for his own safety, and if I have not got the energy to run a marathon while doing my shopping, then I often use a disabled trolley for convenience.

He would rather spend hours at hand dryers in the bathroom than anywhere else in a store, unless they have a lift. He can be entertained for hours just watching lift doors open and close and open and close over and over again.

He is unmissable. He is loud. His tongue is more out of his mouth than it is in. He is handsome, cheeky and adorable. I don’t hide him and I don’t hide his autism. He doesn’t hide his diagnosis either.

People see him and people see his autism.

Sometimes they don’t react very well to that. Other times, like the beautiful stranger tonight, they see a child with obvious difficulties and look out for him.

They comment, they look and they react because my child has challenges that are not difficult to see. I understand that some people can “hide” their challenges, but that isn’t true for everyone.

Sometimes though, the fact it is not hidden brings me into contact with some truly amazing people. My son may not hide his autism, and thankfully there are many people in the world who chose not to hide their love and kindness, too. To the stranger in the supermarket, and the hundreds of other wonderful people who see me and smile, support and help — thank you!

young boy sitting on bus looking out window
Miriam’s son.

Follow this journey on Faithmummy.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to 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.

Originally published: April 28, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home