I hear comments all the time about Milo and his diagnosis of autism. Some of the common ones are:
“He doesn’t look autistic”, “It’s awfully early to diagnose autism at such a young age?!”, “My _________ is autistic and your son doesn’t look or act like him/her”.. The list goes on.
I know people usually don’t mean ill by making such comments, but as a mother that does everything to help her child, it can be pretty hurtful. It seems as though some doubt my son’s autism, or they need some type of proof that he does in fact have autism. All of which can be very annoying.
So what does autism look like? Autism can be non-verbal or verbal. It can be severe or very mild. There can be behavioral issues and sometimes behavior is like that of a neuro-typical child. There could be a lot of self-stimulatory behavior, or there could be none. Autism can be extremely cute, funny, and smart. The fact is, is that autism doesn’t “look” like anything.
One of the most hurtful things that my daughters have had to hear was “He (milo) doesn’t have autism, she (meaning me) just thinks he does because he doesn’t talk”. And that statement was coming from a grown adult.
I think what people need to understand is that a diagnosis isn’t concluded by a quick trip to the doctor, or by what a parent reports, or any of the “easy” ideas that someone might think. The diagnosis is reached by extensive evaluations by trained and certified professionals, usually by a medical doctor. It’s not an easy conclusion to come to, and it certainly isn’t easy for the parents to accept that their child has special needs. The last thing a parent wants to hear is someone doubting the one thing that is true and real. It doesn’t help, and if anything it causes pain. Yes, I would love for my son to not have a label, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it makes him who he is, and more importantly it makes him who God wants him to be.
On the flip side these comments give me hope because all that it means is that more awareness needs to be raised to educate those who don’t know about autism. A favorite quote that I’ve read is
“If you’ve met one person with autism… You’ve met one person with autism.” It’s just that simple.