He also loves to dance but he’ll only dance with his friends. He’ll never dance in front of me or the family. The only time I saw him dancing was at a school event when one of the teachers had recorded him.
He loves good food and enjoys cooking. He’s empathetic towards others, he’s kind, he’s funny and he loves to play practical jokes on people.
He’s also especially gifted at calendar counting. Give him any date and he’ll tell you exactly what day of the week it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s one week away or six months down the line, he gets it right every single time. I ask him how he does this and he answers “I don’t know, I just do it.”
I don’t know if this talent can be attributed solely to his autism. I’d much rather think the intertwined laces of his distinctive self are carefully and beautifully woven together to make him this special and unique human being that he is.
And part of him IS his autism, but it isn’t all of him.
For anyone on the outside looking in, one may not think that my son has a disability. “He doesn’t look autistic”. I’ve heard this comment many times when he was younger. I talk about that here. I’m not even sure what “look” autism would have anyway. We are all so very different in our own exceptional way, with or without autism.
But even though my child may not visibly look like he has a disability, he most certainly does and I have had to defend his diagnosis on more than one occasion.
I have had to defend it to strangers who looked at us in disgust and with contempt every time my son had a meltdown in public.
I have had to defend it to local health centers and government agencies every time I requested financial assistance for therapy, respite other services. I did this every time I had to fill out a form asking me to detail the severity of his disability and why I believe my son needed this aide.
I’ve had to defend it to the many people who were quick to judge me, labeling me as a bad parent and with hurtful remarks like “oh, he’s soooo spoiled!”
I must continue to defend his diagnosis and be his advocate because at this moment, he cannot do it for himself.
I must continue to defend his diagnosis as he ages out of school and into society and hopefully into the workplace because at this moment, he isn’t fully independent.
I must continue to defend his diagnosis with potential employers and educate them that autistic people think and work differently.
I must continue to defend his diagnosis by educating and sensitizing society that autistic people have equal rights and whether their disability is visible or not, they’re still entitled to access the same employment opportunities and resources as everybody else.
My son may take some time in completing tasks but he’s not lazy. He merely processes information differently and with the right strategies and accommodations, he will be able to complete the tasks that have been asked of him.
My son may not pick up on social cues or have the right thing to say at the right time but when asked to do something he’s 100% all in all the time and he’s eager to learn.
It is time we change the narrative and be rid of labels and assumptions. It is time we see people’s abilities rather than their challenges. Employers are missing out on hiring incredible employees simply because of ill-placed assumptions, misinformation or simply not having the knowledge.
My son may not “look” autistic but spend enough time with him and you’ll soon see how his autism can sometimes get in his way of wanting to do things.
I don’t think anyone should have to defend a hidden diagnosis. I think we all have the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
Having a disability shouldn’t change that.
Thanks for stopping by…