Autism is sometimes referred to as “The Invisible Disability” because it can be difficult to spot, especially if you are unaware of the characteristics that define autism.
If you saw a group of kids standing in a group, could you pick the one that is autistic? What about if they were walking around the halls at school? How about if they were running and playing a game or a sport?
Chances are, if you know autism well, you know that it’s usually far easier to spot an autistic when they are exerting themselves physically, like running and playing.
I can’t help but feel so very bad for Cameron when I see him run, his arms flailing about, his tongue sticking out, his legs all wobbly… he really has very little control over his own body. He sure does try hard though! I think that’s why he’s that much more disappointed when others are faster than him.
Today, while out for a walk in the woods, we put our two boys off on a race. Tyler, who is 4.5 years old and Cameron, who is just about to turn 7.
Normally, you’d expect a 7 year old to beat a 4 year old in a foot race but in this case, neither my wife nor myself were surprised when Tyler was able to get to the finish line first.
And it’s not that we’re disappointed. We’re not. All we ask is that they try. If they give it their best, we’re happy. But Cameron doesn’t see it that way.
To him, he doesn’t understand why he’s not as fast. He doesn’t understand what it is that’s making him slower. He just thinks he’s stupid. He just thinks he’s “the worst kid ever.”
It really hurts because I don’t know how to help with that. I mean, yes, you tell him to keep trying and that practice will help him to get better and faster.
But what kid believes that when they feel completely defeated?
Perhaps it’s best if I just show you. This is the video of my boys having a race from their mother, to me and back again.
I do believe though, that this is not a life sentence. Autism itself is but like all other characteristics, like all strengths and weaknesses, this can be worked on, improved and even perfected.
Given time, dedication and persistence, Cameron can become a great runner. He can even become the fastest, if he worked hard enough at it.
But as I said before, all I would ever ask of him is that he try. And that is what I want most for him. For both of my boys.
So no, it’s not an invisible disability. At least, not for every person that has autism. Sometimes it is very much visible and makes for a very large hurdle.
My boy gets down on himself because of this. He doesn’t understand. But I do. It’s not invisible to me.