Some people call it the “invisible disorder”, other people will say to you “your kid doesn’t look Autistic”… the plus side to this is that if your child progresses well enough and is capable of becoming independent later in life, no one ever needs to know.
The down side is that each time you hear it, you always feel a little insulted, a little frustrated… a little alone.
My wife’s gym has 2 classes a week where children are invited to come along with their parents. They do exercises and dances and so forth to be active. It’s not too crowded and the music isn’t too loud so my wife decided to bring along Cameron to give it a try.
Cameron tried his heart out to do the moves that he saw other people do, he tried his heart out to have fun. But that invisible disorder that no one seems to see? Everyone saw it.
Cameron’s hands flailed as if totally beyond his control. His tongue was sticking out the entire time due to his intense concentration. He completely shut down and didn’t even try if something looked like it was something he’d never be able to do. When he got happy, he laughed well above and beyond what others did. When he got sad that he couldn’t do it, he got sad above and beyond what others did.
My wife was left wondering whether or not she is supposed to explain to the other parents why they saw Cameron differently from the other children. She was left wondering if they were quietly thinking hurtful things about her… or about our son.
Cameron had a great time and was eager to go back. He’s still young, he doesn’t see their gazes, he certainly doesn’t know what those gazes would even mean and, hopefully what will last a long time, he really doesn’t care.
Still, as I tucked him into bed that night and gave him his hug and kiss, I couldn’t help but think about tomorrow and all the days after… is this what is in store for him in all the things he will do?
Is this the result of people not being aware of what Autism really is? Is this more a case of them forgetting about Autism entirely when they see a child that isn’t “normal”? Or is it just human nature for people to feel negatively toward anyone that’s different?
Perhaps it’s just us that “feels” those gazes when perhaps they weren’t really even there, or at least, not as bad as we thought they were.
What really matters is that this invisible disorder that no one seems to see is not invisible, it’s out there for all to see every time we go some place or try to get involved in something.
I can’t make the world stop judging anyone they see as different, anyone they see as doing something that’s not quite normal… I can’t stop the uneasy feeling I get when I worry for my son having to deal with that on his own as he gets older.
One day, he will notice and he will know what it means and he will care.
All of this, and my son is considered “high functioning” at this point. That puts me at, or close to, best case scenario realm. It’s oh so much harder for those who’s children have it even worse.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if there was some visible sign to Autism. Perhaps then people would finally get it.