One of the things that get under my skin, when people try to stereotype kids on the spectrum. The whole “image” in people’s mind of most kids with autism is what concerns me. Many of the people I encounter that are relying on a preconceived notion of what it’s like to have autism or be around someone like Em.
They expect something and when it’s not a certain way they are confused. It makes me feel like sometimes Em’s not “autism” enough for some as they can’t see it. They see her being social. They see her holding eye contact, or at least appear to. They see her maintaining conversations. They see her thinking outside the box and problem solving. They see her being kind. They see her being gentle. They see her showing empathy and emotions.
I’ve had people ask me if I’m SURE she’s autistic. I actually had someone tell me she didn’t “look” or “act” autistic to her. I’ve had people argue with me why they think she’s not on the spectrum. The only see the surface stuff. They don’t see the hard work we pushed to get her to talk. They didn’t see the tears and breakdowns because she struggled to find words, or used the wrong form of a word. They don’t know the years it took to get her to have a proper conversation or think outside the box. What they see is the culmination of all her hard work.
They don’t see the struggle she has to keep those skills. They don’t see how easily it is for her to lose these skills if she is overwhelmed, tired, agitated, or sick. They don’t see how frustrated she can get if she can’t get her message across with the words she chooses. She gets extremely agitated if she has to explain herself more than once.
She also is older and has stims that aren’t as noticeable. Most people chalk them up to nervous movements. She has large noticeable stims but they usually only come out at home. Regardless, you can’t tell if someone is on the Autism Spectrum with just looking that them. Even talking to them or getting to know them, it may be difficult to tell.
Autism is unique. So is how it presents itself in people. Don’t assume.