I’m pretty sure that you have heard my husband refer to autism being an “invisible disability.” This is certainly true. If you look at pictures of multiple children, with only one child having autism, it is almost impossible to pick out the child with autism unless you personally know it to be true.
In the same vein, when we are out in public, we don’t wear a sign that says Jake has autism. There are no wheelchairs, crutches, or braces that set our kids apart. Parents of those on the spectrum are often misjudged based on their child’s behavior in public places. I can’t tell you how many disgusted looks we have gotten from people during meltdowns in public. I have even had people tell me how to parent my child while he was in the midst of one of these meltdowns. I am generally a pacifist, so despite wanting to punch them in the face, I quietly and respectfully asked them to move along.
Because of this aspect to autism parents can often feel not only judged, but also alone and not good enough. I have been there. I have felt that way. However, this week, I had a good experience with our “invisible disability.”
The Whitehouses enjoy taking silly back to school photos. We like to have fun and we love to laugh at ourselves. I know that you have heard Big Calf Guy say that having a sense of humor is important. This year we decided what we were going to do, but made no plans to get it done. The first day of school arrived, and with the hustle and bustle of getting 3 kids and 2 adults up and ready, we almost had to scrap the idea. Luckily, Olivia was passionate about making it happen. I asked her to help Dad get set-up and I would join them as soon as I could. Ry got the camera and Liv helped him grab the other props we needed.
As we got in our bathrobes (fully dressed for work underneath) in the driveway many cars drove by. We barely noticed because we are used to making fools of ourselves in the name of fun, but I noticed because there was more traffic than usual since it was the first day of school. We only had time for 3 pictures before we had to pick up the driveway and get out the door. I quickly posted our favorite picture to Facebook for all of our family to see.
By the time I got to work fifteen minutes later, my phone was blowing up with notifications. The pictured had been “liked” by about 100 people. People began to share the photo. It was shared all over the USA and even in Europe. As of this writing, the picture has been “liked” 307 times and it has been shared 424 times! Craig Colson from Channel 7 news contacted me to ask if he could use the photo on the news at 6:00. Very cool!
And now for the point of this post: During all of this excitement and craziness of the first day of school, autism never came up once. Unless you know Jake, you can’t look at that pic and know that he has autism. It’s an invisible disability and this time, that worked in our favor. Our lives often revolve around autism and we spend so much time and energy on awareness. It was really nice to be represented as a family unit where autism wasn’t the cause or on center stage.