Some different-abilties are more obvious than others. For example, a child with Down Syndrome has a distinct look so you can "see" their different-ability, however, many kids with autism look like every other neurotypical child you pass by in the mall, the grocery store, or in the school hallway. This is why, when a child with autism is next to your table in a restaurant and they are melting down because their french fries touched their hot dog or because they don't have the bendy straws like they use at home, or the real melt down trigger, their sandwich is cut into rectangles and not triangles, people are quick to judge. These kids, so often misunderstood, "look" like a child with horrible behavior and that's why the parents sitting in the next booth over "tsk, tsk" and wonder why in the world those parents don't reign in that child's behavior.
So try and keep these statistics in mind the next time you witness what you believe is an undisciplined child's tantrum as you cruise through the mall. That child may be so overwhelmed by the blinding fluorescent lights, the horrific smells of the food court, the 20 different conversations he or she is processing and the overwhelmingly painful sensation of the new shoes he is wearing that "melting down" may be the only way that child can express himself. So instead of judging that mother, give her an encouraging smile that lets her know you "get it", even though you don't, and if you happen to have a flask in your handbag, feel free to share it with her.
Children and adults living with autism often "see" the world in pictures, so in honor of all of them today, here are pictures of what autism "looks" like to me...
"You all laugh because I am different. I laugh because you are all the same"