A Glimpse into our autism: Invisible

11 March 2019

Dear friend,

We sat in the airport assistance waiting area surrounded by people. It was a busy day but our big lad calmly played on his mobile phone. There were a lot of people needing assistance, a child flying alone, several elderly passengers, wheelchair users and someone with a visual impairment.

A lady sat next to us and struck up a conversation. The usual questions, It’s busy today isn’t it? What time do you fly? Where are you going to? Then she asked; What’s wrong with him?

I saw my son shrink into his chair.

I calmly answered, we are having assistance today as he is autistic and finds the crowds in the airport overwhelming. Then I turned my attention to my son who was now really agitated and wanted to leave.

This is not the first time that a member of the public has questioned our entitlement to help. My boy is tall, healthy and very handsome. You can not see his autism.

People have stared at and tuted at us as we have been lead to the front of a line. One snooty woman actually said to her husband, we are privilege members so we go before them. A member of staff asked us, why are you in this line? And we are not alone. I have read accounts on social media of people being abused for parking in disabled spaces or using disabled toilets because they don't look disabled.

Some places offer lanyards or badges to make people with autism more visible. But my son does not want to wear a badge or carry a card proclaiming his difference to the world. He finds it really embarrassing. And he shouldn't need to!

More accommodations are being made for autistic people, like assistance at airports, blue badges for cars, autism hours. But there are still some members of the public who feel people with invisible disabilities are somehow cheating the system or taking things they are not entitled to.

My son is entitled to help the same as anyone with a physical disability is entitled to help.

Take it as a given that if someone has assistance that assistance is needed. Practice Kindness and Patience!

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