What Does Autism Look Like?

The other day I was talking with a classmate—someone with whom I’ve recently become acquainted—and we got on the subject of autism. The conversation turned to my daughter, and I showed my friend a YouTube video of my daughter singing. The response I got was, “Wow, I would never guess she had autism.” I get that a lot; some folks go even further, telling me that my child looks so “normal.” What does normal look like, anyway? For that matter, what does autism look like?

Part of our family’s journey with autism has meant dealing with the public’s perceptions of what autism is and is not. When I was a teenager, “Rain Man” was in theaters, and Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic man left an indelible impression on the minds of many people. From that time on, Hoffman’s Raymond was the persona that most people assumed personified the average autistic. For lots of autistic people and their families, educating the public about the autistic spectrum and the fact that no two auties are the same is important.

So what does autism look like? I don’t know that I can ever completely and succinctly answer that question. But I know this: I’d sooner be able to define autism than be able to define normal.

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