How Do Most People Recognize Autism? Short Answer, “They Don’t!”

My son is a “party mooch.” I doubt seriously that this is a thing commonly said about moderately Autistic children, but it’s certainly true for Garrett.

Sometime in the last year (his fifth), we were in a local park. There was an “event” going on there, that was for the children of the staff of some medical facility. This appeared to have ranged from doctors to nurses, to administrative staff. There may have even been a few “outsiders” known to the staff. I’m not sure whether or not all staff of the facility in question were invited, or just a small subgroup of the “general population.” I do know that there were folks of the types described.

Being the kind of person who tends toward privacy, I tend to shy away from such things even if I’m invited to them. Garrett, on the other hand, does not.

After skirting the edges of the little gathering (in a park gazebo), he wormed his way quietly (but with implied invitation) into the group. Of course, daddy had to follow along to make sure:

  1. That he was well and healthy
  2. That he wasn’t snatched by somebody inside or outside of the group.
  3. That he didn’t behave in a way that made him problematic to the gathering.

There were certainly other reasons, but these are sufficient for this article.

As one would expect at such an event, there were games suitable for children of various ages. Garrett availed himself of some of them, and ignored others. This also was rather to be expected.

For the most part, he was sufficiently well-behaved as to not even “arouse suspicion” among those at the event. Neither adults, nor children noticed anything but a lack of communication and a bit of what would probably have been described as “weirdness.”

All of this happened prior to Garrett’s diagnosis. That meant that even mommy and daddy were not certain what diagnosis (if any) would be forthcoming when and if it occurred.

Partway through the party was an event that was something like a “more hygienic bobbing for apples.” Strings were hung from a low hanging eave, and apples were tied to the stems, using them as an “anchor point.”

An older lady (older than me, and as indicated, I am over fifty), was “overseeing” this particular diversion. She asked Garrett multiple times, whether or not he wanted to participate, only to be met with a coy smile (a Garrett specialty).

I can’t recall if he finally tried to participate, or just watched as others did so. If he tried, any attempt would have been a failure. You see, where he finally decided apple sauce was “food,” apples have never been a part of his diet. He likes neither the look, nor the texture of them. It’s all but miraculous that he eats apple sauce, frankly, since as a rule, if it’s wet, it doesn’t qualify as food.

I told the lady at one point that I was reasonably sure he (Garrett) was Autistic. Her response was on I have heard pretty much every time I’ve ever told anybody, “I didn’t spot that at all!” I’ll get back to that being a pretty common response momentarily. What was important about this particular instance, is that the lady in question purported to be some sort of behavioral therapist who specialized in children. As if that alone wasn’t sufficient, as I say, she was older and indicated that she had more than thirty years “in the business.”

The reason this came to mind today, is that Garrett—being his usual selfwas playing in a way that caused him to unconcernedly kick a three-year-old a couple of times whilst on a small swing. The parent of the child made a great deal of noise—though his child was not injured in the least. This is somewhat understandable. I tend to keep Garrett on a pretty “short leash,” particularly when he is around other (and most importantly, younger) children. The closer he is to other children, the closer my “watch” must be. As such, I was at the scene in a veritable flash, telling Garrett, he must not do what he did at all, much less with no concern for the other child.

The fellow made a good deal of noise to the surrounding staff (all of whom are quite familiar with Garrett—we have a membership at the entity in question), they worked to calm the situation, as I worked to ensure no more “events” occurred.

Some time later, the parent in question came up to me, shook my hand, and spoke to me in a conciliatory fashion. I can’t remember all that was said, but essentially, he assured me his child was unaffected by the events in question, and said he was sorry he had “snapped at” me and others earlier on.

It was only then I told him about Garrett, in terms of his Autism. I make it a practice—as I indicated to him—to not make Garrett’s “condition” known.

His response was by far the “typical.” Essentially,  “I would never have known! You seem to be doing such a good job with him.” I informed him that Garrett—like many Autistic people, tend to lack what others view as sympathy and empathy.

The point is though, he, like so many others, had zero idea the little boy in my care was Autistic. Typically, they have no mechanism for such an assessment. They are entirely unable to see anything but a seemingly badly behaved child.

And I have to acknowledge, that I too was “in that boat” until Garrett. You see, none of my other three children were “like” Garrett. It’s possible one or more had mild Autism; to this day, I cannot say. Even Garrett with “moderate” Autism though, is not “spotted” even by health professionals by and large—much less those without such qualifications.

Were it not for “learning deficits,” it is entirely possible he would never have been diagnosed at all. Though I like to think I would have noticed there were issues, I cannot be sure.

  What’s the point? Well, it’s really rather simple. Except for people who have dealt with Autism and to some degree, even for those folks, recognizing Autism in others (unless it is severe) is quite unlikely.

See that “badly behaved child” over there? Well, maybe your assessment that a “good spanking would sort him or her out,” is not so correct as you’d like to believe. To be fair, maybe it is the case, too. That having been said, give both the child and the parents the “benefit of the doubt!”

Okay, at my limit (and actually moderately complete on my thoughts for this article), as such, I’ll call this one good.

As usual, thanks for reading, and have the very best of times!

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