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Autism Doesn’t Have A Look

It’s in our human nature to judge others. We judge people for their actions, their choices, and sometimes even for their physical appearances. Let me pause right there…on this journey as an Autism Mom, I am confronted with the latter judgment often. “Oh, she (Kai) is so pretty, she can’t be Autistic!” This might not seem like something that would infuriate a person, but trust me, when it is coming from teachers, caregivers, and those who are charged with caring for Kai’s needs this is so dangerous and frustrating for a few reasons.


First, what does autism even look like and how do you classify the levels?


Answer: you can’t classify autism based on physical appearance because autism doesn’t have a look. By definition, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is described as a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first 2 years of life.


As a small child, I noticed the developmental delays in processing and retaining information and brought it to the attention of others, but because Kai doesn’t “look” like she has autism and I worked so hard with her to meet her goals academically she went undiagnosed and misdiagnosed.


Next, she’s so smart, she can’t be autistic. Answer:  Well, here’s the thing, the autism spectrum is broad and encompasses a large variety of complex neurological disorders. Kai has several things affecting her processing abilities and because she is extremely verbal her autism went undiagnosed clinically for a while. Many people on the autism spectrum boast high IQs and functioning at a very high level.


For years I was gaslit into believing that nothing was going on with Kai, that I was being dramatic or just didn’t know how to discipline or control my kid. When the truth is so many things were triggering her and while I was able to help her to achieve academically, I couldn’t change the way she interpreted the world around her or how things that seem simple to me, tortured her.


When Kai was 7, I finally trusted my mom gut and refused to let people tell me what I was seeing and experiencing was in my imagination I was able to successfully advocate for my Kai. Even then it took three more years and a near death experience to finally get a clinical diagnosis and ensure she could get the accommodations and supports needed. When people ask me how I’m doing my response is usually “ok”, “exhausted”, or “yet still holding on” because there are no days off in our world.


Even with all of the mental and physical health challenges she’s experiencing, Kai’s future is bright. She is a National Beta Club member and maintaining all A’s in all of her 7th grade classes. She is even learning how to interact with kids and learning to self advocate while teaching her self Spanish (she’s on a nearly 250 day Duo Lingo streak!) and building a thriving Sims community. I am so proud of her. It took a while but I no longer mourn the future that my mind built for her and instead have embraced the amazing life ahead that she is creating and living.

Even though we know that judging others only brings pain and conflict, we continue to make broad assumptions about people—sometimes with very little knowledge of their situation. On the flip side, at one point or another, we’ve all been misjudged, and that leaves us feeling betrayed, hurt and misunderstood.


Jesus didn’t judge others. He washed the feet of people who were highly condemned for their actions, and He healed those judged and deemed unworthy by others. What would happen if we stopped our censure right away, turning our thoughts to prayer and love instead?


Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. MATTHEW 7:1–2 ESV


Today, begin to turn your judgments into acceptance. Wouldn’t you like to be accepted too? If we remember how Jesus treated others, we can begin to live like Him and do the same. No one is better than anyone else. If we take the first step and begin to love one another, in each of our own mess, realizing that everyone is different, we can start living like Jesus.


This is a reminder that Autism doesn’t have a look and every human, Autistic or not, deserves to be accepted for who they are! Let’s start there!


Today and everyday I turn it blue 💙💙💙 for Kai and every other person on the Autism spectrum seeking to be accepted and understood.


~MichelleRena




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