“Alright, let’s see what you got there.”
I handed our accountant our pile of tax paper’s, getting ready to have our taxes done for the year.
The accountant went through the pile of paperwork and started putting things in piles.
“What is this one?” The accountant had stopped sorting and looked at the form, through his glasses that sat on the tip of his nose.
“It’s Declan’s Medical Assistance,” and when I saw his eyes go from looking down at the paper to over his glasses to look at me, I continued.
“Declan has autism. He is on Medical Assistance.”
The accountant looked from me to Declan who was walking around, looking at the ceiling holding a hockey puck.
“Oh. He doesn’t look autistic. I would have never known.”
Doesn’t Look Autistic
Let’s be clear here. I love my accountant. My husband and I have been seeing him for years – before we even had any children. He’s watched our family grow, we’ve watched his grandchildren come and grow. I love our talks about family, local sports teams and his help with our finances.
I understand “doesn’t look autistic” is a common statement. I’ve heard it many times from many different people.
I don’t think everyone is trying to be mean when they say this statement. They are stating the obvious.
One cannot see autism. Autism is an invisible disability.
But it also minimizes all the frustrations and tears we have fought through. The day-to-day stress we must work to overcome.
It was 2 years ago, the accountant made that statement. Declan had been diagnosed with autism 6 months earlier, and it had taken me almost all that time to accept and come to terms with the diagnosis.
And to recognize all the difficult behaviors come together into one diagnosis.
And as I sat with the accountant as he went through the papers 2 years ago, I thought,
“He just doesn’t know….”
He doesn’t know I can’t let Declan be around other kids his age at the playground. Declan doesn’t see them. He pushes past them or hits them.
The accountant doesn’t know Declan doesn’t come to me when I call his name.
And that his language is so limited. He can’t tell me his wants, needs, hurts, loves.
Declan does not follow directions. I know he can hear me, right? Why can’t he process my words?
The accountant doesn’t know Declan doesn’t cry when he is hurt. Cut and bleeding, I am the only one shedding tears.
He has never seen one of Declan’s meltdowns – how scary and severe they can be.
Does the accountant see Declan holding a hockey puck? Does he realize Declan doesn’t play, watch or even know what hockey is? Just that he likes to hold the puck?
That he doesn’t play with toys?
Does he see him running around staring at the ceiling lights, shaking his head? That my husband and I are sitting around him not asking him to sit as that request is futile?
Do all three-year old’s drool like Declan does? I should probably wipe his chin.
Does the accountant realize Declan is here because we do not have a babysitter for him?
I thought about all this yesterday as we got our taxes done.
Those are things I could never tell the accountant. Nor anyone else that ever said “He doesn’t look autistic….”
You can’t explain day-to-day life. You can’t explain the challenges Declan must face. The challenges the family has. The stress. The times of heartache and the magnitude of the joys.
All I can say is that when someone tells you their child has autism, just know you can’t see it. Just know the person, the child and the family has been through a lot. Trust me.
I looked down at Declan on the floor, wearing his Spiderman costume and thought about our visit 2 years ago, and just thought, “how far we’ve come!”
And when the accountant congratulated Declan, telling him he did a really good job at the appointment, I smiled and thought, “how far we’ve all come.”