Why and How We Make Autism Visible

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Once we took all the kids to Dutch Wonderland.  Declan was so excited in the water park.  He was running all over the place.  Trying to go up the slides you were only supposed to go down.  Running through the crowd.  Declan doesn’t see a line of people, he only sees the slide he wants to ride.  At one point my husband, myself and the life guards at the park were chasing him.  I apologized to the life guard and told her my son has Autism.  She told me, “You need to get a Special Needs Bracelet for him the next time you come in.  They are at the front desk.  They allow us workers to know your son has special needs, he may not understand the rules and we need to approach him differently.”  The bracelet is a visible cue to the workers that the person wearing one needs special care.  For us, it would make Autism visible.

For the longest time after that, I would let front desk staff at these kind of places know my son had Autism.  At Chuck E Cheese, Bounce Houses, Arcades.  No one else seemed to follow the wrist band policy, although I wish they had.  Many times the workers and I were chasing Declan off the top of arcade machines, and I would get the lecture from the staff about proper behavior.  Yes.  I get it.  Declan only sees the fun, not the people, not the danger, not the lines.  He does not see a child playing a game, he wants to play the game and may “take over.”  He may see a game past a child and push him out-of-the-way to get to it.  And I apologize to the child, to the parent, to the worker.  If the situation allows, I tell the person or people affected, “My son has Autism’ and I receive a greater level of understanding.  Sometimes, I am unable to spread awareness and have to accept the scowl.


Recently, my husband and I took our kids on vacation.  We were so excited to hit the shore and the boardwalk!  We packed our bathing suits, our beach towels, our sunscreen and of course, our Autism safety bands for our youngest son with Autism, Declan.  One thing we found with our Autism safety bands, we were also making Autism visible.

Declan darts, so we needed to pack items to help keep him safe and prevent elopement as we talked about here.  Also, we needed to pack items that if Declan were to elope, safety people could find him and know of his special needs.  More and more first responders are trained in Autism Awareness.  Police state they need to respond to people with Autism differently then they do others (just like the life guards at the water park).   We packed 2 pieces for Declan to wear if he were to elope and was later approached by a police officer.  We found both pieces also helped bring understanding and patience from outsiders.

Special Needs Awareness for Emergencies

My ID Band

The first thing we placed on Declan when we went out was a My ID Band.  Declan wore this band on his wrist.  It goes on like a band from an amusement park or carnival.  On the inside of the band is Declan’s name and my and my husbands cell phone numbers.  If Declan separatesfrom us, emergency people know how to contact us.


We purchased an Alert Me Band for Declan to wear.  It came after our vacation unfortunately, but Declan likes it!  He also wears it on his wrist.  It has my cell phone number and home number sewn into it, and decorated with the Autism Puzzle Piece and states, “I have Autism.”  What a great resource!



If Declan were to separate from us, we put another visible sign on him so emergency crew could find him.  The ID bands were great – I have used them for all my kids when we went out.  But there was nothing to show to Emergency Personnel that Declan has Autism and will need to be approached differently.  So we put on him this Autism Puzzle Piece Sticker.


The sticker was subtle.  We started with it on his back in case Declan would take it off, but as the week went on Declan wanted to wear it on his chest.  He grew to love his special sticker.  My husband and I felt it added a level of safety.  We also think it helped spread a little more….

Autism Awareness

Declan, like every other member of the family, was super excited for vacation.  He wanted to get out, swim in the ocean, get boardwalk food treats, ride rides…Sometimes the excitement gets ahead of him.  Sometimes he pushed kids.  Sometimes he tried to play someone else’s game.  Sometimes he was not ready to leave an area.  Sometimes he had a screaming episode.  I do not know if it was the band.  I do not know if it was the sticker.  Maybe there was a lot of kids overwhelmed with excitement and behaving in extreme fashions and understanding love was all around – but my husband and I felt a greater level of understanding and acceptance from outsiders when something went wrong.

For example, my husband and I took the kids miniature golfing on day.  My husband and I  didn’t golf.  We were on golf help and kid control duty.  Keep the kids calm, happy and golfing.  Declan gave it his best.  Once he started to understand the game, he wanted to help everyone else with their game.  Any ball he saw roll on the green AT ANY HOLE he would take their ball and put it in their hole.  The couple behind us got the most hole in ones out of anyone.  Did they get upset?  They could’ve, but they didn’t.  They took our family picture instead!DSC_0011 (5)

My husband and I tried our hardest to stay proactive, but when we had to chase or apologize on the go, we got a lot more, “It’s okay” than ever before.


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Safety First

The items were to keep Declan safe.  He darts, he wanders – there was a chance we would need emergency people to find him.  Putting an ID Band on him would help.  Putting an Autism Puzzle Piece sticker on him made him even more visible.  Maybe there was just a lot of love in the air, but overall, my husband and I felt a lot more understanding, openness and acceptance for our family.

These are not items I would put on my daughter with High Functioning Autism.  For one, she is older.  We do not have the same safety concerns for her as we do for Declan – she has a higher awareness of dangerous activities.  She doesn’t dart, she doesn’t climb on top of arcade machines.  She can tell the police officer her name.  If she would ever want to wear these items for safety reasons, then by all means I would let her.  Her choice!

When my youngest son ages and can tell a police officer his name, demonstrates safe behavior – if he asks to stop wearing them, then by all means, we will take them off.  If either ever wants to wear an “Autism is my Super Power” shirt, then sure, that is up to them.  But in the meantime, the ID Bands and the Sticker were great.  They helped make Autism visible to emergency crew and to outsiders.  And, we had a great vacation!




3 thoughts on “Why and How We Make Autism Visible

    1. I notice a tremendous difference when we tell people. Otherwise people tend to judge. Their perceptions change and they become caring and helpful. Amazing!

  1. I must admit that your posts made me learn so much about autism. I always perceived autism as a strange phenomenon and yet so human for I believe we are all autistic somehow. On the other hand maybe autistic are people with different interests just like homosexuals for example have a same-sex interest. And maybe what I say here doesn’t make sense but I know for sure that autism as a “disorder” (I hate this word because what is order and normal after all? ) fascinates me intellectually. Again thank you

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