"He doesn't look like he has autism."
If I got a nickel for every time I heard that, I wouldn't need to worry about paying an attorney to sue the Board of Education. I'd have the money in the bank.
Autism doesn't look like anything and unless The Boy is flapping wildly, it would be hard to tell that anything was there. He looks - for lack of a better word - "normal." And Autism is often mistaken for something else.
Yesterday while on the bus to Sensory Gym an older woman started talking to The Boy. Aside from the fact that she kept referring to him as a little girl, she kept asking him questions. You know, "What's your name?" "How old are you?" The Boy looked everywhere else but her.
"She's shy," she said patting him on the knee.
"She's a Boy," I smiled.
We laughed. And I let her believe that The Boy was shy. What was the point of explaining to her when I was stepping off in two stops.
But I get that all the time. The Boy has the kind of face that makes you smile. (I know, all moms say that about their kids.) And our interaction together, his laugh, his smile - makes him the kind of child, grandmothers want to engage. Though he's not always willing to engage them. Making him appear shy. I know that's not that case. But I let strangers believe it.
Should I use these moments to teach awareness? Or just let the moment pass, protecting our privacy? What do you do?