"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Autism Looks Like: Beautiful

I have done the portraits of 16 different autistic children now, my own son included.  And I plan to do many more.  If I have learned ANYTHING since I started this project a year ago, it is that kids on the spectrum are BEAUTIFUL BEYOND DESCRIPTION.  They have eyes that speak volumes, smiles that light up the world, and features that are absolutely captivating.  I should know.  I've been doing portraits for a long time.  But it's more than just their LOOKS.  It's their positive attitudes, their love of life, and their way of looking at the world that makes them special.

I've noticed that people hate and fear what they don't understand.  This is especially true of disabilities.  Unfortunately, their words and actions reflect this.  When someone has an obvious disability, like an amputation, often times people only see the disability.  They forget that there is still an actual PERSON and that the person could probably use a smile.  Same goes for someone with Down's Syndrome.  Are people afraid that if they smile and nod at a stranger with Down's that they might actually catch it like the flu?  And autism?  What do people do when the disability is NOT as obvious?  More and more lately, when I'm out in public with my children, people either refuse to give me eye contact or, if my son is having a meltdown, I am met with looks of outright disapproval, disgust, and judgment. 

I'll be honest, sometimes it bothers me.  But lately, I smile.  Because these people don't know what I know.  They don't know that my son is learning to speak.  They don't know that he makes me laugh, every single day with the things he does.  They don't know how much joy he brings to those around him.  They don't know understand why hearing him say, "Wuv oo too"last week made me cry.  They will never understand, because they choose to look the other way. 

My son has worked harder in the past 3 years of his life than many people people do in a lifetime.  He is overcoming obstacles right and left.  I couldn't possibly be more proud.  And I know I'm his mom, so yes, I'm biased...but I think he's absolutely beautiful.  If somebody told ME that I "looked autistic," I'd thank them for the compliment.