Autism, the Invisible Disability

I see you. 

Walking in front of me. 

You are here with your family. 

Your significant other to the right of you and your toddler walking in front of you. 

It’s the perfect day to visit the aquarium. 

It’s a Monday and not busy at all. 

That’s why we are here too, on a Monday. 

You see, my son, Zachary has autism. 

Severe nonverbal autism. 

We like to go to places when the crowds are low and so is the noise. 

I know you see us too. 

You have turned around multiple times to look at us. 

Not smiling at us either. 

I know the same rule you know. 

No strollers are allowed here. 

You are trying to guess how I got a stroller in this place. 

You are trying to figure out how old my son is, because it seems like he might be too old for a stroller. 

He is 5 and half years old to be exact. 

You are trying to figure out how he qualifies to have a stroller, because I’m sure he doesn’t look like someone with a disability. 

Which brings us here. 

What does someone look like with a disability?

Is their hair brown? Maybe blonde? Curly? 

Do they have green eyes? Blue? Brown?

Are they tall? Short? In the middle somewhere?

There is a term I hear a lot. 

Invisible disability. 

It’s a term that I find causes lots of confusion, judgment, and misunderstanding. 

You keep looking, and you can’t find the disability. 

That disability is Autism. 

The invisible disability. 

You see a “normal” 5 year old boy. 

Brown hair, blue eyes, 50% percentile for height. 

In a stroller. 

What you don’t see is that…

Zachary fatigues easily. 

He gets overwhelmed at new places and needs to take it all in while sitting. 

Stairs are really hard for him. 

And if there is a meltdown, and he collapses to the floor. I’m afraid he is getting too big for me to carry around the aquarium. 

I don’t think you need to see those qualifications for him to have a stroller here though. 

What I want to show you is how grateful you should be that your little one doesn’t need a stroller. 

That your child listens when their name is called. 

That your toddler knows boundaries and doesn’t stray too far. 

That they can walk the whole aquarium without sensory seeking or get sensory overloaded. 

I get enough confusion, judgment, and misunderstandings without a stroller in a day. 

I don’t need more because we are here in a stroller. 

Enjoying this Monday at the aquarium. 

Written by, Melissa Owsiany 

I’m a nurse, wife and mom to two wonderful boys Zachary, who has autism, and Landon.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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