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With Autism, Being ‘Seen’ Can be Complicated

Dear Justin,

A few weeks ago your dad and I took you to your uncle’s house, where you entertained yourself for hours with toys and let your parents talk to people we haven’t seen since Covid. You did great until the very end when you wanted to go down into the basement where you really shouldn’t go, and it took three of us to “escort” you out.

I put that one on me. I got greedy for conversation and we stayed a bit too long. I forgot your limits.

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On the ride home your dad and I commented on how great you’d been and how we’d actually finished conversations with people, and I thought about what this day had meant for you. I know you were content because you weren’t trying to go inside, were happy to play with your toys outside on the patio. I remembered how people took the time to say hello to you, and how you didn’t acknowledge anyone, simply kept your hands and eyes glued to your toys.

I thought about how you were in your own little world.

The truth is, I think a lot about how people, from strangers to your own family, see you. You don’t interact with people much. A “hello Justin” does not elicit a response from you. When asked for a hug, you will often ignore the request, or do what your dad and I call “the presentation of the forehead,” where you will ever so slightly lean forward to be hugged or kissed.

It could seem to all around you that you have no emotions, no connection to the world around you.

And that’s why I write about you.

I want people both in your life and at the perimeter to also see the boy who on every other walk with me stops dead in his tracks, looks me right in the eye, and plants at least four or five kisses on me.

I want people to know that when your brother’s best friend came to our house you cupped her face and smiled into her eyes, letting her know she was welcome, was one of us.

I want people to see the boy who at one of his last horseback riding lessons walked up to two random women, put your hands on their cheeks, and smiled at them to let you know this is one of your favorite places, and all is right with your world.

I want people to know the man who sees his aunt only once every other year, but still draped his lanky frame over hers at Disney when he was tired.

I want people to see that you care. That you can connect.

I want people to see that you love.

I have always had that bond with you, since you were an infant and perenially curled up on my right side, as you still do every morning, our bodies leaning into each other in an A frame so your height doesn’t overpower me.

I am eternally grateful for it.

I hope people truly see you, especially your caregivers to come. Because you, my boy, my beautiful boy, have a soul worth knowing.

And I’m so lucky that you’re mine.

For more on my family visit my blog at

Follow me on Facebook at Autism Mommy-Therapist

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