What Autism Does Not See

I am on her last nerve.

Unfazed, I continue my questioning. Mothering a teenager, annoyance is my job.

I ask again who this mystery friend is and get a deep sigh because I should know these things, of course.

She is in my third hour, we were office assistants together and she is really nice and smiles a lot. You saw her at orientation, Mom. She wears pink all the time.

Because I forgot my crystal ball, her description leaves me with nothing.

I give up and continue our drive to the first birthday party she has been invited to since beginning high school. Whether I know the birthday girl or not, we are going.

Birthday invitations are few and far between when you have autism.

As we enter the party, my extremely excited daughter pulls me to the birthday girl and my heart overflows right there in the center of bowling lane 12.

Because most people would have said that her friend was the one who could not walk,

whose lips formed sounds instead of words,

and who travels with a nurse to adjust her feeding tube and oxygen settings.

But my daughter doesn’t see any of that.

perfect view of the world

She sees a friend who invited her to a birthday party, who gushes over her presents and sparkles with a smile in her eyes.

There are many things about autism that make life a struggle but this part…

the ability to see people for who they are and love them where they are at,

this part is perfect.

I think about this girl’s mother and I know, with certainty, this is what she wants most for her teenage daughter.

To be loved for who she is and not defined by a disability.

I know this, because this is all I could ever want for my own.




Powered by Facebook Comments


  1. says

    I am gobsmacked by this post. It really caught my breath reading it. The struggles you face each day and the triumphs in little things, always inspire me. I’m sharing this with my readers, for sure.

  2. says

    Beautiful. It is one of the things I appreciate most in my son as well. His friends come in all shapes and sizes and he never judges by what is on the outside only what comes from their hearts.

  3. says

    This is soo very touching. Pat yourself on the back mama, for raising her to have such a beautiful heart. The world needs more people like your daughter :)

    • says

      I think about that all the time when she says things like this. Her brain is just not wired to see people on the surface, she actually never even describes people by their nationality. It’s so interesting how she sees people for solely how they act, I wish we all could do that. xo

    • says

      It does, I think so many people only see the meltdowns and difficult behaviors but there are so many things about these kids that are amazing.

  4. says

    This. Is beautiful. My four-year-old sees wonderful things about people that I do not see right away. Or that I do not see because I’m noticing other, less desirable things. I know she may outgrow that, though, by high school. And to hear this story is so touching, in so many ways.
    Tamara recently posted..Safe and Sound.

  5. says

    My son does not have autism but he’s three and still sees other children as “perfect.” I’m working hard on helping him retain as much of that as possible so he wants to invite all kinds of kids to his birthday parties.
    Thank you for this. It was beautiful.

  6. says

    As the mom of two children with autism, I know this is the truth. One time a little guy who was doing peer play with my son came home and told his mom that my son was his best friend. She was surprised, I’m sure, and asked why. “Because he doesn’t care that I still suck my thumb,” was the response. That’s right, he could care less. :) Beautiful post!!!
    Tamie recently posted..Happy Birthday Jacob

  7. Tracy Nevins says

    My daughter will be in high school next year. This sounds so much like her, also. She has this love that is so pure and amazing. She teaches me daily… Love her… Oxox

  8. says

    My child has just entered kindergarten and it has now become clear that I can call him a Special Needs Child. I am still adjusting to that, but I totally get you. My child still has two good friends from preschool and I am hoping that he will be able to make some good friends as he enters his formal schooling.

    It is so maddening to me bc the school seems to get his bad side, he plays fine at parties and at play dates. I hope that kids will see that he can be a wonderful friend.
    Emily Cullen recently posted..Forgetting Everything I Knew

  9. says

    Happy SITS day! Love this post. As the parent of a teenager with Asperger’s, I appreciate your reminder about how much clearer their lenses can often be than ours. Yet frequently, the rest of the world just doesn’t get it. My son is doing fantastic this year, but is currently struggling with one teacher and I find myself so impatient because after years of working with endless teachers, it’s so clear to me almost instantly who can see through his eyes and who simply cannot and will continue to insist that he see it their way or no way at all.

    Thanks for sharing a great story.

    • Jessica says

      Totally agree with you, it is tough but over time there are some teachers that I just give up on because, like you said, you learn that they either get it or don\’t. We have been so lucky to have an excellent teacher working with my daughter at her high school. She has been her best advocate and talks to most of the teachers before I have to. I remind her often how much I love her!!

  10. says

    I’m visiting from the SITS website, and I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read!! It brought tears to my eyes!! <3 I have a son who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (he is almost 8 years old), and I can see my son doing something like this when he's older. I understand about not receiving birthday party invitations – the only one he's ever received is when a pre-school classmate turned 4 years old. He loves everyone, but doesn't have any specific friends. These children who have been diagnosed with ASD have the biggest hearts, they are truly a gift!! Thank you for sharing this story!! :)
    Holly recently posted..I Heart Faces {Black}

    • Jessica says

      We do have a lot in common. It\’s amazing really, when I think of what my daughter has taught me. For all the difficult days, there are always great ones like this that remind me what an amazing person she is. Very true that people with ASD have the biggest heart, I just wish everyone could see it the way we have.

  11. says

    I’m new here and late to read this post – but it’s beautiful. I just finished a book – The Kitchen Daughter – whose protagonist has Asperger’s Syndrom – and it was fascinating – besides being a great “food” read. Children, even those without special needs and when they’re young – see the world in a pure way. One of my sons didn’t see how poor we were when he was young. I was bugged, looking out a side window of our house then at the soggy couch and trash our next door neighbors left in their backyard – he stood next to me and commented, “Look Mommy – color clouds.” He saw the sunset and the beauty. I’ve never forgotten that.
    Barbara Beyer-Albright recently posted..The Kitchen Daughter

  12. says

    Every time I come here, I feel as though I always comment on how beautiful your writing is, or that I have goosebumps, or that you inspire me to be a better person…

    But not today.

    Even though I feel all of these things, I’m actually speechless. Your daughter is one amazing human being, and kudos to you for raising her to be one. Autistic or not, you play a huge role in that big heart of hers.


    • Jessica says

      It is such a great gift, to our whole family. I have definitely learned a lot from watching the world through her eyes.

    • Jessica says

      Oh no, I hope you come back! I know that you can relate though. We just want our kids seen for who they are. To get the kindness that they give out into the world.

  13. says

    That was so beautiful….what a proud mommy moment! Your daughter has accomplished what so many cannot. Thank you for sharing such a lovely slice of your day with us.

  14. says

    That was the best thing I’ve read in like… forever.

    Chills or gooseflesh or chickenskin or whatever you want to call it…I’ve got it.

    tulpen recently posted..Either Way

  15. Lane says

    Wow. This post is so beautifully written. Your daughter sounds like an amazing girl and you sound like such a proud mama! That’s so awesome! I have an older brother who had a massive head injury when he was 15 and he has struggled with his disabilities ever since. Most people see him as a disabled person, instead of an extremely smart guy who has some disabilities. It’s amazing how our life view can change when we get a new perspective through someone else. Knowing and loving my brother has helped me to be a much more compassionate person and I am able to look past what others may see as flaws and see the real person inside. It sounds like you and your daughter were blessed with the same gift. The day everyone stops judging each other is the day we will have peace in the world.
    Lane recently posted..Then & Now: A New Generation of Trouble

    • Jessica says

      Couldn\’t agree more. I am so glad that all of my children have had the experience of being around people with special needs, I truly think it will make them better people. Just as it sounds that your brother\’s experience has done for you.

  16. Amber says

    I’m all teary eyed reading this. It was beautiful. My youngest is Autistic and has CP. I pray that she will find friends like your daughter who even though she to is Autistic she don’t see the other things. All she sees is her beautiful friend. Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Jessica says

      So glad that it touched you, as your daughter grows I\’m sure she will find friends she can relate to just as my daughter has. Ashlyn is very involved in Special Olympics and has found a great group of friends there.

  17. says

    I don’t have experience with autism, and have always been very grateful for this.

    I do not know if it is autism, or the influence you have had on your oldest, but she is amazing and this story made me reach for the tissues. I wish everyone, myself included, had the magical filter to see people on the inside more than the out.

    I am so glad the two girls found each other.

    Thank you for sharing this, Jessica.
    Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos recently posted..When Your Children Flip Between Jekyll and Hyde

  18. says

    I love it! In all honesty it makes me look forward to what a great heart Carsyn is going to have. I hope Carsyn has friends like your daughter. You can learn so much from them. Love you Jess.
    Sarah recently posted..Friday Fun

    • Jessica says

      He will, I don\’t know what it is about these kids but they always have the most amazing hearts and people see them for it. Ashlyn is loved by so many of her peers and I think it is because she is truly nice to everyone. Love you too!

  19. says

    This made my heart feel happy. I LOVE stories like this! Thank you for sharing such a precious moment in your life with us… and for reminding us what is true. Seeing people… accepting people… as they are, is a HUGE gift!
    Sarah @ The Fence recently posted..The Good Stuff

  20. says

    BEYOND “so true.”

    My boy doesn’t care if he has one green sock one blue sock.

    he doesn’t care if he has a cool haircut.

    He doesn’t care if it’s cool or not to sit and talk with your mom at a sandwich place.

    He doesn’t care about what other people plan hours of distressing thoughts over.

    He doesn’t care..except for his family, and how we are, and what we need.

    I adore him.
    Alexandra recently posted..The Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus

    • Jessica says

      Isn\’t it the best, my daughter has no problem holding my hand and would totally still sit on my lap if she wasn\’t bigger than me. I love the innocence that they keep.

  21. says

    your daugther is the “BETTER VERSION of Each OF US” and whileI sit here and wipe tears away , I am reminded that seeing the inside of people is a lesson in humility and humanity.

    also, so proud of your contribution to the book..yea!

    I hope that each of us can be like your daugther more, to see the people in front of us for who they truly are. WOW.
    Kir recently posted..WOE:David Broken Hearts Still Beat

    • Jessica says

      I always strive to see things the way she does. It isn\’t always easy and she has no idea what a gift it is, to her and to everyone around her.

  22. says

    Oh, I loved this. My son has ADHD, and I often tell people that of our five kids, he is the sweetest, most beautiful and uncomplicated one. And I adore all four of them. I am eager to check out the book you are a contributor on. An anthology on parenting special needs kids that I am a part of is coming out soon (Easy to Love But Hard to Raise). So glad I clicked on your link!

    • Jessica says

      Great to meet you. Amazing isn\’t it? That sometimes our most difficult kids are the ones with the sweetest hearts.

  23. says

    oh i love this. i love your daughter’s sweet heart and perspective. she and my daughter should get together sometime :) If you read my post at Love that Max about my daughter’s perspective, it is similar.
    Frelle recently posted..A Gift For You

  24. The Anecdotal Baby says

    What a beautiful, touching story. If we could all follow your daughter’s example… Congratulations momma, you’ve done a wonderful job raising your daughter and you are so very blessed!
    The Anecdotal Baby recently posted..Momma and the Media

  25. says

    Just breathtaking and lovely. I have a friend whose daughter is autistic and bipolar. We once welcomed a couple in our home with their child who was severely autistic. They had just gotten out of the military and no place to go. My boys would sit with Ethan for hours and play, never pushing the issue content to just be allowed in his circle. One day when he was way overstimulated he began running in a circle screaming. Normal times his mom would have pulled him away from the other kids worried they would make fun of him. My boys simply realized that everything else was too much began to run with him. Round and round the room, silencing the games and everything else that had overloaded him. His frustration turned to giggles and outright laughter and his momma breathed a sigh of relief that they stepped in and showed love and kindness rather then tormenting. At night he would snuggle with all of them in the floor and watch movies. It was beautiful to witness and to know that I had had a hand in teaching them acceptance of everyone.

    • Jessica says

      What a gift your family must have been to them. To have a place where you feel loved and accepted is priceless.

  26. says

    I can’t finish this without crying. Your daughter’s heart is so big, it makes up for the hearts of others that are so small.

    I have been the aide for a girl like you described. Wheelchair, tubes, arms and legs that don’t work. And I know just how much it means to someone like that to be seen as just a friend. Not a friend with the trappings of disease.

    Each and every time I read about your daughter, I am filled with joy.
    Sherri recently posted..A Look Back…and Forward

    • Jessica says

      Thank you Sherri, I truly was in awe that she did not see any of those things, just her sweet friend.

  27. says

    This made me cry. “Different” is not always so bad. You have raised a young lady with a gorgeous heart.

    Congratulations on contributing to the book! I am glad to see your writing will touch more and more people :)

    • Jessica says

      I seriously thought my heart was going to explode. Love these moments, when you forget about all the frustrations of raising a child with special needs and can see just how special they are.

  28. says

    This is an amazing tribute to your daughter and also to the way you have raised her, Jessica.

    We can all only hope to have our children see the world and its people this way.

    I love this so much. Really.

    As the mother to two middle-schoolers, I see so much judgment and negativity around my kids. All the time.

    I just want everyone to see Jack and Karly for the beautiful people they are. And I know I’ve tried my best to instill those values in them.

    I can only imagine the frustration of always being associated with/labeled by ONE piece of your puzzle…and I think it is a wonderful gift to instead see someone in her entirety.
    julie gardner recently posted..Today call me rooted

  29. says

    This is perfection. Oh, what a world it would be if we could ALL see people for their deep down souls and not what they appear to be on the outside. I love this. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    love & light!
    Tahnie recently posted..hoping for a miracle

  30. says

    So lovely Jessica …

    When my oldest was only two, we were at Gymboree and a little girl had a huge scar on her face and no child would go near her. We arrived late, and my oldest walked into the circle. She looked around to find somewhere to sit and she spotted the little girl. She stared, I willed her to sit. Then she walked over, lightly touched her face and kissed her scar, she looked her in her eyes and softly spoke ‘boo boo’ … I have never been more proud.

    Kind and pure of heart – our girls are both that and more …
    By Word of Mouth Musings recently posted..Niche like Quiche

    • Jessica says

      Oh my gosh, what a moment. That gave me chills. Don\’t you love when our children amaze us with their kindness?

  31. says

    You got me, Jessica. This one was really touching. I think hanging out with all you women is turning me into a big ball of emotions. I’m not used to this. How do you all handle these “feelings” 24/7?

    Seriously, this was beautiful. I was totally thinking of John while reading this. He wouldn’t have mention the wheelchair either.

    Very nice.

    mark recently posted..Just the two of us

    • Jessica says

      Thanks Leighann, it is the things like this that make me feel lucky to have the experience of being her mom.

    • Jessica says

      Wouldn\’t it be great if all teens saw each other this way? High school would be so much easier for all of them.

    • Jessica says

      I know there are days that it is hard to see the good stuff Varda, lots of them. This is one of the gifts that I have always admired in our kids though.