The Life Autistic: When You Think Someone Else’s Child is Autistic . . .


This question comes up a lot, and it’s a peril of knowledge:

“I think their kid might be autistic, but I don’t know what to say to them.”

My answers:

“I usually start with ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello.'”

“Do what I do – don’t say anything. Ever. For any reason.”

“You must be desperate to be asking me.”

This is a hard question.

Because you might be right, and their parents just might not know.

It’s hard not to intervene. To share and highlight where their child might be different. Where they could use understanding, support, people coming alongside.

It is the most well-meaning thing.

I don’t have a good answer.

I just have my own story.

Of course I feel I can spot other people’s children with autism right away. It sticks out, and even if it doesn’t, it sticks out to me.

I don’t have answers, so I do what I’ve learned to do best.


Just talk.

No one really cares if you’re the first to suggest “the A word.”

But they care if you care about the things they care about.

If you’ve got neurotypical kids, share your challenges.

Tell your stories. Ask for theirs.

The common ground is where the truth is sown.

You can bring the warmth.

The growth is on them.




The Life Autistic: Turning Scowls into Smiles


As a teenager, a lady named Melody always got onto my case for my generally dour, scowling disposition.

“Well hey there, smiley,” she’d tease.

I endured it, stoic and unmoved.

After all, I believed my stone-faced gravitas to be a strength.

I wasn’t “friendless,” I told myself. Nor was I lonely, no, I merely stood above the fray, in my own rarefied air, savoring not the shadows of Plato’s cave, but the enlightened tenets of introspection, culture, distantiating as a thoughtful young man, whose companion would be contemplation.

Also, I was thirteen years old, and an idiot.

At the time, I was aware my life and way of thinking was different, even if not quite defined as The Life Autistic.

If I couldn’t smile the way others did, I thought I could mold myself into some mysterious figure, whose intrigues would lead to curiosity or whatever.

I wanted to embrace a cold difference and try to find warmth.

But as much as I wanted to lean into my grave persona, I couldn’t undo the fact that I’m human in the end.

I began to smile back.

Just to do it.

To spite my dyspeptic soul and crack open to the sun.

There are times I think back to Melody. She didn’t have to bother cajoling me. After all, I was a glum, dour kid on the outside. A simple “Hello, Hunter” would have sufficed for her, as it does for many.

I don’t know what became of her.

Her health didn’t seem that great. She may have had a sister with spina bifida, as I remember learning about it from her. She would tear up when talking about the disease, how she was affected by it, where she’d campaign for awareness in small ways.

But she chose to smile.

Even at its hardest, I can choose a smile too.



The Life Autistic: More Like Trains than Trucks

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These days, everyone’s putting a premium on distinct set of skills.

Agile. Switch gears. Nimble. Agile, again. Pivots.

It’s all about how quickly you can de-commit to commitments, rather than being able to stay committed.

No wonder we have trouble.

I had a recent episode on The Life Autistic, where Mrs. H2 had to leave me with the kiddos to make it to a dental appointment.

In the middle of my workday.

I about snapped, even though:

  1. I had no issue
  2. It was on my calendar
  3. Told her it’d be alright
  4. My coworkers know I have kids
  5. My kids are fun
  6. It was on my calendar
  7. I’d said it was fine

More often than not, I can either start my day a little later or end it a little sooner.

But having to break work midday? I near imploded and it was bad. Mrs. H2 has to deal with an awful, awfully autistic person at times, and this was a time.

Here’s the deal:

We do really well for the heavy-duty, long-haul, arduous work.

Like a train.

We’re tough to stop, take a while to ramp up, and our ability to focus and commit is a strength.

Not everything needs to be able to pivot. Some things do.

But other items, tasks, works, and goals need an extraordinary commitment, to carry something heavy for a long time, to grind away and move heaven and earth.

We’re not like trucks, where we can tow and carry loads, while also pivoting, switching gears, and navigating more nimbly as needed.

I wish I could train myself completely otherwise on The Life Autistic, but:

Being a train means you can best stay on track.