Blogger Paddy-Jo Moran’s post Autism Myths and Misconceptions … Autism is Always Visible resonated with me on numerous levels. My waiting room is filled with children, some with Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, anxiety or Sensory Processing Disorder who look just like any group of typically developing children. However, when their behavior or speech patterns do not meet the expectations of those around them (teachers, neighbors, kids on the playground, the guy at the check-out counter) they and their parents are frequently met with castigating stares or pity, with observers eager to lay the blame on bad parenting, lack of discipline or spoiled-brat behavior. Even the parents of those children with invisible handicaps often find themselves playing the blame game, as on some level they too expect the same behavior from their child with special needs as they do from their neuro-typical children.
I believe that exposure and education are the most effective ways of effecting a non-judgmental attitude adjustment to support kids who appear to be typical, but suffer hidden challenges. The high profile of autism and ADHD in the media, the inclusion of children with special needs in public and private schools, daycare, after-school programs, organizations like the Friendship Circle and summer camps (kudos to Camp Morasha, for being the the first to host a Yachad program) are essential. But to be maximally effective, they need to be supplemented by explicit programming that focuses children and adults on an appreciation of the uniqueness of every individual.
With the advent of Muppets with autism and physical challenges, a musical about disability, friendship and kindness with cool Muppet-like characters, created by Nava R. Silton, autism and sensory friendly theme parks (Sesame Place was the first), sensory friendly hours in stores, sensory friendly clothing lines and the first model with Down syndrome society is making strides.