I was in an airport restaurant when I saw a very young man with a prosthetic foot and two prosthetic hands drop a bottle of juice. Visible shaken, he told the cashier "Sorry, Sorry. I'll pay for it" while he fumbled to clean up the mess. As I got up to help, I said to my friend "Wow, I wonder what happened. I'm going to ask him". My friend looked at me in horror, shaking his head "No don't!". I got up, helped and asked. At first he seemed startled by the assistance, then he looked at me and calmed him. He began to talk, he followed me and sat at our table. He shared that on 911 he and his other underage buddies were so upset, they got drunk and he ended up walking on train tracks where he was hit by a train and lost his limbs. He thanked me for asking as we all went off to catch our planes.
Before Autism entered my world, when I would see or meet a person with an unusual illness, or a bad scar, prostetic limbs, a disability my first reaction was "I can't talk to them". I may make them feel bad, by bringing attention to them. If the person was a stranger in a public place I acted as if I didn't see them. If I couldn't walk away, I'd pretend not to look, all the while I talked about everything except what I was wondering about. Duh...as if the situation I had focused my attention on, was missed by the person living with it, because I didn't say anything!!! I thought that I knew how the person would feel talking about it. I never considered that by not asking, I wasn't giving them a choice, the same choice to talk that I would give any other human being. The young man with prosthetic limbs knew people were staring and wondering what happened and he knew they choose to ignore him, make him invisible, and I could see him become more self conscious as he fumbled to pick up broken glass with his claws.
We get ignored routinely, and it's not just because people are mean, or judgmental, they are curious, they don't know what to say. So instead they stare, and when I catch them, they quickly turn away. I can't speak for everyone only me. I'm a person, just like everyone else and pretending we are invisible, only makes me feel worst, isolated, less accepted and more self conscious. I can see the questions in your eyes and I want to say "YES!!! I SEE IT TOO....WHO CAN'T SEE IT. MY KIDS DIFFERENT". IF IT LOOKS LIKE WE NEED HELP, OFFER. IF I DON'T WANT YOUR HELP OR CAN'T USE IT, I WILL LET YOU KNOW AND I WILL APPRECIATE YOU FOR ASKING. WHEN YOU CATCH MY EYE'S SMILE, OR JUST DON'T PRETEND YOU DIDN'T SEE ME. TALK TO ME, ASK YOUR QUESTIONS, ACKNOWLEDGE US LIKE YOU WOULD ANYONE ELSE... it's really okay.