What One Mom Needs You To Understand About Her Autistic Son

"But he looks SO normal," they say.

This Mom Wants You To Understand About What Autism Really Is Stefanie Lane Sanders

I've had lots of people ask me, "What is autism?"

I usually say something clinical like, "It's a developmental disorder," but being that April is Autism Awareness Month, I think it's worth trying to explain what autism really is.

Autism is like brown and blue eyes, it comes in all different shades, shapes, and colors — and like, eye color, it doesn't define us. It's just part of who we are and what we are made up of and it all came together in our DNA.


Like snowflakes, it's a unique disorder and it doesn't affect any two people the same. There can be similarities, but it's not the same.

Autism is a unique and personal experience. I only know what it's like for our family and for me personally.

I've had people say "but he looks so normal." And, I'm always left with a strange expression on my face like, "What does that even mean?"

There are serial killers that look normal. Normal is just something that society has defined — but it's not a real definition.

In the autism world, we say "typical" vs. "non-typical."

My son, Jesse, doesn't do a lot of the things that "typical" 10-year-old boys do.


He's not potty trained. He can't hold a conversation or articulate his words. He can't ride a bike. He runs away.

I used to think ALL the time about ALL the things my son couldn't do. Now, I choose to focus on how far he's come rather than on how far he has to go.

He can swim. He can walk. He can run. He can smile. He laughs when he is happy and he cries when he is hurt. He has genuine likes and dislikes. He loves riding in the car, on the back of the tandem bike, taking baths and showers, eating Chex cereal and being read to.

Autism does not define him. Just like it would be no different if he had brown eyes instead of blue.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we are supposed to "light the world up blue."


Instead, I'm sharing the light of my world every day. This boy lights up the world in his own unique way.

In God's eyes he is perfect and he gave this amazing gift to me. I feel so blessed to be his mom.

WATCH: In this video, 23-year-old "Aspie" Elijah K, aka Just A Skinny Boy, shares 10 things you should know about autism spectrum disorders.