No One Saw a Thing

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  1. I am a 31-year-old woman on the mild end of the autistic spectrum. I still sniff people. I sniff friends. I sniff coworkers (who know I’m autistic). But now I ask first.

    I’m very glad that you found an accepting school for your son where he’s making friends and people don’t shame him for his “quirks.” I wish my parents had done the same for me. Society at large focuses far too much on forcing non-neurotypical people (I include people with other neurological differences, like ADD, here, as well as people on the autistic spectrum) to fit into the little box that defines “normal” behavior, and often doesn’t recognize our strengths. I hope that Joshua’s parents told him that it’s not ok to beat someone up just because they sniff you or are otherwise “weird”– society needs to accommodate us as well as forcing us to accommodate society.

    It sounds like your son is very olfactory-oriented and probably has a superior sense of smell. This can be a useful thing. For example, I can tell when my partner is dehydrated, coming down with something, or her hormone levels are off, just by sniffing her. (This is important, because she has several chronic health conditions.) It can also be a positive thing in other ways. My “dog nose” enables me to appreciate a world of sensory experience that most people never get to see.

    This article deeply moved me. I believe you are an excellent father.

  2. Mark Greene says:

    A powerful compelling story. Thank you.

  3. Winston says:

    i think i am dealing with a very similar situation minus the scuffed up part. my son is extremely intelligent at 7 yrs old. has amazed us all with his photogenic memory, interest in learning and teaching us about dinosaurs and science, sees things from a very mature perspective that he’s deffinetely not been taught.. i could say that if he took up chess, he’d be one of those oddities. the problem is that emotionally i can’t teach him chess. he wouldn’t make it through the first instruction without so much frustration and disappointment in himself for not being the best instantly, that he would start a huge battle with me and storm off. I found out halfway through this past school year that my child was so nervous and had so much anxiety in his “kindergarten classroom” that he was throwing up every day. Several times a day. My 7 year old throwing up everyday in front of 23 kids. I immediately attacked the school, teacher, my wife, everyone. how could they not tell us this was going on. They assumed that my son had been telling us about his tough days they said. We addressed the need for the school system to help, as this seemed to be a school related, social issue. Well that was a mistake. My son is in the top 3 in his class due to his advanced vocab, reading and writing skills, and math. The school told us that they don’t intervene until a child is failing. We are now going through some elaborate testing, and contimplating a more nurturing school environment. My son has now also been diagnosed with a chromosome 3 micro deletion. I am at a loss, but hoping that the test results and plan of action going forward help us to deal with this. i hope that there is light at the end of this journey. This was a great article, on so many levels for me, despite your challenges. Thank you for sharing and am open to any advice or things you learned through your situation.

  4. Thank you for your article. I have a 28-year-old daughter who is autistic, has Asperger’s and is mildly mentally handicapped. I write two blogs about or journey of 20+ years and I am in the middle of writing a book about her. It is titled, “Not Different Enough.” She came home fro a very frustrating day at school many years ago and said, “Kids are mean to me because they don’t know there is anything wrong. They just think I’m wierd! I guess I’m not different enough.” She has been through many trials over the years…supposed friends who held her captive, raped and exploited her, etc. She has seen a therapist and she maintains a wonderful, forgiving spirit. We still struggle some days, but we are always moving forward. Visit the blog, if you have time. My goal is not to give ‘cures’ or recipes; only to help others who are traveling the same road


  5. It took me a minute to refocus my eyes after reading this. I’ll admit they welled up a bit. My son; who is 11, was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s. It’s a constant struggle to not only educate the school and students that interact with him, but to also learn as a parent how to deal with his different outlook on life. Some days I feel that I’m a champion and others times I’m reminded how far off the mark I really am. One thing I can always count on though is that my son is always there to tell me which side of the fence I’ve landed on.

    For all intents and purposes, he is “normal” in the traditional sense. But spend time with him. See his little tics and quirks. Notice the way he analyzes things or how he sees things in blacks and whites….no room for grey. Spend that time with him and see the amazing boy beneath the surface who just desperately wants to fit in….to have friends….to be picked first for the team. As an adult, I’ve gained a much better appreciation for what makes him so special. But kids can be so cruel. “He looks normal. He’s not ‘retarded’ (I hate the use of that word for the record), so he must be a freak.”

    If only they could see the bigger picture. Until that day arrives, I just have to ensure I’m the best Dad I can be to him and help him make his way through this world.

  6. Very compelling Jeffrey. I’m sure it had to be brutal to write, but thank you for painting this for us.

  7. Worried friend says:

    I am desperately looking for advice. Our dear friends and neighbors are the “before” parents in this moving article. Their 12-yr son, who we love, has many “quirks” including not being able to keep his hands to himself and respect others’ personal space. He also says things that are insulting to other children, and always smiles while he acts and speaks inappropriately because he doesn’t understand that what he is doing is inappropriate. When the other children in the neighborhood or school no longer want to be around him, the parents label them as “mean kids” or “bullies”. Several physical incidences have happened both instigated by others and by this boy, and they will not accept that their son has done anything or that their son’s behavior provokes these young kids past their point of control. How can we reach out to his father in a way that he will be open to seeing things as Jeffrey does in his article? This is causing so much pain to our friend’s son and to our kids who will no longer at with him, and to the other good children in the neighborhood and at school that his parents are blaming everything on. Help.

    • Carrie Anderson says:

      Worried Friend: You can’t make the parents see what they refuse to see. But it wouldn’t hurt to mention it casually. Someone mentioned it to me after I’d already started taking steps to figure out why my son was “quirky” and “weird” and “just like me.” It helped to know I wasn’t the only one suspecting something more. (And yes, I am on the spectrum, too.)

  8. Thanks. Beautiful story. My ex-stepson was so much like that. I want to know what happened to Joshua. I just hope his parents finished your sentence “That’s still no reason to…” and backed it up with a little discipline.

  9. Carrie Anderson says:

    Awesome piece. I’m glad you finally have answers. Now, if you haven’t already, get to looking around at the myriad of ASD pages on FB and find your tribe. Welcome :)


  1. [...] No One Saw a Thing — There’s always one kid in the neighborhood everybody loves to torment; in Windsor Heights it was me. My short list of therapy-inducing childhood memories includes being stuffed into a sleeping bag and tied to a tree branch, being locked in a garage and pelted with bottle rockets, and being excluded from everything potentially fun, competitive, or criminal. I would laugh about it later, of course, when I managed to reach adulthood. But now I have a son of my own. [...]

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