Now Reading: Autism Parents Don’t Be Fooled by Friends’ Happy Family Pics, It’s All Smoke & Mirrors

Autism Parents Don’t Be Fooled by Friends’ Happy Family Pics, It’s All Smoke & Mirrors


My apologies to this family.  I don’t know who they are, they just popped up when I googled “perfect family pic” 🙂

(originally written & published on June 23, 2015)

I hear from lots of special-needs parents who sometimes complain about seeing their friends post pictures of their happy, typical kids on Facebook, especially in the summer and around the holidays.


All those smiling pics of communions and graduations and backyard barbecues. All your friends with typical kids seem to be having the time of their lives!


As a special-needs parent it makes you want to pull your hair out sometimes or unplug your computer and throw it out the window or disconnect from Facebook.


Well I’m here to tell you that those pics don’t tell the whole story.


Everybody on Facebook post only the best about themselves. That’s kind of why my page was so rare when I started it.  Nobody really complains or rants on Facebook about their lives. They rant about politics but nobody talks about or shows the insanity that’s going on in their household.

So while you’re friends with typical kids might seem happy in all those pics. Remember that those are the pics that they want to share with the world.


But in each of those households is probably some drama, or some issues.  Maybe not as big as your issues with your kids and your family but these issues are big for them.


Maybe that marriage isn’t as happy as it seems in the pics.


Maybe the kids aren’t the perfect angels that they appear to be or maybe they have underlying medical issues or behavior issues that you don’t know about and that the pics don’t show.


Now I’m not rooting for this. I want all my friends with typical families to have happy amazing perfect lives just like I’d want that for my special-needs parents to have happy amazing perfect lives.
I’m just letting you all know that those pics on Facebook most likely aren’t even close to showing reality.


And admit it you are guilty of that too. With pics of yourself and pics of your special needs kids.


Come on admit it you only pick the best profile pics of yourselves. When you’re all made up for a wedding. And the lighting is perfect and the camera is that just the right angle. That’s the reality you put up of yourself on Facebook but that’s not what you really look like.


And as far as your special needs kids?  Admit it you took 40 pictures of your asd kid at the playground and posted the one fleeting shot of him looking in the camera and sort of smiling.


So in that way you’re fooling the outside world as well.


And that’s okay.


Wifey is the master of that recently.


She’s been taking the king on day trips after school the past few weeks. To playgrounds, beaches, parks.


And she’ll whip out her iPhone and take 50 pictures of our son at each of these locations.


Then at night when he’s asleep she’ll settle in with her iPhone and pick the best eight or nine and crop them and use those fancy color features on FB. And she makes really really artsy looking pics that all her friends love.


And the King looks so peaceful and happy in almost all of those pics.


And I’ll admit it I was even fooled. I would look at those pics and think “look what a great time they’re having, look how happy my son is, I’m jealous, I wish I could be with them.”


And then a few weeks back I went with them to a park with a scenic overlook. And found out that her photo sessions were exhausting.


My son was still his typical autistic self. Holding his breath, doesn’t want to walk, wants to sit on the ground, pull blades of grass out, maybe nibble on a blade or two.


But Wifey kept snapping pics and singing songs and getting him to smile once in awhile.


Now I don’t want you to think that she drags him places he doesn’t want to be just to be a photographer. She drags him places to get him out of the house when the weather is nice and she tries to push him out of his comfort zone a little. And if she can get some artsy pics out of it, great, that’s fun for her.


But the park outing when I was with them was not in any way easy, it was no walk in the park 🙂


However the amazing pics she posted that night told a different story.


So for awhile she had me fooled and I’m sure she still has most of her friends fooled.


All this to say that it’s okay to post the best of the best pics on Facebook. We all do it. I do it on Autism Daddy sometimes too!  I post these artsy pics of me & my kid at a cool location like most recently the Highline in NYC


and people comment “wow it looks like he’s having a great time”


Well in reality, he had an ok time, but he almost grabbed a woman’s butt, and didn’t want to walk back cuz he was tired, and he was starving but wouldn’t eat the snacks we brought… but the pics didn’t tell you that story…


So we all do it!   It doesn’t mean our typical friends have perfect lives. And we all know we sure as heck don’t have perfect lives.


And even within our own home fool ourselves.


We have an Apple TV and sometimes we push photos to the Apple TV while music is playing. The king likes to bounce on the ball to the Beatles while watching photos of our vacations. And the pics that we put up are the highlights of our vacations. Out of thousand pictures that we took 🙂 we curated the best let’s say 60 and put them in an online album called “summer 2011” and there they play while the Beatles rock out. And looking at those pics gives us fond memories of those vacations because the pics we picked our all smiley happy moments.


But boy was the summer of 2011 rough. That was our summer of rage with multiple meltdowns per day, lots of aggressive behavior and very little sleep. But seeing the pictures give us fond memories of that summer.


And once again I think that is ok.


I think all this fooling of each other is totally okay but I think it’s only okay if we all realize it’s going on and are aware that it’s all just smoke & mirrors a lot of the time….


When you post great pics of your autistic kids and then two weeks later plead with your friends for some help are they going to be there? or are they going to think what is she complaining about her kid looks great & they’re having the time of their lives this summer.


So I guess I’m saying that maybe we should all post some reality every once in a while.


So for you typical parents maybe post a pic of your house in disarray and maybe video of your kid striking out at the ball game every once in a while so us special-needs parents feel a little better about ourselves.



And special-needs parents every once in a while post a bit of what your special needs reality is. Whether that’s a pic of the bruise you got from your kid head butting you or a quick video of a meltdown in a store…just so your typical friends have a reminder once in a while that things in your life aren’t as rosy  as you paint them on Facebook. This way maybe when you ask for help you’ll get the help you need.


And all parents, typical & special needs, every once in a while post a profile pic of yourself looking the way you normally look, ladies wearing yoga pants with a big pimple & without make up.


And men in your ratty shorts and ripped tshirt.


Now that’s the reality I want to see.



Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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13 People Replies to “Autism Parents Don’t Be Fooled by Friends’ Happy Family Pics, It’s All Smoke & Mirrors”

  1. Thank you so much for this post. It's enlightened me. I always knew people who have pictures of themselves at their most made-up and perfect makes people feel less satisfied with their own bodies.. but I never thought that would be the same for family pictures.

    I'll make an effort to post pictures of my child being a child, in their own way, rather than encouraging her to look at me and smile. Thank you again for calling out the truth that it's important every parent knows. Regardless of how our individual child's needs are- we all struggle and we should do our best to reassure others rather than build self-conciousness and envy <3

  2. OMG I LOVE this post! I like to keep it real too. I never complain about others' perfect pictures; we never get to see the whole picture and I'm OK with that. But I do like your idea that everyone post a pic of reality once in a while… though I'd struggle as that would mostly involve some nudity (my ASD girl, not me!!!) 😉

  3. Anonymous

    Are you washing dishes? Lmao!

  4. Sarai

    ETA $5K, not $5

  5. Sarai

    There is a problem with privacy and the internet that dictates what I put out there, not because I want everyone to think my life is perfect.

    My children are not perfect. My spouse is not perfect. I certainly am not perfect………but I post charming pictures and captions to the 140 people on my feed because I do not want to air my dirty laundry to 140 people. If I have a 12 year old daughter, and we are experiencing massive girl drama, and she is a week behind in math, and getting a D at midterm, I am going to share this my BFFs that have 12 year girls that can relate, and give me support, and advice, not humiliate my child by telling 140 people unnecessarily. On the other hand, six years later when she graduates from high school with honors and we have overcome, you can bet that picture of her in her gown draped in chords smiling a smile we paid $5 for at the orthodontist is going up for all to see, along with a darling picture of her and her boyfriend heading off to senior prom. It's not about bragging, it is about my children's privacy, and maintaining a good relationship with them. My real friends know the real score.

  6. Anonymous

    Fantastic article. Many thanks!

  7. Thank you for the reminder! As a single parent to a 10 year old on the spectrum, I have also found that NOT being inclined (or capable for that matter) to share all of those glorious moments; be they staged or spontaneous, is NOT so horrible and doesn't make me any less the loving and dedicated parent. Speaking only for myself here, if I were constantly documenting our daily lives , I would be a bit too preoccupied to actually be present or even enjoy it very much.. When I was a younger mom, I used to think that I was lazy in that regard… but nowadays, I view it as entirely practical. *-)

  8. Anonymous

    As an aside, I purchased a NIKON D3200 and the quality of pics are amazing! Wish I'd bought one years ago…..They have a suttle kind of thing that allows you to rapidly take about 20 pics at once! Its helped me get the right one much quicker than the Iphone!
    I'm fed up looking at 'happy clappy' pics of kids too! Good article…

  9. Asher

    Posting the good stuff is an attempt at gratitude, which is essential for keeping hope alive. The more we practice it the more it arrives quietly on our lives and we say out loud "praise the lord" and the blessings accumulate in our nervous system and brain and back into our family and friends. All this is scientifically evidenced.
    Also there is a legacy feature to the posts so that when our kids look back to see who they are they can have a sense of love and peace about what they see. Further bringing blessing into their self identity.
    Sure be ' real' but think about what it may make them feel.

  10. Anonymous

    Good insight

  11. I LOVE YOU…because your REAL just like me…I may get in trouble for posting OFF THE CUFF sometimes…but I always keep it real…lol. I always tell NT kids parents they have no clue about the struggles we face with our kids…and AUTISM AWARENESS begins with TRANSPARENCY into our daily lifes. GOD BLESS YOU.

  12. Anonymous

    Only last week I had a wine and a cry to my brother and admitted i felt jealous when I see the "Perfect family" pictures he and his wife post.( Don't get me wrong he deserves all the happiness in the world.) He said to me " These are the pictures we post to remind us the hard work is worth it!"
    Your post is perfectly timed. Cheers.

  13. Loved this article. You are so correct. That is why my daughter's blog puts it out there straight about the reality of living with severe autism. It is .. Amazingly, as you said, a lot of her pictures (or most of them) depict my grandsons as normal children playing and seemingly very "typical", but the reality is far from it! Her life is very hard and many, many times it takes at least 50 attempts to get one shot of Trenton looking at the camera or up at all!!!