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My father was born in Amsterdam in a highly religious family. He was in Amsterdam, and he went into hiding right near where Anne Frank was. He was a theoretical physicist and the last Jew to get a Ph.D. in Amsterdam.
I feel that as long as you're honest, you have the opportunity to grow. It's when you shut down, go into denial, and try to start hiding things from yourself and others, that's when you lock in certain behaviors and attitudes that keep you stuck.
The Philippines is a country in which a man of morals can't be president, in which a politician who hasn't been linked to any wrongdoing isn't assumed to be honest, but merely better at hiding his corruption.
I think the shyness one feels in childhood is often overcome with time. There are children who hide behind their parents' legs, but you don't see grown-ups hiding behind people. It just doesn't happen. I mean, not that often. People develop social skills over time.
Don't think that there's a different, better child 'hiding' behind the autism. This is your child. Love the child in front of you. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks, and improve his weaknesses, the way you would with any child. You may have to work harder on some of this, but that's the goal.