EASTER SEALS MIDWEST

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The final trip looms near

9 days; that's all that is between me and my final trip of The Aspie Traveler. The canvas these trips have created for my words has me convinced this will be a series so in a way this isn't the final trip so to speak. However, it is the final one of this first book and that's a thing; how often does one get to fully complete a book? The sense of completion is going to be immense! There's a problem with this trip though and that is I'm not sure how much it's going to be bloggable. You can read the previous trips on my blog but there's also an overarching plot thread that has become so intertwined with the final trip I don't know, as a writer, if I'm going to be able to distinguish between the two. I'm sure I'll write something for my blog, but it might not be to the length of he previous trips. I do, in a way, also need to give you a reason to buy the full book when it gets published, don't I?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Half Million Thanks

If you take a look at the counter on the right hand bar (if you're on the desktop version) and scroll down you'll see I reached a major milestone as this blog has been read 500,000 times. 

THANK YOU!!!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Are Minecraft's Days Numbered?


In my presentation I mention what the top seven things Kansas could be for a person on the autism spectrum. Before I get to those I’ll remind you my definition of Kansas as it isn’t the state but that activity or interest that a person on the autism spectrum is going to talk about or do to the exclusion of any or everything else. Now also remember that if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism. Okay, since that’s out of the way here’s what’s been the top seven…

7. Military/airplanes

6. Weather

5. Movies

4. Trains

3. Dinosaurs

2. LEGOs

1. Videogames, specifically Minecraft

Now here’s the thing; I’ve been saying for almost three years that Minecraft is clearly number one by several galaxies and that nothing will ever come close to the top spot. However, there’s a rival now with this new thing called Pokemon Go. Pokemon has always been popular but now it’s coming on strong. I don’t know a thing about what Pokemon Go is so I’ll ask you, will it dethrone Minecraft as the #1 Kansas? Either on here or on my Facebook page let me know and also fill me in on this Pokemon Go thing… Is it a good thing?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Reason I Wrote


It’s been three presentations in a row I’ve been asked, “Why did you write?” so I’m taking that as a sign that it needs to be blogged about.

When I answer this question I start by stating that there was no noble cause in the genesis of my writing. I didn’t seek out a book and I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m an author by accident. In fact, writing was one of my least favorite things in the entire world to do. However, I got my Asperger’s diagnosis in December of 2003 and there wasn’t much information about it back then like there is now. My doctor didn’t know what to make of it and told me, “Good luck” so I had to look it up on the internet where I found the worst information possible and sadly I believed it. At the same time my racing career was falling apart and I lost the only girlfriend I had ever had up to that point. My life, despite the answers I finally had as to why I am the way I am, was in shambles and quickly getting worse.

There was a period of hideous stagnation as I stayed in a state of supreme depression for 15 months. The ill-feelings toward myself and the misunderstanding the world had about Asperger’s grew and grew and I had no outlet except to stay silent and feel miserable. This went on until one evening in February 2005, just past midnight, I decided I had to write about the relationship that fell apart but not just write about the relationship in a narrative but write about the mechanics in play. If anything I was writing as a way to justify my actions and to explain to her should she ever read it which I doubt she would but I had to get the words out.

I ended the last paragraph with a major phrase of, “get the words out”. I always had emotions but lacked the ability to fully express them. If you asked me anything remotely close to requiring an emotional response you’d get a generic answer of, “I don’t know.” Did I know? Most of the time yes, sometimes I truly didn’t know, but when I knew I still was unable to put it into words and get over the fear of speaking about emotions. This is what writing allowed me to do; it bypassed the need to process and bypassed the instant reaction from the person I was speaking to.

The weeks went on and I started coming up with concepts. This was shocking to me as I never had come up with something new much less coming up with a way to describe the mechanics behind the reasons why I do what I do but these concepts, be it Kansas or Film Theory or Alias, would just all of a sudden appear in my head. There was no conscious thought to these concepts and there was nothing one second and the next BAM! There was a concept and then I’d rush to the computer to write a chapter.

Again, through the whole book writing process, I wasn’t intending on any accolades or anything to come of it as I was writing as a way to express myself. I said there was nothing noble in it but then, perhaps, that’s what in the end makes this noble because I wasn’t seeking out a job, a career, or a passion but a way for someone, anyone, to understand me. I felt alone, isolated, and misunderstood and I wanted above anything else for just an ounce more of understanding.

To this day I still write from that same voice; that voice of wanting understanding. Writing now is different than it was when I began in 2005 and I know things in my style have changed from my blog posts in 2010 to today. The voice though… the voice is still the same and maybe it isn’t all that unique because everyone probably has that voice that they had when they were younger seeing the big world outside and fearing it; fearing being misunderstood; fearing not fitting in and most of all fearing a life of solitude wanting nothing more than to be a part of the world. Maybe most lose that part but I still feel it, I still have those fears and that’s why I continue to write because even with the million or so words I’ve written across all the things I’ve done the goal is still the same, the fears are the same, and this is still the best way to express who I am and why I am.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What If...

I was in another person's office at Easterseals Midwest and this blog post was on the wall. It seemed familiar to me but I couldn't place it so I asked, "who wrote this?" to find out it was myself. I was astounded and knew I had to repost this...

What if we lived in a world where there was full autism awareness and understanding? How much fuller would lives on and off the autism spectrum be?

What if we lived in a world where the autism spectrum is misunderstood and feared? How many challenges would be faced by those on and off the spectrum that wouldn't have to be?

What if we lived in a world where everyone on the autism spectrum got the services they needed? How many more people would be able to be just a little bit more self-sufficient and have more confidence?

What if we lived in a world where everyone on the autism spectrum fell through the cracks? How many more people would be unable to be self-sufficient and will eternally be dependant on everyone else?

What if we lived in a world where the words autism and Asperger's doesn't have a stigma associated with it? Would this better the awareness and understanding?

What if we lived in a world where the words autism and Asperger's will forever be stigmatized? Would this lead to more and more prejudice of the autism spectrum?

What if we lived in a world where teachers are made fully aware of Asperger's and are better equipped to give those students the education they need? How much easier would the education system be for students and teachers? What future revolutionary thinkers would make it out of the school system equipped for the world and life ahead full of hope?

What if we lived in a world where teachers were not given the resources they need to understand Asperger's? How much harder would it be for students and teachers? How much potential would be lost as those on the autism spectrum fall into the fail set and give up and lose hope?

What if we lived in a world that understood that, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism"? Would this help all the points made above? Would this decrease the stigma and misunderstandings? Would this make the media give a better portrayal of autism than using the phrase, "all people with autism..."?

What if we lived in a world that had no understanding of, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism? Would this help all the points above? Would this increase the stigma and misunderstandings? Would this give the media more power to state confidently that, "All people with autism..."?

What if you could make a difference?
What if you couldn't make a difference?

(Writer's note: The worlds above are starkly different but by just using slight changes of words. One little change of one word created a completely different world. Look at the last two sentences, just one change of word changes the world from hopeful to hopeless, but that's how I see awareness. Each single person we reach can, for them, be the difference between one of the paragraphs and the opposite and that difference, well, I think you know how big of a difference that would be.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Asperger's and The Power of Support


I wanted to start this post by using the word success story but that makes this too grand because success is relative and in the eye of the beholder so instead I’m going to talk about growth because I believe that is the goal of not just people on the autism spectrum but every person that has lived. That being said, and this has been an echoing theme for the past year or so on my blog, I have to say there are many people in the lives of those on the spectrum that will do amazing things and yet they may never see the growth or the person that they will become. Parents though, they will see and I got to share an amazing experience with my dad just a few days ago.

For the USAC Battle at the Brickyard all the drivers got to do a lap around the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As excited as the kids were to take to the most famous racetrack in the world I was probably equally as excited to climb back up into the stand I was in just less than two months ago when I got to flag a day of Indy 500 practice. That was a crowning achievement in my life two months ago but that day I was alone. The support I received from all my teachers and family wasn’t really shared that day unless one happened to be watching the live stream of practice that day and even then you had to have known about it via social media. My dad was watching but he wasn’t there, however two days ago he was there and the experience in the stand would be shared.

We’d been up there before back in 2012 when I did a video blog from up there the day before the Indy 500 when I thanked Duane Sweeney for planting some major seeds that has helped me become who I am. On that day it was neat being in the stand with my dad but it wasn’t really, say, special as it would be like walking onto a football field before the Super Bowl without having any true connection to it. Now though, two days ago, I had been a part of the experience of the stand and as we climbed up the ladder I had to fight back tears. Yes, I’ll admit it, I did because I was getting to share this most sacred spot of my life with the person that has been the biggest support in my life. True, it wasn’t on a day where Indycars would be going 230+mph under the stand (although there would be over 230 cars) but the space was the same and Indy has an aura to it where days and events are timeless.

The sun reflecting off the pagoda was much like the end of practice back in May and I pointed out all the positions to my dad where timing and scoring is located and other tidbits of info. After that I tried not to talk all that much because I wanted to just soak in these moments with my dad. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back in that stand and I most certainly don’t know if my dad will ever be up there again with me so this was a true culmination of every bit of work, drama, heartache, hardship, high, and low that saw me get to that point.

Could a person call this the happy ending of a success story? Perhaps, but I don’t want it to be seen that way because a success story washes over the true work that takes place incrementally because it isn’t about a sudden life changing win like winning the lottery. Instead, it is a bunch of small growths that leads to the next bit of growth that might see a giant leap of growth followed up by more small growths and some people, like parents, are going to have a major hand in it while there will be a multitude of supporting cast members but it’s a process that needs to work in tandem to see the fullest amount of human potential realized.

The cars went around and did their lap and I did the longest double checkered in perhaps history at about 10 minutes but when it was over I lingered for a few seconds longer than one would expect, but for myself this was a silent celebration with my dad. He’ll know now what it means after reading this, but for other success, I mean growth stories out there I assure you there’s a cast of people that helped. You’ve read my story but for the teachers that are reading this, and paras, and to you the parents I hope you realize things are a process, there is hope (I used to tell my dad every day that there, “no hope”) and growth can and will happen and is a wonderful thing that helps pave the path towards whatever one’s definition is of a success story.
 
 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Asperger’s, Patience, and The Expansion of Kansas


So there I was yesterday standing in front of 200+ kids at the USAC Battle at the Brickyard and I was given the task of giving the driver’s meetings. The kids ranged from 5 to 16 and it was my duty to tell them the start/restart procedures and go over various other racing related things that were important to know for this weekend and I must say I stood up there without fear or any hesitancy. Fear? Hesitancy? Yes! It’s easy for me to present to student bodies about the autism spectrum but I hadn’t given a true driver’s meeting in seven years but times change, progress is made, and it’s this progress that is the topic of today’s blog.

I wish you could’ve seen it. Many of you have seen me present, or saw my Asperger Insights series (season two is scheduled to be filmed the 19th!) and I am more than able to speak to a group or a camera, but I wish you could’ve seen my first driver’s meeting because it was a train wreck wrapped up in abject failure wrapped up in a flaming heap of rubble. The only redeeming thing about it was that I flagged so well after it people forgot my timid nature, my indecisiveness, and my clear lack of public speaking skills. That was in 2006 and yes times do change. Thankfully no one said anything snide or rude and at the next race I was a bit more able then a bit more and by my second season I sounded like a seasoned pro. That’s the thing and this is the essence of my story and that is things don’t happen instantly. What you see now, and what you’re reading now, didn’t just happen overnight. This is important because for growth there’s a great deal of hard work that needs to be put in, but at the same time if it’s done properly things may work better than not.

Better than not? This brings us to the last bit of my title and that is the expansion of Kansas. I’ve said this story many times but it fits so well in so many scenarios. I hated school as I was bored and uninterested in most topics unless it had to do with the weather or auto racing. Not too many subjects in 2nd grade include those but my 2nd grade teacher found a way. I used to go on and on about the previous week’s races and as the week progressed I’d talk about what was coming up and I could recite drivers and locations but the things with locations were that they meant nothing to me outside of the fact that it was a track someplace somewhere. Then, near the end of the school year, my teacher asked where F1 was racing and I said, “Silverstone” to which she promptly followed up with, “Where is Silverstone?” I had to think about it as I never had considered it was an actual place somewhere other than just a plot of land with twists and turns made of pavement. I thought about it and responded with, “England” and she immediately said, “Where is England?” and in that moment my love of learning about places, culture, and the world in general was born. Thinking about this today I realized The Aspie Traveler never would’ve happened without her question and I doubt I’d ever have become a writer because it was in her question my curious nature about things began. In essence, she took Kansas and exponentially slammed the borders outward to which to this day they continue to expand.

This should be the goal; we on the autism spectrum can get stuck in our Kansas but if utilized properly it may turn out to be a good thing. I must reiterate that, “if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism” because some individual’s Kansas may be rather difficult to expand, but if something is relatively broad in nature, such as auto racing, there are many paths one may take in expanding the borders of Kansas.

I think back to that day in 2nd grade and wish my teacher could know the impact she had. That’s the one thing that saddens me greatly when I speak to teachers and that is that they can have the most tremendous of impacts and never get to see the finished product. This weekend I’m flagging on the most hallowed grounds in motorsports and the largest USAC .25 race in history and looking back, as I said, this didn’t just happen overnight. I’m learning more and more about progression, patience, and how things in the past may take a long time before they show just what type of impact they’ll have. Take that driver’s meeting in 2006; had that not occurred I wouldn’t have known I could speak in front of a group and my ability to present to all the audiences I have wouldn’t have happened. It can be frustrating wanting everything to become better and to become perfect all at once, but things take time and if that time is spent within Kansas and those borders get pushed outward then perhaps the rate of growth may just pick up. It’s awesome that my 2nd grade teacher asked about racing because my entire life has been shaped on the concept of a race. Sure, I’ll be flying the colors of racing tomorrow but my race also includes, well, you’re reading it right now. Every ounce of info and insight may prove vital to one or more of you out there. Each bit of insight can lead to an, “ah ha!” moment and I feel there is nothing but hope for us out there ONLY if there is understanding and I’m still learning about myself and more about the spectrum so whereas most races have a predetermined distance to the finish my race doesn’t have that but wherever and whenever the finish I can assure you I’ll be full throttle on my way there because every day is sooner than tomorrow and even the smallest of questions, such as a track in England, can have a life-long impact.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My Words From the First Brickyard

The awesome thing about my blog is that many stories become relevant later. Today marks the start of my 7th USAC .25 Battle at the Brickyard and what a journey it's been! I think back to the post you're about to read, and the angst and worry I had as I had NEVER FLAGGED AN OVAL EVENT, and how much I've grown along the national circuit over seven years. I assure you I wouldn't have half the presenting skills nor the social skills that I have if not for the gamble the USAC director at the time took on this strictly karting flagman at the time so to all those at USAC that have made my journey awesome I thank you. Here now is the post from my first day which was also in the midst of a social experiment I did involving sunglasses...


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 4: Sunrise at the Brickyard and Sunset at the Speedrome

Wow! What a day! I am thoroughly exhausted, but I must tell you how my day went, and it started early.

My alarm went off at 5:27AM and before the clock hit 5:50 I was out the door. I was told to be there by 8, but this is an event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I was going to make sure I got there early to soak it all in.

The Mopar Point .25 series Battle at the Brickyard started today and it runs through Saturday. I had no idea what to expect in terms of the track or where it was on the grounds. As I drove down Meridian Street and pulled onto 16th I had memories of all the Indy 500's I had been to. Today traffic was empty unlike the 500, but for me the anticipation of the event was all the same.

The sun was just breaking as I saw the track on my right and as I neared I slowed down and pulled into the tunnel. I have been under than tunnel many times, but it was different. I wasn't a spectator at the world's greatest race course, but rather I was the starter for an event on the grounds. To say I got butterflies would undersell the experience for me. Goosebumps and chills were just the start of it, but the final emotion as I pulled out of the tunnel was elation; pure elation! What added to the elation was the almost cinematic scenery as the sun was now coming up and the mist from the grass in the infield golf course made it seem as if this moment was simply made to be.

I don't care what event it is, if it is at IMS it is a big event. The track was established in 1909 and legends have been made there, and who knows, perhaps one of the kids racing this weekend is destined to carve out their legend on the big track someday.

My sunglasses experiment was somewhat hard to do during the event because I am rather isolated on track, but the few encounters I had still showed that my reflex to avoid eye contact is there, but my reaction time to re-establish eye contact is getting faster.

My day on track was long and hot. I am not the world's best sunscreen applier (I HATE sunscreen, it's so gritty and so yucky) and I have the burns to prove it right now. It was a great time however and I enjoyed flagging an oval event for the first time.

I could talk about racing all day, but my day in terms of sunglasses experiment took a great turn as I was told to go the Indianapolis Speedrome for tonight's Regional midget and Ford Focus midget series race.

I would not be in the flag stand and once again, like my experience at Tri-City speedway (see story at http://lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com/2010/06/my-journey-home.html) I didn't know what to do exactly. Here's where everything gets interesting and I am open to suggestions as to why this was. During the time I did not have direction I was not in my positional warfare. Was it that I was just too tired to care? Or, was it that I knew no one would know I didn't know what I should be doing because of the sunglasses? I need to think about this one some more.

What I do know is walking to a group of two or more people was easier than before. I didn't have to worry about that initial eye contact. I say in my presentations that I am better in reacting to a conversation that initiating. That being so eye contact seems to be a needed skill to make that initial contact, but with sunglasses that element is taken out of the equation.

I hope someone out there is proud of me when I say I made, "small talk" today. On several occasions I was able to just make witty remarks or other small talky like comments and I felt fluid in it. My mind was able to focus on what to say easier than normal, and I do think it was because I didn't have to worry about the eye contact.

The night flew by and eventually the sun went down. I did find a position within the USAC team and I was opening and closing the track gate outside of turn one. As it became dark the sunglasses had to come off and my normal glasses came on. This is when things get interesting.

As the feature races concluded and the winning cars were pushed through my gate I had the same reflex of avoiding eye contact, but I instantly re-established it forgetting that I no longer had my reflective shields known more commonly as sunglasses. Just in 4 days of use I already have noticed that eye contact, after the initial reflex, was easier.

After I realized a few times that the shields were down it did become hard again, but there is hope because I was able to establish it. Now I wonder if 26 more days of this will reduce that issue after the initial reflex. Will it, or won't it? Only time will tell.

So that was my day. I am burned and have grease all over my arms so I think it best to take care of myself and then get some much needed sleep. I need to be at the track by 7:30 so maybe I can convince myself I don't need to be an hour early. In any event I will post tomorrow, and once again in will be a late post as will, probably, most of my posts until Sunday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Color in Gray



This is the second time I’ve used the checkered flag as an example and in the previous post I talked about the black and white thinking of a person on the autism spectrum, meaning we may be all one or all the other and understanding the gray areas of life may be difficult. The thing called the “gray area” has always troubled me though because I remember an optical illusion thing once that had black squares with white borders and if you looked at it there would slowly appear to be gray between the black and white. Yes, I’m sort of taking this “gray area” thing to a literal level, but to simply say gray area isn’t giving justice to the difficulty a person may have in handling this area.


There’s more color than just gray. To say gray is to simply say the area between absolutes, and most people not on the autism spectrum can operate in this zone. However, take this image as a visual example of what a gray area is like for me.






In seeing that flag could you easily take your eyes of the red? It was large, obtrusive, and somewhat random but try as you might I doubt you could easily ignore the red blotch on what would otherwise be a perfectly good image of a checkered flag. This is what the gray area is like for me; it isn’t just a small blend of black and white melded together but instead is a big blotch that can’t be ignored no matter how hard I might try.


This is the struggle; most people can operate in the gray area and be able to ignore it or understand it. What is a gray area? One thing I struggled and still do is the needi of everything to be right. I’d correct my parents, teachers, and classmates on any stat that was stated incorrectly. Was this right to do? If looking at the appropriateness of it most would say no, but if one is operating in a world of absolutes, of needing everything to be right, then the understanding of this bizarre color within the gray isn’t going to be understood, just like there really is no comprehending the pattern that’s going on in this checkered flag.


I hope this concept here makes sense because as I’ve thought about it the simple stating of gray areas just isn’t enough because it’s much more vibrant, distracting, and frustrating than just the merging of two colors. It’s actually much more than that as it has the makings to get us hung up on the subject as we try and understand something that isn’t concrete and isn’t clear cut. With things that are concretely stated there’s security and safety because there’s order, but in the wildly frantic and much more colorful world of the gray area there’s chaos that reigns supreme and most have the ability to make sense of it and navigate, but for us on the autism spectrum that area turns into the image I’ve shared. So the next time you may experience a gray area moment with a person on the autism spectrum it isn’t simply the mysterious place between two absolutes, but is instead a random, scary, frantic, hectic, and fear inducing place that we want to understand but just can’t make sense of it with the ease that others have.