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Monday, October 25, 2010

Presenting to Teachers

My career in public speaking began 11 months ago when I was a speaker at the Missouri National Educators Association Fall conference here in Saint Louis. Since that time I haven't really had any presentations specifically for teachers. This changed on Friday.

Last Friday I was in Bloomfield, Missouri to give my presentation to teachers. Also, I did do a presentation to law enforcement, but for this entry I want to concentrate on the teachers.

If you haven't read my book I should tell you that school and myself did not get along. If I managed to attend school for five straight days it was cause for a celebration because I missed so much. I had constant headaches, real and fake, because of the stress of school. Of course the issues I had the time couldn't possibly of be known because Asperger Syndrome was not yet recognized as a diagnosis.

Asperger Syndrome is a diagnosis now and even though this was just my 2nd presentation to teacher's I felt a strong conviction to get my point across to the teachers. I just had to! Even though this is a small town there is a good chance there is someone like me there.

After my introduction I started with, "I was diagnosed at age 20, but of course I always had issues. I can remember, back in kindergarten, loving these fun block shapes. I don't know what they were called, but they were in a white tub and the hexagon was yellow, the diamonds were blue and boy oh boy did I love a rainy day when recess was inside. I didn't share well though and those shapes were always mine. If someone tried to join me I turned into a nasty guard dog and made sure that I played alone because, sensory wise, there is nothing better than those block. Man! I miss those blocks."

A speaker had spoke to this group and was unsure if they connected with the audience, but immediately I knew I had a connection because a teacher said, "Well, Aaron, I have a whole tub full in my room!" With a big grin I looked out into the hall, but then I told her, "Why did you have to tell me that? I have intentionally avoided them because I know my productivity in society will tank if I ever come across them because, well, they're just awesome!"

The next 80 or so minutes had this type of humor and connection between me and the audience. There were many times that I saw people talking, but they weren't having a conversation outside of what I was saying and it seemed each conversation was sparked by a comment I had said and I can only imagine that those conversations were something like, "Oh my, I remember this one kid..." Or, "Wow, I have a student now who..."

Many times in my writings for my books I have referred to teacher's as the second line of defense for seeing the autism spectrum. If the child is used to the home environment, and is comfortable talking to adults, then how could anything seem wrong? Once the child gets to school though the signs will become more evident. This is where the parents won't notice and if the parents are the first line, teacher's surely are the second line. When I told them this at the close of the presentation after they learned everything I told them, about Kansas, and my cement theory, I had several teachers in tears!

When I concluded my presentation there was an eerie stillness in the room. Nobody got up and the room was frozen in time in a way. After several awkward moments the teachers slowly got up and left.

I didn't have much time to rest as police officers were coming to the same room for their presentation and in the break a teacher went back to the room and gave something to another TouchPoint employee that was there. The terms were that this wasn't to be given to me until after the police presentation.

Once I was finished I can tell you my voice was just about done. 3 hours of presenting with a ten minute break is rough, but all that was forgotten when I was shown a zip lock bag filled with those amazing blocks I remember from kindergarten. I had a blast and they were as much fun as I remembered. Maybe more so.

When it was time to leave I put the blocks back in the bag and asked, "Where do these go?" and I was told, "Oh, they're yours now!"

Bliss!

Later in the afternoon I told Myra, the other TouchPoint employee, that I was going to do my blog on Monday about the presentation, and the amount that I felt I connected with the teachers using my school history as a way to open their eyes, but also I was going to talk about the blocks and I told her that I would take a picture showing, in exaggeration, what my face was like when she told me that they were mine. I showed her the face I would use and she said, "Um, Aaron, that's not an exaggeration, you really did look like that." So, to finish this entry out, here is the photo I took simulating my response and chances are it isn't exaggerated

2 comments:

  1. You look so happy at having those blocks! I liked the texture of them as well as the shapes when we had them to teach shapes and fractions.

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  2. You are right- parents and teachers are key players for children with autism. Parents need to know the right procedures and teachers need to be keenly aware of potential issues in school. Then, the rest will be up to what the assessment results say by the professionals.

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