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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Slippery Slope

Of all the social situations that occur there is one event that always creates a behemoth-sized level of anxiety. If I know a person long enough the time will come that I will mention this and the reactions are always different. Some are understanding, but others are mixed. Whatever the reaction may be, I will, at some point in time, let the other person know that I am on the autism spectrum.

There is NO easy way for me to say it. When I was first diagnosed in 2003 I had an instantly difficult time as one of the first person's reaction I told that I had Aspeger Syndrome was, "Asberger's, is that a new hamburger at McDonald's?" Sadly, that is a 100% true story.

Since 2003 the public awareness of Asperger's and autism has gone up to the point that I have had no more misunderstandings regarding food, but that still doesn't make the task easy when I let someone in on this little secret of being on the spectrum.

The processing it takes to decide to tell someone is mammoth. There is just so much to think of; Will letting another person know change the way they think of me? If I don't tell someone early on will they think I hid it from them? After they know will they treat me different? Job wise, before where I am now, I shook, literally shook with anxiety at the thought of needing to tell whomever I was working for that I am on the autism spectrum.

Don't take this as I am ashamed of being on the spectrum as I am not. With this slippery slope of letting people know the problem isn't on my end. Some people's reactions are misguided as some people associate autism with just the extreme cases, or perhaps "Rain Man".

I have lost a couple friends, a couple girl friends to this slippery slope. At some point in time I will have to let another person know. It is easier now that I have a book, a job, and this blog, but for people that are oblivious to all three I will still have to say, at some point in time, that I am on the autism spectrum. When I do I won't be looking for sympathy, I won't be looking for a hand out, and I won't be looking for life to be easier. What will I be looking for? A simple nod of understanding and that's it. My life is challenging enough and having people react negatively doesn't help. I have had people look at me differently once they heard I was on the spectrum and this confused me because I had not changed.

Someone once said that I should just hide it and never mention it, but then if I avoid all eye contact, or do a "Dance of the Fingers" the explanation will have to be given. I'm open about it, but it will always be a slippery slope letting people in on what I have. That's all I can do. If a person takes it to the extreme, debates me on the autism spectrum (it's always an interesting when someone says, "you can't possibly be on an autism spectrum, you aren't autistic. What's a spectrum?") or changes the way they think of me the problem isn't on my shoulders, but on theirs.

______________________________________________________

P.S. I have been wondering about my "Great Sunglasses Experiment" and I don't know if I like the name I have given it. Is it okay, or should I go back to the think tank and try to come up with something else?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Harsh Reminder

Yesterday morning I wrote "Positional Warfare" not realizing that I would experience this in the fullest just 12 hours later. It was harsh, and sudden and made me realize anew the potential agony and sadness of being on the spectrum. This is that story...

Yesterday was the 1st annual TouchPoint Autism Services Golf Tournament. Dan Kelley (the father of the family that is in the video that I have linked to on the right bar) and the rest of the TouchPoint golf planning committee put on a fantastic event at the Glen Echo Golf Club which is the only golf course in the United States to host an Olympic event.

The format was a scramble and I was playing on a foursome. I arrived early, as usual, and didn't exactly know where to go once I was there. Once I saw someone I knew I simply followed them and then I was at the check-in table. Having never done a golf outing like this I had no idea what to do, and signing in was difficult because I didn't know what was coming. In the end all I had to do was give my home address, but my anxiety level was pegged to the fullest. Now, what makes this interesting, is that I have signed in hundreds of times at race tracks, but I know the drill there and this was new which meant unknown and the unknown is feared.

After barely surviving, ahem, after signing in I loitered about for a good 10 minutes and I truly didn't know what to do. I wondered if I should help out, but I would be clueless as to what to do or much less whom to help. Eventually I saw someone whom I've talked to many times in the past and then found out I was playing in his foursome and thankfully, truly honestly thankfully, he asked if I wanted to hit the range to practice.

Like a light switch being flipped from off to on I came alive. I talked about my "Great Sunglasses Experiment" and we bounced ideas back and forth. We talked about golf and the challenges of hitting the fairway (or at least my challenge to hit the fairway) and the love of the game. I made the comment that my golf game, "Is very much like Asperger's in a way. I'm either fully on or fully off." If my driving range time was any indication the day was going to be a "fully off" type of day.

As 1PM came the tournament started and I felt at ease with my team. I have spent time talking to two of them so adding a third person I didn't know wasn't that difficult. It helped that his sense of humor was much like mine so I was free from the stresses I had when I had signed in.

The story here isn't the round of golf, but I did hit a few good shots. No, the story here is about the social dynamic. During the round I was able to talk, and able to make witty comments. I wasn't fully there, but I was close to being in my presenter mode. Speaking just came naturally to me and there wasn't a second thought of what to say. Usually I only have this when giving a presentation, but during those 18 holes I was there.

After the round there was a dinner and this is where my story takes a sad turn. The tables were for eight which meant that it was our foursome and another team. As I sat down the other people introduced themselves and just like that light switch that had been turned on instantly turned off. Eye contact was impossible and words could not be found. In watching the room and everyone else there I could see that they didn't struggle like I was struggling. I was in a room full of people but I was alone.

I didn't want to be alone. I so badly wanted to say something, anything, but I never could find the right time to speak. As the noise of the room increased it became harder and harder for me to hear the words of the people at the table I was at. All the noise merged into one never ending string of words.

I'm afraid of how uncomfortable I looked because I was in the ultimate "Positional Warfare". Come to think of it though, I think I was mimicking a statue because there was little movement in my body.

With each second that passed I found it harder and harder to jump in. I didn't know what to do and simply wanted to cry. I can't be more honest about that. After feeling the freedom of being able to give presentations in rooms of 80 or more, and being unable to converse with just seven others made me sad. I often will forget that I am on the autism spectrum, but an event like this will remind me and it hurts, I can't lie.

After dinner, former NHL player and now NHL commentator, Joe Micheletti, emceed a live auction. There was only supposed to be one item, but he decided to give donate 2 New York Rangers tickets and a chance to meet him in the booth at that game. More money was raised because of this and I was moved. After the dinner I wanted to give him a book of mine to show my appreciation for that great deed, but I was still paralyzed.

I paced. I walked to the restroom with reason. I came back and sat back down. He was just seated one table over, but I couldn't. I still had not uttered a word for over an hour and as much as I wanted to just walk to my car and grab a book I walked to my car and drove off.

On my way home I felt like a failure: this regardless of the fact that I have had such a warm response from my presentations. I was sure that feeling would pass, but once again it was a reminder of the mind set a person on the spectrum can have and that is, "whatever is now is forever." I hope if you know a person on the spectrum you can understand the power of that line.

As I got home I was still angry with myself. I stormed through the house and opened my door and was then confused as to the small white box that laid upon my chair. I didn't remember buying anything on Ebay so I didn't think much of it and went on to check my e-mail. I looked at the small box again and I decided to open it.

Remember how I said "whatever is now, is forever"? As I opened the box my mind rushed with ideas because there they were, my sunglasses! They weren't scheduled to arrive until the 5th of July but they arrived. If you are wondering "What in the world is with the sunglasses?" you should read http://lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com/2010/06/coming-in-july-great-sunglass.html.

I won't start tomorrow as I think it will be more fitting to start on the 4th of July. Independence Day. A fitting name for what I hope to gain in terms of eye contact.

Today may have been a harsh reminder of the challenges that I, and many other people on the spectrum face. I was, as usual, asking "why me?" on my way home and again I realize it's me because of what you are reading right now. For family, or friends, it is crucial that they understand what a person on the spectrum is going through. Through my up and down up day I hope I have given a unique perspective to the hazards of a social setting like a dinner that I was at. If I have, it made everything worth it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Positional Warfare

There are times that I may be at war. The enemy may not be visible, but its influence can easily be seen. It's influence may start out small, but if left unchecked I will succumb to it and be, as I have read many times as a symptom of the autism spectrum, "uncomfortable in my own skin".

I talked about this one month ago when I was at the USAC race in Terre Haute, but I have been thinking about it even more so. As I gave a presentation last week and I was fluid and animated as I gave my presentation I felt as if all my moves with without thought. It felt natural to move my hands in certain ways depending on what I was saying. When the presentation was over though the war began and I struggled.

It is amazing, absolutely amazing the difference between knowing what I am doing, and being uncomfortable in my own skin. When I know what I am doing, or rather if I have direction, I am free. My posture is not thought about and my arms are free. By free I mean I am not thinking about how I should be standing. You see, while in the positional warfare, I don't know what to do with myself.

Not knowing what one should be doing sounds like a vague comment, I know, but if you have felt this, if you know what it is like to have full thought on every part of one's body, then you might understand.

What causes the positional warfare? Usually a lack of direction will instantly set it off. If I am unsure of what I should be doing then I will fall into the sad abyss of this annoying trait. I love having Asperger Syndrome for the positive traits, but if I could drop just one then it might be this one.

When I say lack of direction I am referring to any time that has me unsure of what task I should be doing. When I worked at a video game store and I had no task and the manage assigned nothing and there was nothing to be done I was lost. However, if a customer came in, I knew what to do and the positional battle vanished.

If you see me in this battle I may appear anxious or tense. I will appear this way because I am. Do you know that feeling when you just have to stretch, or have an itch that needs to be scratched? That's what it feels like across my entire body, but nothing I do ease it. I can try and place my arms on my side, or cross my arms, or hold my arms, or fold my hands, or pace, or any of a thousand different tactics, but if I am in the positional warfare there is little that I can do.

I have never experienced this positional warfare when I am alone. If I am alone I have control. I will always know what to do and what's next when I am alone. I can't let anyone down, and I can't misinterpret social cues or what may be expected of me. Because of this I must fight the urge to stay alone.

What are some ways to prevent a positional warfare? It would be easy on my part if I could just speak up and ask what is expected of me or what I should be doing. Once my mind starts to wonder what I should be doing the amount of processing that goes on in my brain is overwhelming and it starts to slow my system down. Also, because of this, I have always been told I have a "lack of initiative". It's not that I have a lack, but it's simply that I get drowned out trying to comprehend what I should be doing now.

The jobs I have had have been the places where most positional warfares occur. I know my coworkers at the video game store saw this and asked me why I looked so uncomfortable. I didn't give much of an answer, but for my manager then he could have simply given me a task and if I have direction I know what to do.

Anxiety is the "man behind the current" pulling the strings in this positional warfare. I want to do the right things, but it seems that any time I am left to decide what I should be doing I usually choose the wrong thing. This leads to an uncomfortable conversation and the vicious cycles continues onward.

What I hope I got across in this entry is that direction is critical. If I know what the task is then I can concentrate on that. If I am left in an open ended situation I will be thinking about what I should be doing, and then I will start to think about how I should be standing. "Is this posture okay? Folded arms? Crossed arms? Folded hands?"

I see people in public and in conversations look fully free. They don't look like they struggle with there outwardly appearance, and I must say I envy that. If I am in those situations it may lead to a war of position that I don't know how to win, but I still try. While I don't know how to vanquish this enemy I will not quit.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Mission

If you are reading this I am already part way to completing my mission and for that I am thankful.

My mission has been forming my entire life. I could never have imagined that I would have this chance, this mission, to do what I am doing right here and that you are a part of.

As I have written in my book, Finding Kansas, and on here, my life is a challenge. I hope you don't get the wrong impression about me. I know right now I have a great thing going with my job, and all the presentations I have given around the state of Missouri, but I still have challenges.

It's within these challenges that my mission lies. My mission is to raise awareness about the autism spectrum, but on top of that I want raise understanding. If you were to just see me in front of a group speaking you may think nothing is wrong with me. Get me in a small group outside that element and you may not recognize me. See me when I am stressed and serving sensory needs by coloring magazines and I may not acknowledge your presence.

If a family, or school doesn't understand what Asperger's can be then there is no way a positive situation can develop. School was very difficult for me and I believe it is critical to try and get as many teachers to understand what some of the challenges of Asperger's may be. Yes, there may be challenges, but there's more that makes us normal than sets us apart! Understanding is the first step towards helping in any situation. Do I have the answers in terms of a clinical setting? No, but if I can let you in on what it feels like, what it truly feels like to be anxious in a social setting, or overwhelmed by certain sounds, then I am fulfilling my mission.

I realize my story may not be your story, your child's story, or perhaps the story of someone you know. This is the difficult thing about the autism spectrum. This to is part of my personal mission. It is VITAL to realize that just because one person on the spectrum is good at math may not mean the next person is. Many times the news media will feature someone on the spectrum that may be a savant at a given thing, but that doesn't mean everyone on the spectrum is (a common misconception!).

Through my past experiences, and experiences to come, I hope to just shed some light on the thought processes and challenges a person on the spectrum may face. I don't know why I was given the gift of being able to write and I was fully resistant to any emotional talk up until I started writing, but I do have this now gift and I must use it.

Next month I have my big project on trying to conquer the mystery of eye contact. I hope this makes a big splash, but whether it does or not my mission is never ending. The rates of autism spectrum disorders is rising at an alarming rate and the need for knowledge has never been more important. This is my mission and I thank you for joining me on it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Imagination At Play

In talking with several people over the course of the past few months I have been asked, "Since you are on the autism spectrum does that mean you can't imagine anything?" I wish that were the case, I really do, but there is an imagination and it can run wild.

The first thing you need to know about my imagination is that it is very logical. I can't envision a world with elves and dragons, but I can take realistic events and places and create situations or envision what could happen.

As a child I had a near impossible time pretending to be something that couldn't possibly be. However, even when I was in the 1st grade or so, my anxiety would peak when I would hear a special report intro on television. As some people have referred to it on the internet, NBC's "Chimes of Death" http://www.blogger.com/www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPcepBSrC9 evokes such a fear in me and it's all due to my imagination.

I can't pretend or imagine things that just simply can't be, but when I hear the special report music I instantly imagine every possible situation that could happen in this world. When I have to momentarily fill in the blanks I do so to the worst case scenario. The "Chimes of Death" are so powerful that I don't need to go see a horror film to scare me, but all I have to do is pull that video up and I am scared.

Traditional horror films do not scare me as they don't leave anything to the imagination. However, in 1994 there was a made for television movie that had me scared for a decade. The film was called Without Warning and it was a fictional account of three meteors hitting Earth. The film started with what appeared to be the start of a different unrelated film, but then the fake film got interrupted by the real film that was a fake news story. The entire movie was done from the aspect of watching the events unfold around the world from watching this fake news story. To further the realism of it the main news anchor was Sander Vanocur.

Without Warning was later compared to Orsen Welles 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in that it was so real and believable. The plot of Without Warning ends with Earth being obliterated by thousands of meteors and the reason why the aliens in the film did this remained unanswered. Many plot lines were left like this and it is in the unknown that I get scared.

10 years after the airing of that film I found it on Amazon.com and I had to buy. I remembered the original airing back in 1994 and I had to see it. Oddly enough, when I watched it as I was older, my fears from the original air subsided. Why this is I don't know, but I am glad it did.

Sticking with the movie theme, the film that scared me the most to the point that I could not look was M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. Many people I have talked to said that movie didn't scare them one bit, but none of them have the imagination I do.

What Signs did was make the viewer imagine what was going on. What was lurking out in the corn? The camera shots used left the viewer wondering who, or rather what, was terrorizing this family and Earth. Was it dogs, or was it aliens from a far off land. The movie also used tidbits of news items much like would happen if such an event occurred, and from that the a rare suspended belief happened to me and I was overwhelmed.

Had the movie just straight up showed the goons from space I would not have been scared, but I was so terrorized I actually, embarrassing enough, wedged my face in my girlfriend's shoulder as to have her protect me. Not one of my proudest moments to say the least!

What I am getting at with such extreme examples is that it is the realistic unknown that can create havoc for a person on the spectrum. My mind must know what's going on, and if I don't I will have to fill in the blanks. Most the time my possible scenarios are far off from what is actually going on, but I still, regardless of the fact that I am almost always wrong, will still think to the extreme.

These thoughts are fast and unrelenting. There is a lot to process as there are an infinite amount of possibilities to any situation. I gave theatrical example here, but if someone tells me that they want to, "catch up with me later" or "we need to talk" I panic. My imagination will play out all the possible reasons as to why someone would want to talk and most of my examples are extreme and negative for me. Did I make them mad? Did I offend them?

Leaving comments open-ended is very much like the corn fields that M. Night Shyamalan created in his movie. What's out there? What's the meaning of the comment? Is it something good, or will the reason for the conversation be comparable to goons from outer space? Unless I am given the reason ahead of time I will be hunkered down awaiting the goons, frightened, and scared. Oh, how I loathe my imagination when it is in play!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dance of the fingers

(This article originally was posted on March 30th, but with so many new people viewing I thought I would share this to make it easier to find.)

At times I will get an uncontrollable urge. The feeling is such that the only way to release the urge is to give into the urge. My body will be in a frenzy up until I give in. No, this urge isn't something evil or involves drinking something, but rather it's a dance, a dance with my fingers.


I have been dancing with the fingers since I was about six years old. I don't know how I got started and the origin isn't important. 21 years of practice and I've gotten rather good at the dance.


As much as I need the dance I am often embarrassed by it. When I do it in public, or around someone else, I often will look around and make sure no one saw me. Often times I can overcome the urge, but sometimes I can't. Rob, who you read about in the "International Event" entry, saw this and the look of confusion on his face was about as priceless as the look of "uh oh, I've been spotted" on my face.


What is this dance? I came up with the "Dance of the fingers" just now as I couldn't come up with anything better. It isn't a new hit dance show on ABC though, but rather is my nifty name for finger flapping.


My dance involves me taking both of my hands and bringing them up to my chin and cheeks. Once this is done, in a rapid fashion, I move all my fingers, except my thumbs which are interlocked inside both hands, up and down.


For me, the dance is a release. What usually precipitates this is when I get excited or happy about something. Sometimes this will occur with what will appear to be zero outside assistance. I could be sitting, alone, with no electronics on just as alone as could be, but if I start thinking about something and get just a bit anxious or excited about something the dance will commence.


The dance may last anywhere from half-a -second to 10 seconds and usually the dance will end with one sudden body jerk or maybe just a single shoulder jerk. It is as close to involuntary as any other movement could be.


To fight it off is to require every ounce of will power in my body. I'm not kidding when I say every ounce! I don't want to be 'caught in the act' because I know it's not something that looks normal. I also don't want to explain it to people because unless you know this feeling my words won't mean anything to you.


I may be able to quell the urge most the time, but there will be times when this dance will be spotted. If done so I can only hope that the other person has viewed this blog because spoken words fail me in situations like that and I quite simply don't want to explain it. So, as one popular pop song says, and I will anytime I get excited or anxious about something, "Just Dance".

My Rules > Your Rules

I had an interesting sequence of events last week that opened my eyes to the formula that is the subject of this post.

A week ago Sunday I had an interesting debate with Rob over movie etiquette. In his eyes one can't go to a movie by themselves. I thought this weird because a movie is a solitary experience and bringing along a group of friends, in my eyes, is just a recipie for having others around you constantly saying, "shhh!"

This debate raged on for a good hour as I could not understand it. Rob informed me that at the last movie he had attended someone came in alone and all those around Rob were whisperng, "Wow, what a weirdo. Who goes to a movie alone?" I don't know if I fully believe those comments to that extent because I have been to many movies by myself and never once had people looking at me or whispering about me (that I know of.)

Later that week while I was traveling in the Southwest part of Missouri I was craving The Olive Garden's manicotti. I mean seriously craving it to the point that I could smell it, taste it, and the only thing that would satisfy my hunger would be to devour it. There was one slight porblem though, I don't go to sit down restaraunts alone.

Sit down restaraunts are a social setting. It takes a brave soul to go into one alone and I am not that brave soul. Certainly, in my mind, people wonder, "Who goes to a sit down restaraunt alone?"

I debated and debated and a couple times I walked to my car and looked across the street to The Olive Garden but I retreated each time. Going to a restaraunt that isn't fast food is just not permitted.

Let's introduce my math statement now. The title of this entry is, "My Rules > Your Rules" and this is 100% accurate as my rules are greater than yours. In fact, your rules may seem silly to me because anyone can go to a movie by one's self, but I wouldn't dare enter a restaurant by myself.

To come to my rule conclusions I use simple logic. A movie is a dark place and talking is frowned upon. I have never seen a movie that I felt a shared experience with those around me. I have heard people say this, that a movie is a shared experience and perhaps being on the autism spectrum prevents this for me. Nonetheless the movie is fair game to go alone.

A restaurant is a social environment. If I go alone I see it as proving to the world that I am an isolationist. I am not so I don't want to make this statement. I did once go to the Olive Garden alone and the hostess sat me in the middle of the room. The geographical center! My eyes had no respite from the peering eyes of those wondering if my date had canceled, or if I simply was a loner. It was the most stressed filled meal I ever had and one I will never attempt again!

I think for someone not on the spectrum there could be a sense of understanding between each person's rules. I, along with other people on the spectrum I'm sure, have a hard time understanding your logic or reasoning. I tried and tried and tried to get Rob to understand that going to a movie solo is something that indicates nothing about one's social status, but he disagreed adamantly furthering my intensity of debate. You see, my rules are the right rules so why would anyone want to be wrong. My rules state being wrong is, well, wrong and who would want to be wrong?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hello from Columbia/ More on The Sunglasses

Hello and good afternoon from the Columbia TouchPoint office!

As I was driving down the road this morning I was thinking upon my upcoming Sunglasses Experiment. As I have said before, I am deeply puzzled by eye contact and I want, no must know why it is difficult. That got me thinking that there was something else that puzzled me like this six years ago.

Six years ago and more I was equally puzzled by the concept of personal communications. It was difficult to practice in person because there was so much input from another person. Be it posture, eye movement, or minor twitches, the end result was a overload that made me think more on the physical than the actually conversation.

Think of it this way; If you are trying to listen to a television show, but a marching band is marching through your living room while a dozen cats are having a hissing battle on your couch all the while a air show is taking place 600 feet above your house. Do you think you would be able to concentrate and hear the television show? Probably not and so too I was unable to talk to people because I was too busy trying to decipher what all the physical cues meant even though I was, and am, clueless as to what they mean.

In 2004 I started playing over Xbox Live, and at first I was afraid of using the headset to talk to the people I was playing with. However, over time, I did and guess what, I started talking and little by little I got better at the art of conversation. Communication opened up because there was no physical cues to process. I was able to practice and succeed because there was no proverbial marching band to distract me.

I found that with myself I was able to have a conversation, but was always overwhelmed by all the other aspects of having someone in my presence. After years of practice, communications are now easy and it is done on the subconscious level so it is more of a reflex so even if I do get overwhelmed trying to figure out all the physical cues I am still able to communicate.

With all that being so I wonder if these sunglasses I will wear will allow me to practice eye contact much like I practiced communication over Xbox Live. Can I train myself to look at the eye and stop the over thinking that I have always done? This question can't be answered now, but we shall see next month if this is the case.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't Tell Me What To Think

If you want to see resistance in its truest form I suggest you tell me what to do, or tell me what to think. As far back as I can remember I have always put up a strong resistance to being told what to think, or being told what to do without logic.


One line that has never worked with me is, "Because I said so!" One reason it doesn't work is I already know you said it so why are you stating that you said it? Secondly, and more importantly, it doesn't allow me to know where you are coming from and the logic you are using. I never had a teacher use that line on me, but I heard them tell other students, and had it happened to me I am sure the ensuing result would have been worth at least 17 blog entries.


It's not that I am 100% against what you want me to do, but if you don't give me a logical reason why then I am lost. I am so entrenched in my ways and routine that if you want me to change what I am doing now, I know that will affect what I am going to do three hours from now. The whole routine will be derailed and that requires too much thought to do if it is simply because, "you said so".


Another issue in this same topic is that I will get irate if someone tells me what to think. I joke, although it is probably true, that advertisers can't gain my business but they can certainly lose it. I can't stress this enough, DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO THINK. I have had many times in my life where someone tried to tell me what to think and I get furious. Why is this? I'm not sure, but I tense up and just get full of anger.


I have a story that may turn into a classic example of this: Several years ago my dad wanted me to go to the store. I think I complained one too many times about my food selection so he handed me a $20 bill and suggested that I go get my own food. I was at a loss of what to get so he made some suggestions, and then said he wanted, some "golden delicious apples".
On the thought of those apples I stormed out of the house in a fury. Rage was boiling through my veins as I could not believe the tenacity of my dad. Why would he tell me that golden apples are delicious? I know what is good, and apples, at the time, didn't make the cut.

As I got to the store my rage had not subsided and I was still furious that my dad would try and tell me what to like. "If apples are delicious I will say they are" is what I kept thinking to myself.

When I entered the store and saw the fruit aisle I was astounded. You see, I had never heard of the "golden delicious apple" variety and in fact I thought an apple was an apple. All my anger towards my dad was for naught because he wasn't telling me apples were delicious but rather he was telling me what type apple to get.

Confusion aside, the previous example has been repeated many times in my life. I wish I knew what causes this immediate reaction when told how to think, or told what to do. My mind is astoundingly independent and being told how to think sets off a stern reaction.

The final thing in this area, as it is all connected, is my complete disregard to hearing other people's advice when doing something. When I was young I loved going to the bowling alley on Sunday afternoons after my dad's church service. Being six, and seeing how the professionals put hook on the ball (bowling was something that was must see tv for me when I was young, I think it was a sensory thing) I wanted to bowl like the pros. My dad tried to teach me something, but I don't even know what it was because his advice was just noise.

Even today I usually won't listen to someone when they give me advice. Rob, whom I went to the Olympics with in Vancouver and have played more games on NHL for the Xbox than should be possible, gave me advice on how to always score on a breakaway. Did I listen to him? No. After 30 failed breakaways I had a penalty shot to win the game and I asked him what I needed to do. He got mad because he had told me no less than a hundred times, but he told me what I needed to do and we won the game on that goal. I had heard many times what to do, but because I "know it all" his words were meaningless even though he had scored on a breakaway and my attempts were best suited for the blooper reel.

There is a big issue here and I hope to dwell on it and come up with the reasons why this is. I do find it interesting that in a crunch, or crisis, I will seek advice and actually listen. Until that time I will usually disregard it and throw it out. After all I am always right, until I am wrong and need help now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Days of Monopoly

For as long as I can remember I have had an absolute love of the game Monopoly. Yesterday, while at the Joplin office, I saw a game of Monopoly in session and a huge smile formed on my face as I remembered the days of Monopoly.

I had a family that I was friends with in Indianapolis that I grew up with and even
though I lived in Saint Louis it seemed as if I spent just as much time at their house. These trips were crucial in my development because the days of Monopoly brought out my social side.


If you could have seen me before a game of Monpoly at their house and during the game you would have been quite confused. Just as I have said about the need for direction, playing the game gave me direction. My level of comfort would go up by an unmeasurable percentage and I began to talk.

I would talk before the game, but it was forced and labored, but during the game I was as slick as a used car salesman. Trading was my specialty and I am sure I would have been guilty of "badgering the witness" had this been a courtroom.

Perhaps my trading and negotiating skills were harsh, but as the title card of Donald Trump's television show "The Apprentice" says, "It's not personal, it's business". Harsh or not, playing the many games I had allowed me to talk. I felt comfortable in a social setting.

When we moved to Saint Louis in 1993 I was in shock. I could easily have conversations about auto racing in Indianapolis (where we moved from) but I was in shock that, in Saint Louis, people generally only care about the sport if the home team wears red and the sport is played with a bat. My conversational tactics that worked in Indianapolis had no chance of working here in Saint Louis so I became rather quiet in school. That being so I looked forward to my trips to Indianapolis from months in advance.

I've tried to count how many games we played during all those years and it has to be in the hundreds. We had so many games; one that sticks out in my mind was where we started with five players, got done to two, and had a perfect storm that neither he nor I could win. We had to break out the $1,000 and $5,000 bills from "The Game of Life" because we had so much cash on hand and the $500's were out. The game ended in a tie as we said we had developed the "perfect economy".

While it may be the games I remember, it is the end result of where I am still experiencing. Had we not gone back to Indianapolis as many times as I did I don't know where I would be right now. It may have been intermittent but it allowed me to know that I was able to talk, I was able to socialize.

I was always kidded that I was only happy if I won, and that wasn't the case. I had to play hard to stay in the game, but winning wasn't about having Boardwalk, or Baltic (my personal favorite) or my obsession with buying all the $1's from the bank but rather winning was simply playing the game. I could practice talking, negotiating, and during a game the need to understand initial social cues is eliminated and since I get caught up with that aspect of life having that aspect be not in play was valuable.

It's been forever since I played a game of Monopoly in person. I played one game online last year and naturally won, but it wasn't the same. Monopoly is a social game and playing online just isn't the same.

It's been forever though and I don't know if I will ever experience those days of Monopoly again. As sad as this makes me it isn't a total loss. Everyday I live I still have the positive effects of all those games and for that I am so grateful.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where I've Been, Where I Am Going

I've only been at this blog thing for a little over three months, but I feel as if I have been doing this for years. Each night as I go to sleep I try and plan out my blog for the next day, and most the time I have no idea what I am going write until I sit down and then, like magic, a topic or concept comes into my mind and I just write without thought.

Let me tell you, I can't wait to see how the month of July unfolds. My blog will have a different feel, I think, next month as I will try and chronicle every social outing I have.

I must admit I am having trouble writing today. My mind is 100% focused on all the possibilities that will come next month. So focused that thinking of anything fresh to write today is impossible.

As I was trying to find inspiration to write I looked back at the titles of my entries to date and I was wondering, what has been your favorite, of favorites, that I have written. I think I have had a great mix of somewhat humorous entries (Saint Patrick's Day) and gripping stories (A Tale of the Force) and I really enjoyed writing about my experience walking to Taco Bell.

I know where I am going and I hope through my readers and the word of mouth that next month's experiment should generate will bring a whole new mass of readers. That's where I am going, but I am curious as to what your favorite article has been?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coming in July, The Great Sunglass Experiment

Next month should prove to be very interesting and hopefully eye-opening. I have been puzzled as to why eye contact is difficult as long as I can remember. Is it that I am looking at you? Or is it that you are looking at me? Or could it be that I know that you know I am looking at you? Or is it something that is learned as eye contact seems to induce open ended greetings such as, "How are you?"

Next month I hope to shed some light on this matter as I will be doing a 30 day person experiment that has me wearing sunglasses at all times in public (except driving at night for obvious reasons, or presentations for that matter, but only during the presentation itself).

What will happen over those 30 days? I'm not sure and that's what has me excited. Will I be able to make eye contact knowing full well that no one can see my eyes? I think there will be a feeling of invincibility so I think I will be able to, but what happens on day 31 when they get taken off? Will I have built up a level of comfortableness with eye contact, or will I become even more afraid of eye contact?

July just happens to be the perfect mix of events for me to try this as well. I have three races I am doing and it will be interesting to be in elements I know to see if there is any difference at all. I'm hoping there is because a lot of times it is simply being overwhelmed with eye contact that doesn't allow me to communicate as there is just so much to think about when eyes meet. Will this be negated behind the sunglasses?

I can ask many more questions that can't be answered so I will stop, but I do hope to finally figure out why eye contact is so anxiety producing. It should be an interesting month and the glasses as scheduled to arrive at my house on July 5th so I can't wait to begin what I hope is a groundbreaking month. As much fun as I have bringing this experiment to you, I hope you find it interesting and will get something out of it. I can't wait!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vuvuzela Fever

The World Cup of Soccer is here again and from just 4 days of competition I feel as if the world has lost its mind.

I have always had trouble understanding why some events and news items are more important than others. I can remember asking my dad, when I was six or seven years old, why a news story about a celebrity couple came before a news story about the president.


I am experiencing that same sense of befuddlement right now as it seems the world has become obsessed with the vuvuzela. What's a vuvuzela? A vuvuzela, pictured here, is a large plastic horn that can produce sounds up to 127 decibles and has been associated with hearing loss. If you aren't at the stadium and are watching the game on television the noise that sounds like a squadron of hornets is the vuvuzela. (Haven't watched the World Cup? You can
listen to what they sound like here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOzDb_Al2Dc)


So okay, the vuvuzela is loud, it strikes fear in the heart of anyone who dislikes stinging insects, but why has this horn been the #1 story on nearly every news outlet this weekend? The horn has made it mainstream as CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Yahoo, and Fox News have all had top stories related to the horn. Why?

Is a horn more important that all the other events in the world? I see the news as a logical outlet that should start with the most important story and work it's way down. Myself, I envision the horn in the "and then there's this..." segment at the end, but certainly not the headline. Shouldn't the players playing the game be a story? Lost in the US, England 1-1 tie was stories of the horn.

The World Cup Final is on July 11th, but at this rate no one will remember who won except the country that does because this world cup is the year of the vuvuzela. The real winners are the ones who make the horn (worldwide they are being bought up faster than, well, anything), or the companies now selling MP3 Noise Cancelling software that will filter out the of the vuvuzela. Is the sound that bad?

We'll see as the tournament progresses if the vuvuzela stays in the news, or if its 15 minutes of fame, or infamy, passes. I hope it passes because there's more important news in this world than the annoyance of a horn at a soccer game, isn't there?

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Think Therefore...

I find it interesting the saying or concepts that people in attendance of my presentations find interesting. It is hard for me to know what people relate to and what people want to know more on. There is one saying that I will use if the right question is asked in the Q & A segment that even I can judge the response on.

I don't remember the wording of the questions that have got me to say this answer, but when I say it the entire room seems to either nod in unison or parents will look at their son or daughter and just nod with a grin. It's a simple saying with a very complex and odd logic behind it. What is it? It's, "I think therefore you should know."

I may have blogged about this before (I don't remember what I write) but if I have I wanted to expand on this because this can be a frustrating trait about us, but this type of mindset is the essence of Asperger Syndrome.

When we need or want something I have a hard time asking for it and also I assume you already know it. I can get a bit "snippy" when I have to state what I want because I feel you should already know. It takes some deep concentration to step back and realize that what I am thinking is not known by those around me.

What makes this more difficult is that asking for something has a high degree of difficulty. Many thoughts come with asking for something and there are many "chains of thought" (chains of thought is a new concept) that may go like this; I need this, but the person I ask for it may get mad with me that I need something. Will I ask for it correctly? But they might get mad. If they get mad I won't know how to react therefore why should I ask?

When wanting something there is a real problem on both fronts. One, asking for something is something that starts a chain of thought that ends up convincing me not to ask, and secondly, the other person should already know what I want.

If the other person does know what I want it eliminates any chance of a chain being formed. Chains are not pleasant and occur at a deep level of the conscious. Chains try to preserve the self by avoiding anything that can't be judged.

I am sure my parents got frustrated with me when I would know what I wanted, but could not express it. Truly I was afraid, and still am, to state my needs. A round of the classic "guessing game" would ensue and when the right answer was told to me I could say yes, but I was unable to make the first move and state what that was. As aggravating as it may have been for my parents, it was sad for me because I knew what I wanted, but was afraid.

During those guessing games I was also wondering why it was taking them so long to choose the right answer. I too would get frustrated because they didn't know what I wanted. Writing this I can see how just confusing this is; I know what I want and you should know too, but even though you should know it I can't ask for it. Okay, a revelation just occurred to me. If I think you know it and you aren't saying it then that means, using my chains concept, it must be a wrong answer because you aren't saying it or giving it to me. Therefore, asking for it is asking for something that is forbidden.

Over the next few months I want to expand on this "I think" concept and also I will give more insight into "The Chains of Thought" as I hope to give you a insight into the thought process and the reasoning and logic behind the potential actions of behavior.

As for me, I am headed home as I am in the office right now (first time since May 21st) and will be headed back to Joplin tonight.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Journey Home

My day started about 24 hours ago from when I write this. As with the past three weeks I woke up to a irritating sound. Then, as with the past three weeks, I looked around and had no idea where I was. I rose out of bed and just stared trying to piece together where I was. Then, I really wanted to know what that noise was. I looked over at my phone and it wasn't my normal alarm, in fact it wasn't my phone at all. The noise became familiar and I knew what it was; car alarms. Yes, plural as there were two of them and they kept going and going.

I lost a couple hours of sleep trying to figure out a way to drown out the beeping and screeching, but when 6:30 came the all too familiar sound of my phone alarm rang and it was time to get up.

Breakfast at hotels is something I am enjoying when the hotel has a "make your own waffle" machine. I was hungry and that waffle I made didn't stand a chance at survival.

After breakfast I went back to the 2nd floor of the hotel and into my room and I became frozen. Emotions filled me with no mercy and I wanted to cry. This was it. This was the last day of my extended road trip and my longest journey since I was in Las Vegas for a month in 2003. This trip has meant everything to me and it all came crashing down on me when I entered my room.

I began to reflect on all the people I had met and all the miles I had driven. Also, I became fearful of losing any of the memories I had on my trip as I don't know when I will be in Clinton, Missouri again. To leave a place and to wonder if I will see it again has always made me sad, but this time it brought out raw emotion.

Composure was regained and I packed and loaded up the Nissan and plugged in Saint Louis in my GPS system and away I went.

I wanted to get back to my home region at a decent time because I wanted enough time to unwind with a game of golf before I headed to Tri-City Speedway for the USAC race. Even though I was in a hurry I still managed the mandatory stop in Kingdom City for a Red Bull Cola stop.

As I neared Saint Louis I decided I would play golf in Foristell at the course at Incline Village.

Golf is something I haven't done in quite some time. I played about once per year since 2005, but since my first outing this year with Ryan in Indianapolis I have become engrossed in the game. I guess you could say golf has become the first "area of interest" in 2010 as it is the only thing I have been thinking about.

Playing the game of golf is something that I am falling in love with. Last week while driving towards Kansas City I played in Clinton, oddly enough, and had the course to myself. It was amazing, but short as 18 holes lasted 90 minutes. I had a blast and told myself I would play when I headed back towards Joplin.

The weather on Monday was putrid. The wind was gusting over 30, it was misting then raining then misting and it was in the 50's. I had my heart set on playing and play I did. I'm sure the older folks in the club house that were waiting for the weather to break thought I was out of my mind, but I headed out on the course. What ensued thereafter on the front nine was amazing as I had five birdie attempts (none of them I made) and it was a true battle of will as the weather made all my muscles ache. If you were to put one word as a label to the weather that day it would have to be "depressing".

As good as the front nine was the back nine was equally as bad. On one of the short par 3's I lost 8 balls! It was certainly not one of my shining moments, but I still find elation in the conditions I was playing in. Being in the rain is something I avoid at all costs. I simply don't like it and the threat lightning will always win out, or so I thought. I am deathly afraid of lightning, but here I was playing golf in bad weather. On this journey I have been on I can feel the growth, and I don't know if golfing in the rain is a good barometer, but something obviously happened. Was it for the better? I don't know.

Flash forward back to today and I was going to play golf again. I have never seen a crowded course at Incline Village... until today. I had my heart set on golfing so I paid and went to the first tee and waited.

I was paired up with two friends, and I'd say they were best friends, in their early 30's. One person who I was going to be paired up with, but he left, knew me when I said I wrote a book from a radio interview that I had here in Saint Louis. I heard a celebrity say that each person who "makes it" always remembers the first time someone knew them, and perhaps this was my first time in regards to that. What was odd was that he said he knew nothing on autism, but still remembered that I race directed and still understood my Kansas concept.

As my round of golf unfolded I was reminded that I am on the spectrum, and not just because someone remembered me from the radio. Trying to respond to the people I was paired with was just awkward for me. My timing was off and to some comments I didn't know how to respond. Furthermore, watching what they had in terms of friendship made me envious in a way. I could never be free from composure as they were, and they weren't obscene or vulgar, but they just had a carefreeness to them that I never have. I think this right here is one of the biggest hurdles I and other people with Asperger's has because as awkward as it is for us, I'm sure the two of them I was playing golf with felt the same way about me.

On this day slow play had a new meaning as it took 4 hours to do 13 holes. I did not want to catch traffic at a bad time because I wanted to be early at Tri-City Speedway so I left and my journey home continued.

I got to the track excited. Two weeks have passed since my first taste of the flagstand and I was as anxious as humanly possible. My excitement was short lived when I saw the size of the flagstand. There was no way two people could fit in it so I quickly began to panic. I didn't know what I could or should do for the night.

I hung around the USAC rig hoping someone, anyone would just tell me where to go and what to do to be useful. Everyone there already knows what they should be doing and being new I don't and I can't exactly ask. Trust me when I say I wish I could. Initiative is something that is rare because to ask is to expose so much about myself. I will process this, "If I ask I am exposing weakness because I view the world and don't see anyone else ask. That being so people will get annoyed with me because they know what they are doing."

The last sentence in the last paragraph is only the beginning as that thought process just keeps going down and it gets to the point that I am paralyzed to ask. Time was ticking away and it was time for the quick practice session and I was alone at the rig that was parked outside the track. The action is on the track of course, and I was behind wondering what to do.

I paced quickly. I didn't know what to do, but I knew where to go so I slowly crept towards the track. With each session that went out I got closer to the point where I could cross over and enter the infield. I was worried about being yelled at though. Even though I had the all access band I still was fearful. Just because I am in my element (racing) doesn't mean I am immune to my fears and over processing. This was a new track and only my fourth race working with USAC. If anything, because I want this so much, it is harder because I may be, in my own mind, trying too hard.

I made my break across the track and decided to hand around the USAC race directors. If I were to be given direction it would be by them. When the USAC midgets took to the track for their hot lap sessions I heard over the radio that the race directors could not see turn one due to the scoring tower. Without thinking I got their attention and asked if they would want me to go over and be the observer in that area. "Great idea, Aaron" was the response and I walked towards that end of the track victorious.

For the first time in a long time I gave myself direction. Granted the door was left wide open with a sign saying, "enter here" but I wasn't fearful. I asked and that was my job the rest of the night. It wasn't an easy post as I was kept busy. Tonight marked the first time I spoke over the radio and many times I shouted, "yellow yellow yellow" and three different times, "red! red! red!"

The night came to an end after a long day and I was so thankful I spoke up and got to really contribute to the race. The drive home was only 30 minutes, but it was the longest 30 of my entire trip as this was the last 30 minutes.

I am home now and I don't really know what to do with myself. There is no presentation tomorrow and no race for me to work. It's now 3:30 in the morning and I am literally confused as to what to do with myself. I should be sleeping, but I still want to go. There must be something I can do. I want to give a presentation, but I'm sure no one else is up right now. I can look forward to going back to Joplin on Tuesday, but that's so many days way. I want to do something tomorrow!

This trip has made me even more dedicated, if that is possible. I no longer see this as a job, or as work, but rather this is a calling. Very few people can say that their job brings hope, but I can. That being so can you see why I want to keep going? Can you see why I want to keep traveling and keep presenting? I am home now, this near month long journey is over, and now I am playing the waiting game. Waiting until Tuesday as Tuesday I go back at it!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

After the best

Today I will be driving from Joplin to Clinton to give a presentation. After each presentation I give I get somewhat depressed as it is hard for me to see that there is another one planned and I fear that each presentation was my last. Two nights ago I got this way, but I'm sure as I drive towards Clinton that thought of "never again" won't be there and I will be elated.

After tomorrow night I do something that is going to be odd on Friday; I will return home. My extended journey will be over. In all of my trips in my life I have always looked forward to returning home. I used to always await hearing my pets either bark or meow, but my pets are no longer in this world. Also, my life used to be confined to the house. My entire life was either on my computer, or via Xbox Live. I had no purpose, no direction, so returning home was like living again.

Now though I have a taste of the road, and I now equate being on the road with raising awareness and understanding. I am sure I am blinded, as usual, but returning home is like ending my presentations for good.

This is one of the most annoying traits of being on the spectrum. I can probably guess that there will be more and more chances for presentations, but whatever is now is always and if I return home I return home forever.

These past three weeks have been, without a doubt, the time of my life. How does one deal with life after the best experience they have ever had? I'm not sure I know how. Going from town to town and seeing new places, and giving my presentation and knowing full well that I made an impact has made everything worth it (again, I know I have used the "worth it" many times, but it's true).

It won't be all bad when I return home. Friday night I will be assisting at Tri-City Speedway for the USAC race there, and then on either Monday or Tuesday I will be returning to the Joplin area. The week after that I will be in the Columbia region so while I may see returning home as an end, my logic once again is flawed.

It's been amazing and I can never thank TouchPoint enough for giving me this platform to do this. I may be sad when this leg of my journey is over as it has been the best, but I think I know how to move on after this best experience of my life. How will this be done? I guess I'll just have to make sure it gets better and better.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love/Hate Memory

I love my memory as it seems to be better than the average person. I can vividly recall my preschool room, the kindergarten room, and the arcade that I played my first driving simulator at. It is amazing to be able to see those places in my mind as if I were actually there and to be able to all but smell the room and see the lights of the rooms and the bells and whistles of the arcade.

I hate my memory as people aren't a part of it. I have been to so amazing places and met phenomenal people, but I don't remember them in my memory. I joke with police officers in my police presentations that, should I be a witness to something, I would, "not remember the unless they were 10ft tall or had five arms".

I love my memory because I can still be in another time. Daily I experience the trip to Las Vegas I had in 2003 and the many miles of Interstate 70. I can still recall the scenery and the emotion I felt when I got to the end of I-70 in Utah. I can remember the snacks I bought at each gas station and the comment one sales clerk made to me that I should not drink the four Red Bulls in one sitting.

I hate my memory because I don't recall any person on my trip to Vegas. I so badly want to remember people, but it is so hard to even look at a person much less remember them. There is so much information to be processed that my mind doesn't even allow a tid-bit of info to be processed. Scenery is simple as it doesn't have minute changes. Rooms are easy because they are static, people are another issue. Posture, emotion, and composure all change each second. If you see a person one day, and the next they wear a different outfit and have a hair cut one might not even be able to recognize the difference. I always missed when my girlfriend changed her hair style, but that's because it was like seeing her for the first time each time.

I love my memory for it's ability to recall conversations. When talking to someone I can go back and continue a conversation we had years ago. Usually this makes no sense to the other person and I have to set the stage to get them to remember, but very rarely will I be unable to remember a conversation.

I hate, no, HATE my memories inability to remember the other person in those conversations. I'd give anything to remember one thing about the girl I talked to in Minneapolis in 1999 (see my book for that story). For the first time in my presentations she got mentioned yesterday and the 11 year mark will happen on July 2nd. I remember the conversations and I remember the intense UNO games that game down to single points, and I remember the fact that a pastor from Montana joined us in a game, but I don't remember a single thing about either person. I'd give anything to remember one thing, just one.

Often times I feel alone in public. Even around those I consider friends I feel isolated. Perhaps it isn't the presents fault as no matter how hard I try to remember I am always alone in my memories, a world where no one exists except me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One Year Later: Dreams Do Come True

First, if you haven't read the article on how raising awareness became my passion you should. It can be read here http://lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com/2010/04/autism-awareness-month-and-how.html.

That was one year ago and last year I knew what I wanted, but had no direction. It isn't so much to want to raise awareness and to want to help, but one must have the platform to do so. I didn't have a platform nor did I have direction. All I knew was what I wanted, but had no idea how to do so.

My drive home from New York City last year was a very sad drive. Being in New York City at Autism Speaks made me feel as if I accomplished something, or rather a part of something. Leaving there, one year ago, I felt like I was coming back home to nothingness. My passion was set, but what to do about it? What could I do in Missouri when I discovered my passion in an office in Manhattan?

Through some odd twists of fate I did some consultant work at Touch Point Autism Services, and at the time I thought this would be a one and done gig. As you've read though through my previous blog entries, hopefully, you know that I am now full time at Touch Point.

When I started full time I did not know how much of an impact I could have. It's impossible for me to see what could be so when I started I was just hoping that I could raise awareness and understanding.

Last year when I left Manhattan I was thinking big. I may have been blinded by the big city because I was back to my "go big or go home" mentality. The past couple weeks have changed me in a big way and through this change I have realized that big starts in one's own backyard.

I'm writing this today in Joplin, Missouri and tonight I have another presentation. I have seen more of Missouri on this extended road trip then I think I have while living in this state for 17 years. Before I only saw what was on I-70, and I-44 and when one just stays on the interstate I believe one can lose the sense of community and humanity that exists outside the interstate.

What I am getting at is, for one thing, I love this traveling, but secondly the people I have encountered at my presentations are people that if I had just "gone big" I may not have been able to make a difference. Don't get me wrong, I still want large opportunities, but I also want to go to as many small towns as possible because there is need there. Autism isn't just located in the metro areas of the world, it is everywhere and the response I get, even at a presentation of just 16 people, is of the utmost thanks.

I wish I could comprehend the magnitude of a comment such as, "Thank you, I now understand my son a little bit more." or, "Thank you so much, seeing you and hearing you speak gives me hope." Perhaps if I did fully understand it I would be unable to get such results, but regardless I know what I am doing is important.

One year ago I could never have thought this would be reality. When I wrote the chapter, "The Fourth Wall" in my book I envisioned that I would get to travel around and talk about that concept. I dreamt of sleeping in hotel rooms and driving many miles, but it was only a dream and I quickly thought back to reality and the fact that something like that could never happen to me. Boy, was I wrong!

I don't want to keep saying I am having the time of my life, but from where I was to where I am now I feel like I must. Traveling and being on the road is my dream. This isn't relocation theory, but it's close. I feel alive, and I get to raise awareness and understanding at the same time so whatever I was dreaming, or envisioning when I drove back from Autism Speaks I think my dreams came up short as this is the time of my life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Changing Commercial World

I have found in the past 10 years or so a real change in the goods market. This entry isn't an essay on trending fads in the goods industry, but rather an unique look at how items are being changed to meet a new market.

When I was growing up everything in the stores were always the same. I could be wrong on this, but "limited editions" and "new..." were never used. From my observances it was the late 90's when things started getting crazy with new items based on old favorites.

When talking about this I really think about the cereal aisle. As a young child my favorite cereal was something along the lines of "Circus". Eventually it was discontinued and this was devastating for me as there was no other cereal. I would eventually have to adapt, which was hard, but then I got into the habit of eating Frosted Wheats. I don't remember the year, but eventually the Frosted Mini-Wheat would come about, and now I ask, do they still have the big frosted wheats anymore?

Let's take a look at the Mini Wheat market now. After years of nothing new, they now have multiple flavors be it Blueberry, Strawberry, or Cinnamon. I am amazed at the progress from status quo to now having to change so often.

I hate this new market! I liked it how it used to be when things were things and those things were never reinvented. Now go into a store and see how many items, on their packaging, say, "New look, same great taste!" What does that mean? Why do they feel the need to change their image every other week? How am I to cope with it all?

What led to this change? I like things the way they were, but do the masses now like constant change?

Not all new items were bad, I can remember the first time that the green colored Starburst candy came out, or at least the first time I was exposed to it, and it was amazing. After yeas of yellow packaging I was in heaven. So maybe all this change isn't 100% bad.

I am writing this late at night after two full days of flagging in the sun so maybe I am making no sense at all, but I am curious on this. Has this constant change of goods and new foods always been like this and I just didn't notice? And, are you annoyed and that empty statement of "new look, same great taste?" as I am?

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I am on the road again tomorrow headed to Joplin. Tuesday will mark a big day for me as it will mark one year since my life changing trip to New York City. I have told that story twice on here, but I will think of something special to write that will be new and fresh.

Friday, June 4, 2010

On Tour With Thomas Jefferson

I've had a small game I've played for a couple years now. It's not a big game, and I sometimes annoy people with it, but it is so much fun. What is it? It's simple; I take Thomas Jefferson on tour.

During my journey the past two weeks I have let Mr. Jefferson see new places. The places he has seen wasn't shared by those that saw him. Why? Well, I believe that money is money and I love having and spending $2 bills.

Some people on the spectrum can be rebellious and I think spending $2's is the extent of mine. It is so much fun though because I love the look sales clerk give me that says, "you're kidding, right?" I will stand there flat faced with no emotion and their look of befuddlement just grows. I love it!

One time I had an argument with a clerk and she told me I was trying to pass of fake money. This did nothing but further my enjoyment of Mr. Jefferson.

Some people when they get a $2 will simply keep it. I can't get rid of mine fast enough. I believe it is money and even though the $2 is somewhat rare, it's value is still $2. I had a problem when I worked at a bank because I would hand out the "odd" money. One person cashed a 40 dollar check and said they wanted $3 in coins regardless the coin, so I gave them a $20, a $10, a $5, a $2, a $1 then two Kennedy half-dollars, a Susan B. Anthony Dollar, and then four quarters. The customer wasn't too pleased with me.

A couple weeks ago got $90 in 2's and am already down to just $20 worth. I have had a lot of fun, and have confused many sales clerks. I have to ask, does this make me bad? I could be doing things that are frowned upon much more by society, and the $2 clearly states that it is good for ALL debts public or private. What could be bad is the amount of enjoyment I get out of it!

I wonder what Mr. Jefferson would think of this. He was our third president and an intellectual and now his legacy has been reduced to making sales clerk confused. Perhaps he would get a kick out of it as he still has the widely used, and accepted, nickel.

I'll be driving a long distance today and can't wait for that first stop. Mr. Jefferson has a busy day today and I may event stop at a bank or two to see if I can refill my $2's.

Mr. Jefferson will always have a spot in the tour bus, or rather wallet, and there's only one person who I think I would rather have and that would be Salmon P. Chase (you'll have to look that one up yourself).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Being On the Road

I woke up last night, looked at my clock, and realized my clock was on the wrong side of my bed. As I tried to focus my eyes I noticed that I heard rain and could see curtains on a window. I sat there perplexed because my room is in the basement, and there are no windows. Um, where am I? A couple seconds later I remembered that I am in a hotel in Springfield so I smiled and went back to sleep.

I love moments like that when nothing makes sense. I only get those when I travel and that sense of euphoria realizing anew that I am somewhere besides home is amazing.

What is also amazing is the level of growth I feel within me when I travel. I brought along my Xbox to play before I go to bed, and I don't think I have turned it on. My mind is only focusing on my autism concepts and racing. I am still reliving every moment in those two flagstands and I can't wait to do it again. Also, I am really dwelling on my concepts I have created so far and the thoughts are so deep I have struggled to write something today.

As much as I am thinking on my writings I am not thinking on other topics. I am relaxed and tired. It is rare I experience this at home. When I am home I am just thinking about routines and the routines of tomorrow. Right now though there is no routine and each day is something new that can't be predicted. Once I accept the fact it can't be predicted, in its entirety, I quit thinking about it.

The only thing I know for sure today is that I have a presentation in Branson. I may be relaxed right now, but as the hour of my presentation nears I will be filled with intensity. To truly get a good presentation I must be alive, energetic, and the hardest of all, personable. Within the confines of a presentation I can do this with ease.

Those have been my random ramblings for the day. As I said, my mind is just so reflective on all that I have written so far that I have quite literally stared at my computer screen for a good hour without anything making too much sense. Writer's block can hit the best of us!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Most Difficult Thing To Understand

If there was one thing I wish people understood about Asperger syndrome it is that there are peaks and valleys. There are going to be things I excel at, and then there will be things that I fail at. The thing about this is there may not be that big of a difference between the two.

Yesterday I had to go buy some cough medicine at Walgreen's here in Springfield and the sales clerk commented that I had to smile to get service. I said that I am usually unemotional so she too said she would become "flat".

Stores are a difficult place for me because of the possibility of a verbal exchange like that. If she could have seen me an hour later when I was at the podium giving a presentation that saw me full of emotions and full of facial expressions I am sure she would have been confused.

My chapter in Finding Kansas about Kansas is all about this, but I don't know if someone that isn't on the spectrum can understand what this feels like. At Walgreen's I was virtually paralyzed conversationally speaking, but at the presentation I came alive.

I perceive our society as believing that if a person can do something great at a given topic, they can do everything great. This is not so, but being on the spectrum makes this worse. This leads to confusion.

For younger kids, say school years, this may be impossible to understand. "How can my fellow student do math so easily, yet they don't talk to anyone else?" may be a question a student thinks if they see a person on the spectrum.

Parents too may become frustrated with this. I can write about it, I can talk about it, and I can come up with metaphor after metaphor but unless you live it and experience it I don't know if you can understand it.

My coworkers at the videogame store thought I was stand-offish or a snob because I was unable to communicate to them yet I was the smoothest talker when it came to talking to the customers. I can 100% see why they would be confused, but even so I was unable to do anything about it.

As frustrating as it may be for those around us that are on the spectrum, it can be much worse at times for us. I don't really realize just how big of a gap there may be unless someone comments. A racer asked me, "Are you sure you are that same person as the flagman who was flagging earlier?" when he saw the big gap between me in my comfort zone and not. This was an honest question and he wasn't trying to say that, "Wow, you sure are weird, why aren't you talking now?" but that was how the question was taken. I couldn't help it! The race day was over and all the rules that I was the enforcer of was gone. There was no "alias" and I was simply me, and I fell into the positional warfare and the end result was him asking me that question.

What I am trying to get at is we may know that we may be a little off in certain areas. Unless I am reminded of this short-coming I am fine with it. Others may not have this level of acceptance, but becoming frustrated with my lack of ability in certain areas is not going to help. I know when people are trying to help me, and those reminders aren't as bad, but becoming frustrated and being in a state where one is not trying to understand where I am coming from is not a good thing.

I've always had this and it started out by me being able to do math far beyond my years in 2nd grade, but I couldn't tie my shoes. In 5th grade I could do fractions had a speed that was on the verge of impossible, but yet I couldn't understand what a prepositional phrase was (still don't!). When I worked at the retail store I could talk to the customers with ease, yet I ignored my co-workers. And even now, I can write out my emotions and come up with concepts that let's you into the inner working of life on this side of the wall, yet I was unable to express anything to that sales clerk at Walgreen's. If anyone saw me do the great things I did how could I expect them to understand? We, of course, live in a society where one great deed means greatness throughout the board and that is, sadly, what makes this the most difficult thing to understand.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Direction

Today I will be driving to Springfield for another round of presentations. When I get there this time I will know where I am staying (I spent 20 minutes arguing with my Garmin GPS) and I know where I will be speaking. This is comforting because I know where to go and what to do.



In a entry last week I talked about how difficult it is for me to handle situations that I am unsure of what I should be doing. Direction is key for me. I mentioned that in those awkward times of unsureness I will exhibit a strange way about me that often looks like I am uncomfortable. I am beginning to cal this positional warfare because it truly is a battle wit myself to try and make myself comfortable.



The problem with positional warfare is that the battle truly is internal, but it is fought externally. If I am in a situation that I don't know what to do, say, I am unsure if I should be doing more or less, or say if I am thinking about asking for something I will start my positional warfare.



Positional warfare, at least for me, is a clear sign that I am processing a lot of thoughts and that no matter how I hold myself in posture and demeanor I am unhappy. The urge to move my body is uncontrollable as I am trying to scratch a metaphorical itch that I can feel but does not exist.



When I am unsure of what to do I panic. Let's compare this to when I know what to do. The picture to the right was Saturday afternoon and I am the person behind the flagman. My level of perceived ability had to be much greater than when I was simply observing as I did in Terre Haute because I had direction. I knew exactly what to do and I felt much more comfortable being. Yes, I said being; when I am unsure what to do my whole state of being is in question. This leads to the multiple body shifts and is rather anxiety inducing. However, Saturday up in the flagstand I wasn't shifting my weight around, I wasn't pacing, and I wasn't constantly changing the way I had my arms.

Just as it would seem with other aspects of the spectrum, this trait is either on or off. I won't be mildly sure of what to do. I either will be 100% focused or I will be uncomfortable and lost.

What gives direction? When I worked at the video game store I was lost up until I knew the rules and sales pitch for the magazine subscription. My direction was to sell those and within that direction I was able to not feel funny about my stance or posture. The downside was that if there was no customer there wasn't really an Aaron. I was there, but I was so unsure of what to say and what to do that I was simply a shell of a person.

I think I love games because in most every game there is direction. The direction, in terms of games, is an objective. Let me know what I should be doing. Let me know what my objective should be. When I try and figure these things out I often get frustrated because my options are often delayed and often wrong.

I don't need to worry about any of that today though. I continue my journey as I transition from the wonderful world of auto racing and go back to the race to spread awareness and understanding. Today will be a good day!