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Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014: The Race Continues

It was just four years ago this week I gave my first presentation as an employee of TouchPoint Autism Services. It's amazing how fast time has gone as I can still feel the apprehension and tension I had driving to the Saint Louis Police Academy as I was sure I was going to fail. Thankfully, failure didn't happen and as a new year is upon us I feel the need to explain that my passion, this race I am in, is still going strong.

The race I talk about has nothing to do with cars or positions but rather the race to spread autism awareness and understanding. I've been asked what I mean by race and in the past and there's two answers; the first is that I've always wanted to race cars. That was my plan growing up and there wasn't a thought otherwise to this plan. Life works in odd ways because I'm still racing, but this race has much more relevance to the world in whole and the reason I say race is because it's just that; since early intervention is critical the need for the world to understand it is critical. But it's beyond that as there are those who may be like me in that the diagnosis will come later in life. Each day a person goes through life wondering why they are different, or why they don't fit in, could be a day spent in agony.

A couple days ago my girlfriend asked a profound question which was, "Who is your presentation and message primarily geared towards?" I never truly thought about this but my answer didn't require much thought because it's for everyone. My message is for those who have been diagnosed early as understanding one's self is important and understanding of those around us can help us greatly. Also, my presentation is for those who may be diagnosed, or will know someone diagnosed in the future. There's another element to this and this next story shook me to my core sometime last year.

I won't mention when or where this happened, but my presentation is also crucial for those that know they're different and want answers. I had just presented to an entire student body and many students were talking to me afterwards. There was one student who was waiting patiently and he kept waiting, and waiting when finally no one else was around and just as he was about to speak he broke down in tears. I didn't know what to do as no one else was around; it was just me and him and I had no idea what was going to happen next. Had I offended him? Was he angry? My mind was a mess trying to figure this out when he said, "Every... Every... Everything you said... is me. My family doesn't understand me and I am always taking things literally at home... I... Everything you said..." and after that he lost his composure once more and I gave a five minute speech about autism, Asperger's, and all the hope out there. I did my best, and to this day I replay this event at least five times a day, but I notified the school and the official process of diagnosing began and the family was contacted and the path towards understanding had been started.

That last story is the essence of my race. Each day that goes by could be another day in misery. The sole thing I wanted after I was diagnosed was someone, anyone, to simply understand me. I thought the world hated me; I used that wordage a lot in my first writings. It isn't that way though and the reason why my race is so important is that there are others who are where I was and since I know what that feels like I must continue this race. Finishing 2nd in this race is unacceptable. Each day that goes by is another day that someone out there is silently screaming for help. I was blessed on that day to have been able to reach that student that I mentioned the way that I did. What had been confusion and frustration finally had a name. Last year was an amazing year, but 2014 is a new year and I have always believed that one can't rest on what they've done but rather must always come up with new ideas and reach new heights. I've got some ideas for this year which I hope I get to share with you at some point in time, but in the least the new year is upon us and the race is most certainly going to keep a vicious pace as it must because the stakes are too high to fail.

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