So earlier this week I presented at the Saint Louis County Police Academy for the CIT program and the neat thing about this program is that in the afternoon we have three groups of these officers come to our city location for even more autism training and it is in that segment that today's blog post takes place.
We had already done one group and as the 2nd group was getting seated I heard a noise. My reaction to this would be akin to a prairie dog rising up at attention to a potential threat. My mind raced because good news never travels by this sound. I looked around the room and all else were calm, but I knew a storm, perhaps, was brewing. However, it couldn't be as it was only 30 degrees, so what was going on? Oh, what was this noise that had me concerned? I was hearing the civil defense sirens.
In my opinion there is no noise as ominous as the sound of civil defense sirens whether it's the classic ones from the 40's or these new electronic ones that can even speak. Whatever it is it's ominous because, as I said, good news doesn't travel by them.
I knew there wasn't a storm so if it isn't a storm it could only mean one thing and that was WWIII was breaking out. I quickly took my phone out and saw the time. It was 1:30. This slowed my sense of panic because the odds of WWIII breaking at an even number is 1 in 60. It could be a coincidence but the odds aren't in its favor. I then thought about the monthly test, but those are on the first Monday of the month at 11 so why would they do back to back tests? Panic crept in again.
All these thoughts are coming at a lightning pace. What is several paragraphs on your screen were thoughts that came instantaneously as my defense mechanisms were triggered. I then, finally, remembered that there is a yearly "storm preparedness day" in Missouri where schools and businesses do drills and I Google searched "storm preparedness day Missouri" and sure enough several news stories were there and that meant crisis was averted and the world would continue onward.
It was visible that something had perplexed me so I asked the officers, "Does anyone else hear that?" to which only a one nodded their head. I looked at him and just gave him a smile and a nod then said, "the civil defense sirens are going off" and then the room got very quiet as all there listened, and not all could hear. I could see when each person did hear it because there was a sense of, "Ah, there it is!"
For my police presentation I cover sensory issues in more length than I do in any other of my presentations and it was great to be able to have a moment like this to illustrate the potential hypersensitivity of sounds. What no one else could hear, or make sense of it they did hear it, was instantly processed, analyzed, and understood in my brain. I was in a panic before anyone else had even heard the noise and for the twenty something officers that were there they were given an almost impossible to repeat experience on just what hypersensitivity can mean, and I know they took notice. As that group ended several officers asked, "Aaron, how did you hear that?" and while I didn't have the answer except to say my senses are heightened I was able to use that and let them know that, if they have an autism related call, to keep that in mind. For one, if they are a couple rooms over the person on the autism spectrum may hear what they are saying. Furthermore, things that anyone can hear, such as a radio or an incoming squad car siren, may be much more amplified to them than it is to the officers.
I've had several presentations where I've been able to use outside influences and put them to use, but of them all I think this was the best. I have learned a lesson, however, and that is even though I preach that prediction is great for officers in that letting a person on the autism spectrum know what's going to happen in advance I, myself, am going to have to do a job being prepared for storm preparedness day because I had no idea it was going to happen and all my anxiety of the end of the world was all for not... Thankfully!