Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All good things...

Today is going to be a difficult day. Driving to the office today I was already fearing the need to write this, much less what is to come later today.

Today marks an end of an era. I love eras and hate when things end.

I can't believe it was four months ago today that I started giving my autism presentation to police officers at the Saint Louis County Police Academy. To say that I was nervous on that first day would be an understatement. I had barely reviewed the power point slides (I stress too much when trying to practice so it's easier to just go with what's on it when it counts. I don't usually practice things) and when it came for my 1 PM start time I shook and had trouble getting control of the class.

I was so nervous that first time it felt like my first race. I used to be quite fearful of police officers for unknown reasons, but now I feel totally at ease standing in front of a room full.

When I began my presentations I did not know how much, if any, officers knew about autism. From comments I have received the officers get little to no training on autism so presentation is quite beneficial.

As beneficial as it is for the officers, the 35 sessions I have given have helped me too. I have a new found confidence when speaking too a group and I have found I love being in front of a crowd (so long as I know what I am talking about). Public speaking is difficult to practice, but having 2-4 sessions a week for the past four months has been of great help to me, but today is it. Today is the end.

I hate ends. An end represents change and I despise change. What makes change even harder for me is that I see an end, like today's, and I figure I will never speak again. I know it's rigid, but my mind operates on a forever thinking set. This means that whatever is, will be forever. Therefore, because today's the last speaking thing of this 1st quarter of in-service training, it's the last speaking thing I will ever do.

I hate hate hate this thinking set. I have always had it and it has led to many a sleepless night. What makes it even worse, at least this time, is that I have a presentation to police officers in Saint Charles tomorrow for their CIT course! Even though I have something planned tomorrow, I feel like today's the end.

As silly as you may think this type of thinking is, this is rather common for those on the spectrum. Change is difficult and I believe it to be so because change is forever because whatever is now is forever. If there is nothing planned and nothing imminent then there will be nothing forever. If you have never experienced this yourself I don't know if those words can make any sense for you, but trust me when I say it can lead to a very difficult life.

As I write this sentence I am 5 hours and 9 minutes from the start of my final presentation. As I have done for the past four months I will drive to the academy and walk through the halls and into the classroom. I will speak with conviction and make a joke or two as the minutes fly by. I will bare my soul and explain what having a sensory overload is like, and will watch as the officers look around as I explain the potential hazards of the high pitch hum of electronics and the potential sensory harshness of fluorescent lighting. When my presentation is over I will ask if there are any questions and then will thank the officers for their time, and then I will leave the room. Whereas I knew I would be back the previous 34 times, this time is different. This time I will be walking into the hall, then the lobby, then the front door for the final time and it will be over.

I hope I can get through today's session without breaking down in tears. These four months have been life changing. As I mentioned in my "autism awareness month" blog entry, I know what my passion is. Through these four months of presentations I have learned that I have the skill to carry out that passion because if I can hold a room full of officers attention I must be doing something right.

As I walk through the front door today and head to my car it will be like I will never present again. This is so frustrating for me because I have the thing tomorrow, and then I have two presentations in the Springfield area at the end of the month, and a week of presentations near Springfield at the start of June. I can't see that now as I can only see the now and today is it. Today is the end.

I am so grateful I was able to give so many presentations. Tomorrow will arrive and I will have the CIT presentation, and then the 18th will arrive, then I will get to Springfield, but today will be hard. I have loved the routine, and I know I've probably gone long-winded on this, but that's how hard it is, this is living life on the other side of the wall in its fullest extent.

And then again maybe I keep writing because I don't want it to be over. Perhaps I don't want to end this entry because ending this will be one step closer to 1:50PM. Time is ticking faster than I want it to.

To end I will say today, if you haven't gathered, will be one of the more difficult days of my life. I never understood the relevancy or understood the the line, "All good things must come to an end". I do now.


  1. Practice makes perfect, you know. Well, at least that's what they tell me.

  2. Aaron,
    You did a great job with your presentations the last four months. I really appreciate the work you did making my department's training go well. Your experience should serve as an example that many things are possible in this world if we just put our fears aside and persevere.

    Best of Luck,
    Colby Dolly

  3. My husband is a Behavior Detection Officer at Newark Liberty Aiport. His part of TSA has received training in autistic behavior and I have heard it is very good.

    Thanks for what you do.

  4. Aaron,
    It was an honor to hear your presentation yesterday. You may feel this is an end of an era, but I see it as the beginning to a new chapter in your life. As the Director of the St. Louis County & Municipal Police Academy I have had the opportunity to hear parts of your presentations over the last few months and review the class evaluations. Your commitment to your presentations and education of our police officers is commendable. The evaluations always reflected a well received program. Thank you for your assistance in providing a good prospective of what an officer may anticipate when interacting with a person with Autism and how we may be able to further assist and work with these individuals. Good Luck with your future endeavors, Kevin Lawson