Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Moment I Knew I Made It

A shocking thing happened to me two days ago. When it happened I was filled with so many emotions that I didn't really know what had just happened. "A dream?" I said to myself, but it was no dream.

Two days ago I was in my new office area and I had an e-mail in the junk folder. It was from the United States Autism and Asperger Association (USAAA). It was a newsletter and the conference I knew I was a panelist on is coming up on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of October. Because of this I opened the e-mail and almost fell out of my chair debating if it was a dream or not.

I knew I was going to be on a panel since March, but didn't really know what that meant. I have been so busy that I never gave it much thought. The only thought I did have was a panel that maybe says one word, two if their lucky. In other words, I was clueless as to what a panel like this was.

Regaining my composure took a couple minutes as I stared at this newsletter that was on my computer screen. I looked around to see if there was anyone to show, but there wasn't. Joy, elation, and fear all bounced around my body like young children on Christmas.

What had me so joyful, elated, and fearful all at the same time? On my computer screen, in that newsletter, was the names of the people on the panel. Stephen Shore, Michael McMannon, and Temple Grandin! What went from just being a panel in the future quickly turned into an event of utmost importance. Not that it wasn't important beforehand, but now, well, all my presentations have been solo and now I am on the same panel as the pioneer and most important figure in the field.

As fast as I was joyful and elated I became fearful because, "Who am I?" Judging my works and what I have done in Missouri is hard, if impossible, for me to do. Two nights ago TouchPoint had a "Night at the Magic House" which was a free event for families with children on the autism spectrum and I was amazed at how many people knew me from seeing me somewhere. Many people thanked me for giving them hope and insight into their child, but even after that I still kept asking, "Who am I?"

Reality still hasn't set in. In just three Saturdays I will be on that panel. I will have eight minutes to state my story. What do I say? There's so much! The panel is the "Self Advocacy, Experiences, Perspectives, and Challenges" so I have a wide range I could talk on. I know my mind is going to be thinking on this all the way to the time I am on that panel.

I never fully allowed myself to think that I would ever get to that level. Something like that is an event that happens to other people, but certainly not to me. Is it a dream? It feels like one because, as fearful as the event may be and the anxiety over what to say is great, I think I can say I have made it. My voice will be heard and perhaps instead of worrying about "Who am I?" I should focus on my presentation and state "Who I am".


  1. Aaron, I'm so glad I found your blog.

    The thing I love the most, apart from your honesty and intelligence, is the fact that you and Temple Grandin appearing together does something brilliant in our lives (on the other side of the world).

    It gives my son the message that you can succeed because you are on the spectrum, not in spite of the fact that you are on the spectrum.

    Your skills, your abilities, the way you see the world and yourself in it, is what makes your input valuable (in all the meanings of that word).

    I know it's not always a walk in the park (or a panel at a prestigious conference), but nor is any NT person's life either. But by sharing your journey (struggles and all) you are carving a path for my little man and all his (hopefully proud) ASD peers.

    Thank you for that, and for everything you teach me.


  2. Hey Aaron... Trust me, you're not the only one thinking "Who am I?". Most celebrities/big names/whatever think so too. They don't think they're someone really special and everybody should be glad to be standing next to them. They're probably as exited to be there as you are. :)
    I'm sure you'll do great there, because who else is great with words and presentations but you? It's what you do! So just do what you always do and I'm sure you'll do fine. :)

  3. Excellent, Aaron! You deserve to be on that panel. You give hope to so many.

  4. I know Michael because I presented with him about a year after this. Hope you have found your identity since then.