Friday, December 3, 2010

Same Room, Different Result

This morning I attended the Saint Louis County Police appreciation breakfast for the volunteers that played a role in the trainings this year (see:

The room used was classroom #1 in the Saint Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. This was the room that I gave the majority of my in-service presentations in (and also the room I still give the C.I.T. presentations). As I entered the room this morning I was filled with a sense of awe as I remembered the first time I walked into that room. At the time I had just started working part-time for TouchPoint and my confidence as a speaker didn't exist. In just 11 months though, well, how things have changed!

Things may have changed and I may have been in awe, but walking into the room just a few hours ago was like walking into it the first time. I had no presentation to give and had no confidence. My positional warfare was raging and I quite simply did not know what to do. I didn't know where to sit and I knew no one. I was confused as I wondered if I should try and take part in the conversation of the few people that were there at that point in time, or should I just take a seat? But what seat? as there were so many.

My decision making was slow and the anxiety was high. More and more people started showing up and the seats (there were around 100) were going fast. At this point in time I got very much down on myself because this is the room that I truly became me. This was the room that, through practice, I have become the speaker I am, but today I was silent, and probably visually uncomfortable.

I don't know if I had too much to say to anyone, but I most certainly did not want to be in such an uncomfortable state. I fell into the trap of thinking that it was 100% my fault as to my being "uncomfortable in my own skin". Self hate slowly crept in before I realized that this is Asperger Syndrome. This is the challenge. Yes, that room will always be remembered as a room of triumph, but my presentations in that room were about the autism spectrum and what better place to be reminded of just how powerful the challenges are than that room.

Acceptance did come, but the effects are still being felt. An episode like the one this morning is a huge shock to the system. I may have looked withdrawn, and I may have looked unemotional, but trust me when I say a storm of swirling emotions is raging within. Because of that my ability to function right now is hindered. I am visibly tired and am more tired than I appear.

If there is a better example of how one slight change in the environment can lead a person from being able to talk with ease to struggling to say one word sentences I know I haven't experienced it yet. This is the experience we on the spectrum deal with. Unless you are on it I am not sure you can grasp just how fast and how maddening it all is. Do I want to be in the state I was in this morning? NO! I wish I could stay in the state I am in when I am presenting. Words are easier, movements are easier, and life seems easier.

As much as I wish I could stay in that state I can't. I may wish it but in a way it's the challenges, much like this morning, that allow me to be me. When I give a presentation I am not taking the seconds, minutes, and hours for granted because I never know when an experience like this morning will happen.


  1. You have such inner strength to face the challenges of stepping outside of Kansas. My prayer for you is that, like your experiences with presentations, it gets a little easier each time. My oldest son so rarely steps outside his front door, much less Kansas and will actually get dizzy and pass out. I never understood that until I met you!

    God bless!

  2. I had a situation similar to yours last year in one of my state OT conferences. Back then, I was a student. So, on the first day of that conference, me and the other OT students were in that room where all the students took place. I was leading off in terms of presentations goes. Then, I switched gears for the rest of the day as I was part of the audience.

    I mainly was with four groups of people all day. One is a couple of girls who has not started an OT program yet. One of them was a friend's friend. The other was that person's friend. For the most part of the day after my presentation, I was with them listening to the presentations. Second group of people were a few OT students from Loma Linda University... and one of them is the speaker after my talk (as she brought her family along). We had lunch together. Third group of people were from my school. I wasn't with them much aside from photos and some small talk... though that's because I felt it was more important to be with the first group of people. Fourth group were from Cal State Dominguez Hills- some of them knew me before and some didn't.

    The nature of the environment didn't allow me to look isolated or lost. If I were that way, it pretty much defeated the purpose of the conference. So, I walked around to chit chat with several groups of people after all the presentations were done before I went home.

    That said, there are some occasions where it is OK to be in your own world if you don't know anybody. A key part is that you have to know what is expected of you in each setting socially. In some instances, you can ask people you know about their prior experiences. In some experiences, like the example I gave, you have to understand the unwritten (and/or sometimes vague) rules, too.