Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Wow, I Never Would Have Known"

Yesterday I gave my police presentation to officers going through the Crisis Intervention Team training and at the end I had an unexpected conversation that included the quote that is the title of this post.

This conversation was a first for me as this officer had seen me outside the Police Academy. Amazingly enough he remembered me from bowling at the bowling alley several years ago. Furthermore we weren't even in the same league. This may have been true but after my presentation, regarding myself being on the autism spectrum, he said, "Wow, I never would have known you were on the autism spectrum".

In my presentations I state, very clearly I might add, that if you were to see me outside of this environment in an open ended situation you may not recognize me.

By this point in time four other officers had joined in the discussion as the day's worth of classes were over, but truly they were interested and wanted to know more. I'm used to this in other forums, but after yesterday's post about the rollercoaster of emotions this was a much needed and much welcomed event.

The officer wanted to know how I function at the bowling alley so I told him that I have bowled there for over a decade and have been on the same team, somewhat, for the entire time. Instantly he picked up on my concepts and asked, "If you had to change teams then I am willing to bet you would not bowl, correct?" I stated something along the lines of that I might bowl, but it would be difficult.

I also added the fact that my favorite thing to do in the social setting of the bowling alley is to work on the South County Times crossword puzzle. Most people socialize at the bowling alley and while I do too I also have my crossword puzzle to fall back on.

This story, I feel, is a great example of the potential issues people like myself may have. In the right situation we will create an image that will make someone state, "Wow, I never..." but if the safe environment we are used to gets changed then it may become obvious. I think back to what my teachers told my dad at parent teacher conferences, "Well, Aaron doesn't socialize to well with other students, but perhaps he is just smarter so don't worry about it."

I'm sure most people outside of the readers of this blog would have a hard time picking up the behaviors of a person with Asperger's Syndrome; and why should they? If there is no reason to know it, or have been exposed to it, how would they know? If a person sees us in our element, or as I like to call it, "Kansas" they may always have the, "I never..." mindset. It is when the world throws us a curve and knocks us out of this that it will become apparent and then this is where confusion may set in and this is where education of the world is needed.

It is so hard to explain in a few sentences, and it is even harder when under stress, that I am on the autism spectrum. Yesterday I went to the DMV to try and register my car and as I finally, FINALLY, got my number called I was already frazzled. This was caused by the fact that I was a kid magnet and these three kids were running around my chair screaming like the end of the world was near. When the screaming trio left I was called and I went up to the lady who called my number, set my papers down, and clearly stated that, "I have a form of autism and I am frazzled right now." This got a puzzled look, but after a few seconds her tone changed and she became very helpful.

I think this was the first time I came out of the box with stating what I have and that I am having issues. The DMV story happened before the officer's presentation but I found it amazing that I did this because I knew the cashier lady would not think anything was off except maybe some sort of suspicious behavior on my part due to lack of eye contact and odd movements.

Wow, I wanted a three to five paragraph article and now I have no clue how long this is. I also don't know if I proved my point or added points I had no intentions of making. I think the bottom line is that the public as a whole may see us in our element and suspect nothing, but when the curveball gets thrown and people like myself have issues the public may scratch their heads and wonder, "What just happened" before they learn what really happened and then say, "Wow, I never would have known".


  1. Aaron, My son was diagnosed with Aspergers in January and you have cleared up so many questions I had about him that I thought could never be answered. I heard you speak at SSD last week and feel so empowered with the knowledge you have given me through that night and now through your book and your blog.
    I noticed you will be back in STL on April 12. I will be bringing lots of friends and family that spend time with my son so they can understand him better too.I can't thank you enough!Chris V.

  2. You actually told someone. I am impressed, Aaron!

  3. Police officers are different from helping professionals. I will tell you an experience I had when I met my school based OT clinical instructor for the first time. She was with me for about an hour. However, she already noticed the signs. Yet, she felt I would be OK. The last two statements were what she told me at my final evaluation. Why she is so good? It's because she did LOTS of clinical observations and has worked with numerous kids with autism. So, someone like that has a trained eye for autism comparing to police officers because helping professionals generally have a lot more experiences with this population (even if they may not work in pediatrics settings).