Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rapid Response Meeting

Yesterday I attended the Rapid Response Peer-to-Peer exchange in Columbia. I went along with TouchPoint's Community  Liaison, Matt, and had no idea who was there or what to expect.

The Rapid Response group is a mix of state and private groups or persons who are trying to raise the awareness in doctors and preschools of autism. There were about 40 people there and instantly I felt uncomfortable in a way because everyone knew me or had seen me and yet I only recognized one person who was at a presentation just two weeks ago.

With having such a mix of conversations and people around me I went into shut down mode. I didn't want to go there, but my body gave me no choice. I stared off into space straight in front of me trying to gather control of the situation, but the safest thing I could do was to just look forward away from everyone.

After a minute of this I got angry at myself. I'd say about half of the room had seen me give a presentation and they saw me when I was animated and talkative and now here I was, twirling my belt loops, and as silent as could be. I kept asking the, "Why?" question forgetting that I have the Asperger diagnosis. This sort of thing often happens as when one is always in a comfortable environment one may not always experience the thing I was going through then.

I kept trying to break out of this shut down, but I couldn't. There were just too many people there. Thankfully the program began and during the actual program there was no talking needed from me.

Five hours later at the end it was another one of those open-ended conversations. On our way out the table we had moved to started talking to us and it was easier then. Maybe having five hours to adjust, or maybe having it be just a smaller group, well, whatever the case may be I was able to talk and it felt great.

This happens every so often; one of those reminders of what I have. As I usually say, I am glad this happens because it keeps me focused. If I always lived in the bubble I try to maintain then I would have nothing to write about. Also, for those that have seen me prior to that meeting, I think it was good that they saw the real me outside of presentations. Many times people will tell me after a presentation, "Are you sure you are on the spectrum?" To answer this I will say, "Someday you may see me outside this medium of presentations and when you do you may ask yourself, 'is that really the same person?'"

As for today I will be headed to airport in a few hours. I will be heading towards Grand Junction, Colorado for the SKUSA Summer Nationals. I'm excited to get back to a kart race as well as the fact I have two flags I have never had before (black flag with yellow X and the course condition flag) and can't wait just to have them in my flag stand with all the other flags. I know, I'm a flag dork. It's going to be a great weekend though and I may post something tonight, tomorrow, or Sunday if anything relevant enough happens to me.

1 comment:

  1. I will give you another example of how this should be done. The eve before I headed home from an OT conference in Louisville, I was with several people walking along downtown Louisville and did some bar hopping. A couple hours later, one person from the group said that she wanted to split with the group (as it was about midnight then) as she went to a nearby bar that was quiet. I went with her since I felt I might be tired soon. So, we went to this bar and we actually had a conversation, "open ended" style, at the bar... before we walked back to the hotel we were staying at. We took the time to get to know each other a little bit more.

    While my eye contact wasn't great, but I kept the conversation going (albeit I was talking a lot about my preferred topics... which was bad). Keeping the conversation going is the first thing individuals with autism need to learn how to do in such situations (if eye contact is still a work in progress). It can be done by popping questions, making comments of what you just heard, etc. Usually, you should do this no more than a few seconds. There are a few situations where you can dwell longer... but it is only when the person asks you a very important question (and there should be some cues for you to know)... but even if that's the case, you should have a line of saying that you are thinking ready before you ponder.