Monday, September 12, 2011

The Power of One

Recently I have been a bit on the spoiled side with having four presentations in the past month with over 100 people in attendance. I love bigger crowds, I'm not going to lie, but it wasn't until I was driving home late Friday night that I realized the power isn't in the bigger numbers.

My passion and mission is to raise as much awareness and understanding as possible and being able to do it 100 or more people at once is great. However, for there to be true understanding in this world we need to focus on the one and not the 100. What does this mean? All of us who are or know someone on the spectrum are advocates whether you know it or not. For those that attend my presentations, well, chances are they already are aware of autism. Out in the public though, this is where the power of one is.

Here's the thing; when a chance arises to inform a person about the spectrum you should take it. It is with the people who know nothing about the spectrum that need it the most. Speakers, like myself, can talk to big groups, but they already know of the spectrum. Granted, I'd like to think that I add some understanding in my presentations, but it is out in the general public that the ones we need to reach are.

I hope one day there is no need for a post like this, but I think back over the course of this year to times that I did state that I needed help and my plea fell on deaf ears. The quote I heard at the Salt Lake City airport will not soon be forgotten, "Sir, I don't know about autism and I have a flight I need to get ready."

Had I been in a better state I should have thrown it a quick thing of what autism is. This is the power of one; if we can get to as many people as possible then incidents like this might not happen. One person may not have the ability to make a situation perfect, but one person does have the ability to make a bad situation worse. And they may not mean to do so, but if they don't know about the autism spectrum and that those on the spectrum may need a little more help then they may choose the wrong words or actions without knowing it.

We're farther along than we were eight years ago when I was first diagnosed. I no longer have to explain Asperger Syndrome, or explain that I didn't say the word "hamburger" (true story, happened twice) but there's still a mass out there that may know the word autism but have no idea what it is, what it looks like, and what to do about it.

So, with all that being so, we all have the power when the chance presents itself. Now I'm not asking for everyone to grab a bullhorn and drive up and down the roads in the middle of the night spreading autism awareness (that would be cool though, although I'm afraid it wouldn't end well) but when the chance pops up, say, at the Salt Lake City airport, you can give a quick 10-15 second explanation of autism. We don't need to go into extreme depth but rather just enough to open the door of what autism is.

Here's what I hope happens. If you're reading this you already know about the spectrum, but if we can harness the power of one then maybe that person who now understands will come across another person who doesn't know about the spectrum and then they share it and so on and so forth.

I'm sure something like this has been thought of before, written before, and spoken of before, but truly the power of one lies with us. We can make the difference to that one individual who is ignorant of the spectrum. One by one we can make that difference and get us closer to a world where everyone is aware.

Update: Due to the wonderful comments I have to give my opinion what, "what do we say?" Right now... I'm processing so I might write a full on post about this, but I think a good place to begin may be my "Autism Is..." project and look down at the comments.

Second update: Tomorrow I am posting, "The Power of One on One" which will give my answer to what, exactly, could be said in the 10-15 seconds.


  1. WOW! You are growing so mature and wise. Give us the words, Aaron. In 10-15 seconds, what is the most important thing that you would want that one person to know?

  2. Exactly what Anonymous says... Someone was actually interested in Autism. That person said 'I'd love to help out, but to be honest, I don't really understand what Autism is, because when I look at you and at our other friends with Autism... Well... You're all so different! How can you tell?!'
    So I went to tell that Autism has certain traits, which I'd share with that person, but that I wanted to make clear that we still all have our personalities and not every trait will be shared. That person asked "If not every trait is shared... Then how do you know?!"
    I got absolutely baffeled by this. I told this person that I'm not a psychologist, so I don't know how the tests work in full detail, but that it's about sharing most traits. That there's a certain amount... Or something...
    And yes, in these words. I got absolutely baffeled by the question. It's a very good question! I usually notice when someone has Autism, I notice the traits, because I recognise myself in it. But what EXACTLY do I recognise? It's so hard to explain.
    So Aaron... How would you have answered this question? What exactly defines Autism?

  3. I admire your effort and anyone that is trying to spread awareness. I will look out for your book and hope to see you talk one day. I am reading a book at the moment called to kill a stone heart and it really educates as to what it can be like for someone like us I think its written by Mason Dove who has aspergers also. My family read it first and it has really helped me because they understand me more because of this book. i think Autism means Alone. I hope this book gets made into a film then it might get the awareness and message across to more. I hope you spread the word and visit all the states.

  4. "United we stand, divided we fall."

    Having a son on the spectrum and having gone through some of the same extreme difficulties, a battle that still continues within his education, this is POWERFUL Aaron, thank you!

  5. i have a 13 year old son, who was diagnosed with aspergers, around 7 years old, i knew something was "splenderful" (my word for splendid and wonderful) about him by 5 years old and he started school. To this day even with all the therapy that definetly helps us to understand his way of seeing the world, as a woman living in the "normal" world, i still have to stop smell the roses, most of all listen to him thoroughly to see his point of view to be able to "help" him and in return help me. there is no one answer what autism is. no more than there is one type of hair color or smile, or song. there is no REAL normal. we are each a different melody, and if you dont stop to hear, some beautiful tunes can easily be missed. my son teaches me to slow down, enjoy these days, and if i miss a note, i just might miss the songs meaning.... good luck to all...

  6. Wow. Awesome that your link was posted on Facebook. Fascinated that you were diagnosed at 20. I believe my shortman has Asperger's. But he's not diagnosed because he was evaluated at too young of an age and he DOES have a diagnosis of ADHD. I thought I knew what ADHD was but recently the dr. seems to be linking BOTH under this large umbrella. So I, too, am interested in how you would explain in 10 or 15 seconds? For my son's sake.

  7. As an early intervention provider, I have had this discussion with many of the families I work with. Our team has discussed making up a little business size card with a short explanation of why a young child may be behaving in a way that other people don't feel is appropriate. Unfortunately we never got any further with our idea but I will try to take it back to our meetings and see if we can come up with something!

  8. Yes, I need for my 15 year old son to be able to have a 'routine' comment to explain himself to people should the need arise. What should he say so that a stranger will be able to comprehend instantly why he is what he is & why he presents as he is in a social situation to enable an instant acceptance of his social nuances??

  9. I think the major trait that people with ASD have is there rigidity of thought , it's either black or white , it is very hard for them to see grey and to forsee events that may occur. They lack the vision of the bigger picture.

  10. Great blog Aaron! :) I'm sharing the Gifts of Autism with the Power of One. Check us out on FB. :Peace and Blessings, Lori

  11. For my son who's 9 his quirks are anything sensory texture, feeling, noise and smell. Transition doesn't happen smoothly without a timer and countdown, obsession i.e. video games and reading of any kind, he is a very literal thinker so sarcasm and teasing are misunderstood, he has no filter between what is thought and said so he is often looked at as malicious or unrulely, when in fact he is one of the sweetest kids on earth.

  12. I think I'll ask my jobcoach how he usually explains it when he needs to quickly explain Autism over the phone or something. I still wonder what Aaron's thought on this is though.