Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It Happened Again...

Yesterday I gave a presentation to about 200 paraprofessionals. This is the 2nd time in about two months that I have presented to this type of audience and going into the presentation I once again felt a lack of confidence.

I'm not sure what causes this, but very often, and this isn't the first time I've blogged about this, I doubt if my message has any relevance. Maybe it's this lack of confidence that keeps my presentation sharp, but each time going in I go in with no assumptions that what I'm about to do will be good at all.

I am not alone in this feeling. I've heard from many parents about their kids on the spectrum that are really good at a certain activity or subject in school and yet each time they are about to do it the parents describe that their kids share in the doubt I experience.

At my presentations I am sure that this doubt does not show. As soon as I begin to speak and go into speaker alias my mind does not have the availble processing space to think about doubt. Of course, I'm not jumping for joy on the inside either as I have to put of a tremendous amount of energy to keep focused and not dig myself into a speaking hole.

An interesting thing happened yesterday at this high school At first I was quite angry at myself, but then I realized that this is a great example of being on the spectrum. What happened was this; several times during my presentation the class bell (more like tone) blurred out and a couple times people were called over the intercom. Each time this happened I froze like a horse, ahem, a deer in headlights. After the sound stopped it took me a good 3-5 seconds to regain my composure and then another 1-3 seconds to remember what I was talking about and where I was going with it. As I said, I felt bad I couldn't just power through it, but then again I realized that for the audience to see me in full speaker mode talking a mile a minute and then to see me get derailed was probably an unique thing to see and perhaps in their careers moving forward they will be able to see that in others.

Once the presentation was over I got a higher than usual amount of personal thanks with one person telling me, "You have no idea how needed this presentation was; keep doing what you're doing!" Each time I hear comments like this I am shocked as this goes against the doubt I feel beforehand. Now, I know you may be thinking, "Well, Aaron, since you always hear this shouldn't the feeling of doubt go away?" You would think that but now. The "stage fright" has gone away and I get no sense of nerves going in (except three weeks ago when I faced the 5th graders) but I still have that odd doubt.

In the end I think I want this doubt to remain. I am oblivious to whatever it is that I do but as long as people want to hear what I have to say I'll keep saying it. Right now it is working and when I give my next presentation I'll forget about all the thanks and accolades I heard at my previous one but I'm okay with that because, and maybe this is the reason, I feel that I am only as good as what I'm doing right now. The past doesn't matter; the presentation I gave X amount of days ago does no good for those in my audience of the present. Yes, perhaps this is the root. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, in any case I'm still loving presenting and can't wait for my next chance to talk to paraprofessionals, teachers, doctors, or even... 5th graders... GASP!


  1. I like the way you took your experience of having been distracted by the intercom and realized the positive side of it. You are doing good work. Spread awareness, model acceptance!

  2. Ha, a job where negative sides of autism can even be turned into positive sides! I want your job! :P

    I'm wondering though... How would you feel if someone suddenly said 'I can't believe you can be good at presenting, because you're autistic' ?
    Would you be sad? Angry? Empowered to tell that person otherwise? Something else?

    I'm asking, because I've had people doubting how good I actually am at organising events because of my autism. They didn't want me to do difficult tasks and actually held me back because of it (these people were in charge of me).
    At the convention I was bored during the tasks they laid upon me and terribly busy, but having fun, during the tasks I laid upon myself.
    Afterwards I heard someone say that these people told him they were impressed with me and didn't think I'd make it before, but I actually suprised them.
    This made me happy that I showed them, but it also made me sad that they let their prejudice set me back like that.
    Doubting yourself... Yes, we all do that and all you have to do is convince yourself. But what would you do if other people doubted you?

  3. You can present to professionals all the time. But, what I advice you is to do homework not only on what they do, but also what they already know and should know. This also includes having access to their academic journals and point out what they are missing.