Friday, April 6, 2012

My Hope: Autism Awareness, Understanding, and Acceptance

Hope... It's a word that's used a lot. Last week I heard it used a lot in the sense of, "I hope I win that major lottery jackpot." Granted, I would want that (I didn't play) but I have a much stronger hope. It's a hope that burns within me to the point that it hurts.

My hope began as a child when no one really understood me. My classmates, for the most part, let me be, but they never made any effort to interact with me. To prove just how isolated I was, I ran for student council in 5th grade against three others and received zero votes (I thought it unethical to vote for one's self.) From that day on, I always secretly hoped that those around me would understand me even though I had no idea why I, or them, was different.

Eventually I got my diagnosis and still the misunderstandings continued. This was in 2003 and understanding wasn't the norm. Awareness was not anywhere to the point we have it today and there was a lot of misinformation.

My hope as a child turned into hopelessness. I was sure no one would ever understand me and this belief led me down a park path of depression. At that point in time I was sure I would never have a voice and the world would pass me by without ever knowing I existed.

Night after night passed like this and I would always have a conversation with my dad, sometimes heated I might add, that there was no hope. How could there be hope? No one understood me! I can't begin to describe the frustration I felt back then as I knew how I felt but didn't understand why and I couldn't explain it. That is, until I discovered writing.

My new hope was born on those nights. I never thought anyone would read it, and I never thought I would be a speaker, but both people have read my writing (like you today and for that I thank you!) and those that have attended my presentations. Despite all of this I still have this burning passion within me to do more. I always feel as if I need to do more. Right now I'm on a cross-country Autism awareness and understanding tour, but as I begin a 30 day marathon I feel as I should be doing more.

With all this being said, let me tell you my hope right now. I live with the memories of those sleepless and hopeless nights; it's still a part of me. It is memory of those nights that keep my passion alive. So, I think it is fitting that my hope now is the same as back then. All I want, the only thing I want, is to do my part to increase three things. The first is awareness, which this week autism dominated the news headlines with "1 in 88!" Secondly is understanding. This is the part that I feel I can do the most good in. If those around us understand us then, perhaps, the world will react better to us. Most of my major social disasters are quite simply a misunderstanding. I see myself as being "logical in an emotional world", and most times a simple bit of understanding can go a long way in making the disaster not so disastrous. And lastly, and this is something I just felt today, the need of acceptance. As I thought back to my school days the only thing I wanted was to feel accepted for who I am. Even as an adult, some of my quirks are always questioned but this is the way I am.

So my hope is this; Without awareness we won't have understanding and without understanding there will never be acceptance. As I said, my passion was born on those nights of feeling alone and forgotten. Now, even though I am doing all this fantastic stuff, I still feel this burning desire to do more. In the end though the pure hope I have is that we start down the road of acceptance. Is that too much to ask? Is that too much to hope for? Well, if people can hope to win countless millions I will hope that we can live in a world where Autism awareness, understanding, and acceptance are no longer something we hope for, but is the world we live in.

Here's the schedule of where I will be. There are other dates and locations that will added. 

Date & Time

April 9 at 7 p.m.
Ft. Wayne, IN
Concordia Seminary
6600 N. Clinton
Ft. Wayne, IN 46805-1433
April 10 at 7 p.m.
Indianapolis, IN
Lutheran High School of Indianapolis
5555 S. Arlington Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46237
April 11 at 7 p.m.
Chicago, IL
Walther Lutheran Academy & High School
900 Chicago Ave.
Melrose Park, IL 60130
April 12 4:40 p.m.
Peoria, IL
Easter Seals-Central IL
507 E. Armstrong Ave.
Peoria, IL 61603
April 13 at 7 p.m.
St. Louis, MO
Lutheran High South
9515 Tesson Ferry Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63123
April 16 at 7 p.m.
Topeka, KS
Topeka Lutheran
701 SW Roosevelt St.
Topeka, KS 66606
April 18 at 7 p.m.
Denver, CO
Lutheran HS - Parker
11249 Newlin Gulch Blvd.
Parker, CO 80134
April 23 at 7 p.m.
Phoenix, AZ
Christ Lutheran
3901 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85018
April 25 at 7 p.m.
Las Vegas, NV
Faith Jr & Sr High School
2015 S. Hualapai Way
Las Vegas, NV 89117
April 28 at 7 p.m.
San Francisco, CA
West Portal Lutheran School
200 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132
May 1 at 7 p.m.
Los Angeles, CA
Orange Lutheran High
2222 North Santiago Blvd.
Orange, CA 92867
May 3 at 7 p.m.
Irvine, CA
Crean Lutheran HS
12500 Sand Canyon Ave.
Irvine, CA 92618-1100


  1. So when are you coming down to Australia Aaron??

  2. I don't know; it would be a big honor though!

  3. Hi Aaron. I am hoping to attend your presentation in Indianapolis. I just found out about it tonight, so I am hoping to get it scheduled. I am reading your book right now. It is brilliant! I have a 10 year old son with Asperger's and your insight is invaluable. Thank you for all that you do.

  4. Hi it's Kevin Hawkins, thanks again for the email the other day, when you said 'thank you for taking the time out of your day to write me'. Just wanted to say that my wife and I are really enjoying reading your book, it is absolutely fantastic. I can really relate to the struggles you had with the two girls and with being successful in various jobs. I have had a whole lot of struggles in those two areas too.

  5. I HATED that sensation of loud music! To me the fire alarm felt like faceplanting falling down from the Empire State Building and that feeling lasted for the duration I was indoors. My Kansas is anywhere that is not average. I FINALLY found a human that is not evil!

  6. I saw your presentation

  7. I agree with the anonymous poster above, who says "Come to Australia.." Like I said on FB...We have car races!! (Dangling a carrot) hahaha