Monday, April 16, 2012

Understanding for Full Potential

Yesterday I did a difficult thing as I once again hit the road, after two days at home, as my 2012 Autism Awareness and Understanding Tour continues on. Leaving home was difficult as I was gone for two weeks and on the drive to Topeka and sleeping in my own bed felt awesome. However, on the drive I reflected back to the week prior, and specifically Saturday, and I was quick to be glad to be on the road.

Yes, I had an amazing time on Saturday. My body was tired to a point that I haven't felt in years but regardless of how I felt I had two engagements that day. The day started at a Asperger teen support group and this was awkward for me. I've talked about doing these in the past and still I don't know how to interact in this environment. Perhaps it is that I feel more pressure because I want to say the perfect words and I want to say, "there is always hope" but I'm always worried that I am going to say the wrong thing.

I was introduced to the group and I started explaining who I was and why I wrote. Very quickly the group started using my terms and "Kansas" became the most used word. It sent shivers through my body when I kept hearing, "My Kansas is..." and each time it was said with a sense of honor.

Over the course of the next hour I was simply amazed at how much each person knew about their "Kansas." These were high school students and their level of knowledge was beyond anything I had ever learned and the level of passion they spoke about it was with such a strong conviction. If you've seen my presentation the past year I have said, "Now, I don't usually experience other people's Kansas because I usually speak to parents and teachers.." however, through this I have a better understanding of just how important Kansas is.

The group and I continued conversing and I heard stories of frustrating experiences they had experienced in school and I too shared my troubles I had and I thought that, in that room, there was so much potential. It was actually somewhat scary to think of all the potential in the room. I thought that this potential will only be reached if society understands us.

Later that afternoon I had a book signing event at a Left Banks Books. Before the signing I had to, "speak about my book for 30 minutes." Usually, authors do a reading out of their book but this is impossible for me because I have not, and will not read anything I write. So, I decided to tackle this task by doing a small presentation. However, I had to do this by putting myself back into the days that I was writing it.

When I started writing I didn't believe there ever would be understanding. I lived in a scary world, a world without hope. I didn't believe in change, didn't believe in hope, and didn't believe in a bright future. I was asked this at this speaking event of, "What motivated you to write?" and I responded by saying that all I was writing for was so that, "my dad might just understand me just a little bit because I could not speak how I felt."

As I answered that question I realized understanding is a multi-dimensional thing. Yes, society needs to understand us but another question hit a chord when I was asked, "Who was your book written for? Teachers? Parents? Or how about those on the spectrum?" I took several seconds, which is unusual for me, to contemplate the answer. It took a bit longer because it was all coming together in my mind. I answered the question, quite excitedly, by saying, "I started out writing simply for the sake of writing and so that my dad would understand, but now I don't know if there is a group that wouldn't get something from my book. Parents must know about us, teachers must know about us, and those on the spectrum need the vocabulary to describe what they are feeling." I answered this with a huge smile because just a few hours earlier the things that the group I met with earlier in the day had called, or were called for them, "obsessions" was now simply "Kansas."

As I close this post out I still am thinking back to who I was when I was writing. I never thought I could achieve anything at all. Through my writing, however, an odd thing happened. My family, and myself, began to understand me. Even I didn't realize the potential I had, but here I am. Once again my passion was renewed as being with that support group was one of the coolest things I've done, and I hope I can continue to do my part in spreading awareness and understanding so all of us on the spectrum have more support to realize our true potential.

1 comment:

  1. One advice I have for you- put American Occupational Therapy Association Conference on your schedule of events to go to next year (and other conferences like that). You may not be able to go there as a presenter. But, there are plenty of presentation posters and workshops where you can get to talk to professionals who can help people with autism. As you may know, there are adults with autism who needs professional help. It will take people like you to advocate for these people in the professional arenas.