Friday, September 28, 2012

Life: A Shared Experience?

I had a meeting yesterday morning and I made it a point going in to make the most of it. Well, not the meeting itself but I wanted to see how people react to what's being said. I usually am looking at a fixed point in space, perhaps a spot on a table or a car outside the window, but I wanted to go back to how I was writing when I did my sunglasses experiment and truly observe those in my surroundings.

Quickly, I was in shock! It had been so long since I made it a point to look at the face, and the eyes of others. It was an overwhelming experience at first as it was information overload for my brain. I wanted to quit and go back looking at the table, but I wanted to try and learn something yet not knowing what that would be.

As the meeting progressed I noticed just how much people look at each other. What I mean by that was that anytime a joke was made, or a funny line said, there was laughter and then, almost like it's programmed into people, everyone looks at each other. This confused me. Was this look some sort of code that I didn't know? An inside joke that I had no way of knowing? Those probably aren't the answers, but then I thought, is this looking at each other the way people do a way to share the experience?

A shared experience is something I don't understand. I know how I feel but I never have understood making the emotion of the event a shared experience. Is that what those looks at each other were in the meeting? But yeah, that shared experience has puzzled me forever. This is one of the things that confuses me at sporting events. Yes, it's good when the home team wins, but when I've been to a sporting event and the home team scores it is beyond my comprehension how strangers high-five each other and sing the praises of the player together with complete strangers.

The biggest example in my life that confused me the most, as to why people had this shared experience, was at the opening day of the movie "Cast Away". Late in the movie when the main character returns to Nashville after several years his former girlfriend informs him about the changes in the world and that Nashville now has an NFL team and they missed out winning the Super Bowl by "that much" which was just a few inches. The game referenced was the game the Saint Louis Rams won and when that was said on the screen an enormous roar came from the audience. I've never seen anything like it since, but there were high-fives, people stood up to shake the hand of their cheering neighbors and the whole thing lasted a good minute. I actually had to rent the movie to hear that minute of dialogue because of this. But, was all this under that same concept of life, for people not on the autism spectrum, being a shared experience?

I don't think I could ever partake in those examples as I don't know how people do it. I truly have no idea how people so naturally and effortlessly share in the experience of a joke at a meeting, or cheer with strangers at a sporting event. With all of these examples it was as if I were a phantom in an environment I don't and couldn't understand. I do everything I can to avoid contact, to avoid looking at another person, and yet everyone else seems to do it without thinking about. My automatic tendency, meaning I don't think about it, is to look away while everyone else, it seems, does it without thought.

Right now I'm wondering if I'm missing out on something. Is life a shared experience? And if it is does this sharing of the moment increase the joys of life? I do everything I can to remain as flat as possible in public; I don't look at others and I don't share how I feel. However, are the joys magnified when experienced with others? Would the reaction at the movie Cast Away have occurred the same way if each person had watched it alone, or did the group amplify the elation of that line? And if all this is true, does this mean that I am truly missing out on something?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blog Entry #699: Wordage for Understanding

I live by the line of, "Understanding is the foundation for hope." Understanding is so important because the differences between the autism spectrum and not can be so difficult to see through. Without understanding every single one of our quirks may be deemed wrong, silly, or an inappropriate response.

As I say in my presentation, I never intended on being an author or a speaker; I simply wanted to be able to tell my dad who I was and why I was. That was the genesis of my writing and it led me to write my book, Finding Kansas. To this day though I am still coming up with concepts to describe the reasons as to why we do what we do. Take yesterday's post of example and the concept of "the wall." It's one thing to say that, "People with Asperger Syndrome are socially awkward." Okay, that may be a truth, but where is the understanding in that? There is no ability to hear, or see in one's mind what that means the same way as if I were told the air on Mars is dry. Without a comparison or a visual example how can one that is unfamialir with the autism spectrum have any understanding.

Even the title of my book is a visual example. Contrary to popular belief I am not from Kansas but I use the title this way; if you were paralyzed in every state except Kansas, where would you want to live? Obviously your answer would be Kansas and Kansas is that activity or interest that a person on the spectrum may think of, or do, to the exclusion of other interests or activities and in that realm there is a greater sense of normalcy. This concept translates the line of, "People on the autism spectrum will have a rigid, narrow range of interest." Again, that line says the truth but it doesn't give the person an understanding as to the why and without the why how can one feel any bit of compassion or understanding towards the autism spectrum?

I don't know how many concepts I have created to date within my one published book, three yet to be published books, and the ones shared within these 699 blog posts. I've been asked several times where I come up with these concepts and how long it takes me to think of them and the answer always surprises them. The answer is that I make no effort to think of them and they sort of just happen. There is no thought of, "Okay, how can I explain this..." it's truly just a random thought at some point in time and then it's there and then I write it.

Moving forward I hope to continue to add that dimension of understanding to the words of autism. Understanding is the foudation for hope and understanding comes from words. Or rather the right words. If people can see a concept in their mind, then they can understand it. I never thought I'd do anything like this in life, but so long as my words are able to translate the whys to the autism spectrum I will keep chugging along doing my best to lay the foundation for a better sense of understanding.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Wall

This story takes place one hole after last week's story of The Geese Whisperer. Once I made it to hole two I came across another golfer that was by himself and on the 3rd tee-box he asked if I would want to join him. "Sure" I said and all of a sudden I was no longer by myself.

Over the course of the next few holes he asked me where I was from, what I did, and if I golfed on any courses of note. He was an older gentleman who said he had just started playing a few years ago. And that was the only info I got because the wall got in the way.

My blog title is "Life on the other side of the wall" and it is something that I probably should reference or utilize more, but the wall hit in full stride on that golf course. While this golfer I was playing with asked me question after question I simply gave the shortest answer possible and never once asked him about himself. I didn't ask if he were retired, or why he started playing golf, or if he were from the Indianapolis area, or if he thought the weather was good, or anything. There was a one-way wall there and while I did respond to the questions never once did an independent word leave my mouth and reach the other side.

Why? Was it that I found his company to be awful? Was it that I was envious that he had the straightest drive I've ever seen? Or was it that I thought I was better than him and I had better things to do than to talk to him? All of those potential answers are wrong, but there isn't just one reason. The first is that I have no idea what to or what not to say or ask. Some people like stating their life story while others hate it. Myself, I would rather play 18 holes in a quiet meditation than to converse and perhaps I carry over my likes and dislikes to everyone else meaning, if I hate it everyone hates it (i.e. I think therefore you should know.) Also, there is a huge anxiety burst every time I do try to ask because, what would I ask? Do I just repeat the same question? But if I do, does that seem odd that everything I ask is simply the same? And, if I do ask something, or say something, and the other person gets mad, what then? How will I react to that? Then what comes after that?

The amount of questions I ask myself in terms of what to do and how to react is absolutely crushing. I may seem silent, or maybe even uncaring and standoffish, but my exterior lies as on the inside I am in a calculating mess of trying to figure out if it is right for me to say anything at all.

Often times my timing is off in a conversation setting and the reason for that is all the processing and thinking I am doing. By the time I've thought it right to say something the window of response time has passed. All in all each part of this thinking and delay makes me try and think harder which creates more and more self anger and after 15 minutes I've decided just to give up and stay quiet because it's easier and safer.

There is nothing I fear more than a social mistake. Perhaps this wall, as much as it is because I just can't come up with the correct question, is also a wall of safety. If I don't partake in normal conversations how can I may an error? And with no errors comes freedom from possibly saying the wrong thing, or having someone get mad at me. Of course, often times, being quiet makes people uneasy towards me, but at least there's a sameness about it. I've learned to deal with the odd looks as conversations take a one-way direction and a complete lack of reciprocity. That's easier than having to deal with making a mistake and having a person get angry.

But what makes a person angry? I don't even know that answer because what applies to one doesn't apply to all. Social rules are different by the person and I don't have the skill of knowing how a person will react at all so instead of playing a game that I don't know the rules of I simply abstain from the game. And that right there is the essence of the wall.

The one thing I want the world to know is that when I may be off to the side, seemingly not wanting any outside contact, I'm actually thinking on what to say. I may abstain from the game, but much like watching a new game being played as a child there is a curiosity in what that game must be like. What's the rules? Is it fun? How do you play? Yes, I may be off to side with this said wall between you and I and most of the times I do feel safe, but there is a sense of isolation on my side and I wonder what it must be like on your side where questions come easy and being free from over-thinking every single action.

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Handle a Prank

After writing "The Geese Whisperer..." I thought it best to share another event that plays along those same lines.

Over the course of my blogging career I have stated several times that pranks, on any level, aren't handled well by me as proven by this 2010 entry about a prank phone call. The overall problem is that, when whatever is the subject of the prank occurs, I can't see the situation clearly at all as proven by this example.

It was at a hotel; it had been a long day and I was doing blog managing and brainstorming when the phone rang. This struck me odd because I can count on one hand the amount of times I've had the hotel phone ring (this excludes whatever chain it is that insists on calling to ask if the room is to my liking; this is always awkward and catches me off guard. I wish they wouldn't do that as if there were a problem I would, well, most people would call and complain) and it was a person claiming to be from the front desk. "Okay" I thought, "maybe someone needs a key or maybe I have a delivery." Both of my thoughts were wrong as the person said, "Sir, we've received complaints from a couple rooms about excessive noise from your room. We're going to have to ask that you quiet down or we will be forced to throw you out.

"Throw me out?" I said to myself once I had hung up the phone. "Where will I go?" My breathing increased and I tried to figure out what the noise was. I had just been on a phone call so was I talking too loud? I've been told I do this from time to time (I always deny that I am) but surely this couldn't have been it. The television was on, but even I was having trouble hearing it. What on Earth was it?

I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out what I had done wrong. The problem here was this; I received a phone call clearly stating the volume was loud and yet I always have the quietest room. Something wasn't right but my mind was stuck on trying to figure out why I would be sleeping in the car. Yes, did you read that? I had already conceded the fact that eviction was a sure thing even though I didn't know why whatever was happening was indeed happening. The other problem was the fact that my mind couldn't figure out that, perhaps, all this was a misunderstanding.

30 minutes later the phone rang once again and this time it was the front desk but things were different. For one the tone of the ring was much different and secondly, this person from the front desk spoke with a much more formal attitude. This front desk person reported that a complaint had been filed and she wondered what could have provoked it. I, through shaking lips, explained that I had no idea what it could be as, except for me breathing, there was no noise as I had turned off the television just in case that was the problem. The front desk responded that it must have been a mistake and that was all.

Confusion set in. Clearly the two calls were different yet both said they were from the front desk. In the swirling anxiety and fear my brain couldn't tell anything apart. And I say swirling anxiety and fear but let me give you the description of how I felt during this ordeal; it wasn't that I was just experiencing an increased heart rate and a sense of worry. No, it was much worse with fear great enough that I was shaking and a surge of adrenaline that made my limbs rather jumpy. Meanwhile, a surge of self-hate crept in as I was being told I had done something wrong even though I didn't know what. Why does this happen? The reason why is, when this actually happens many times throughout one's life it becomes the expected reason for any social mess up. You could call it that I consider myself guilty into proven innocent as my brain knows that, when I'm told I'm less, or wrong, chances are the other person was right. It's awful! but the pattern has been learned through fact.

Eventually I connected some dots and the person sharing the room with me did some investigating, and indeed, the first call was a phony. I became livid. To go through such an asinine amount of stress, worry, and self-hate needlessly was too much. Look, life is already about as stressful as I can tolerate and adding episodes like this is like adding 1,000,000 gallons of jet fuel to a raging wildfire.

When the initiator of the prank came to my room I amazed myself in that I right away explained why I was so angry and how it felt. I didn't hold back. As I spoke I could see that, to a normal person, this would have some sort of ironic humor to it as the quietest person being told that their room is too noisy. I can see the humor in that, but in the midst of an event like this I am incapable of seeing that and can only see and hear the threat of being thrown out.

I'm grateful the person was understanding and apologetic. I think back to events like this while I was in school and the complete disregard to the concept of understanding. Society usually shuns difference and my handling of a situation like this is different to the maximum degree. Pranks, jokes, and the like aren't handled or understood the same way and it isn't, really, the other person as it's what my body does to itself. It's like a self-destruct mechanism as the stress gets to the point of ripping up the proverbial sails of a sailboat. There is no, "just let it go" as my brain begins to think, then dwell, then obsess on the problem at hand. There is no handling it on a mild level as it's straight to the nuclear disaster level.

Each and every time I write a blog that has this type of impactful message I think that, "This is the #1 most important thing for those around a person with an ASD to know." because when an event like this happens there will be a response that might be considered an overreaction. Yes, I've heard teachers say that so many times when a prank or joke is sprung on a person with Asperger Syndrome but you know what? If you could experience the stress, the self-loathing, and the crushing feeling of severe isolation you would know, beyond any level of reasonable doubt, that it's not an overreaction, at all but maybe more so a call for help with the message of, "Please, please, please never do that again. Others can handle it and I envy that, but for me the pain is too great."

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Final Weekend

This weekend marks the final race of the 2012 USAC .25 Generation Next tour. And what a year it's been! I never thought I would be a part of something like this as the series has been 15 races spanning from the LA metro area, down to Atlanta, and up to Connecticut. Well, I say I never thought I'd be a part of this but this this is my 2nd full year doing this and wow it's been a great ride.

However, this is it for 2012. After Sunday the season will be in the books and next weekend or the weekend after that there will be no race somewhere. Every last race I've ever done has always been a somber experience. It's a mark of the passage of time as well as the longest point in time until the next race.

So that's where I'm at this weekend. Today was practice and it went great, but there's just two days left of the 2012 season and after that it will be over. All the miles, all the laps, and all the tracks have led to this point in time and this is it, the last race. Of course, knowing myself, as soon as I fly that final checkered I will already be looking forward to 2013.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Geese Whisperer and An Example of Worst-Case Scenario Thinking

Early this morning before I headed to Eldora Speedway to get ready for the final USAC .25 race of the year I got in a round of golf. In starting the round I was told that I had to play at a decent pace as a tournament was beginning later in the morning. I was fine with that and to the first hole I went.

My first shot was great, my second one wasn't. My 2nd shot went shorter than I could throw the ball and as I was proceeding to my ball I heard a whistle. If there is one thing I have learned in life it's that whistles are used when something has gone wrong. Nobody is going to come out of the blue with a whistle with good news. And, as I looked over my left shoulder, I saw a golf cart headed my direction.

Panic. That's what happened to me; pure panic. I quickly thought back to every second I was at the course as I tried to figure out what I could have possibly did to be in so much trouble. The cart kept getting closer and was one fairway over and I was shaking in fear as I prepared for whatever tongue-lashing was coming my way. But what did I do?

Now the cart was nearing the hill that would lead it onto my fairway and then I noticed a bunch of Canadian geese congregating. Then, the golf cart crested the hill and made a turn and was no longer headed right for me. All the while the driver was blowing the whistle and then I realized that I wasn't the one in trouble, but rather this driver was out to annoy the geese so they would go congregate elsewhere. And that's exactly what it was as wherever the geese waddled to so did the golf cart.

So this isn't the most exciting story I've had from the golf course, but it is a prime example of the potential worst-case scenario thinking that seems to happen to a lot of us on the autism spectrum. I don't have middle ground emotions; things are either all fine are all wrong. If anything goes slighting askew, such as a whistle blowing golf cart, I instantly begin to think about what I did to cause it. And after that happens my body goes into a full defense mode as I prepare for an unknown and infinite number of possibilities.

All this is an automatic response. It isn't like there is a choice on this as the fear response is instant. There is no thought like, "I wonder what that is? It's a whistle, but why? Who's it for?" None of that happens. What happens is this, "Oh my goodness! ALERT! Is the world about to end? What did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong and not know it? Wait, what have I been doing? Okay... I don't know. How bad is this going to hurt? And how long?"

After the geese whisperer chased them off towards the other side of the course he then rode off into the sunrise, I guess to chase another gaggle of geese (they are gaggles, right?) but just because he was gone the after effects of fearing the unknown worst-case scenario remained with me. When there is a fear spike like this the emotions remain well after the fact. Eventually, about 5 holes, or 45 minutes later I began to finally come back to normal.

This is my example. Others will react differently, and others may not react at all to a situation. When there is a response like mine please be aware that everything becomes sharper and harsher. All my defenses are on maximum alert as I fear everything. So please keep this in mind, say, if there is an unexpected noise, or an unexpected knock on the front door. What may be routine, or perhaps a little off for you may be taken as a threat on a cosmic level with feared consequences so unimaginable that they... are you ready for this?... can't be imagined. Again, each person is going to handle these events differently but just keep in mind the response, at least for me, isn't one that I can simply turn off.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sensory Exhaustion

I've worded this concept several times and have blogged about it a few, but in a presentation yesterday in TouchPoint's ADAPT (parent training) program I worded this perfectly.

Wherever you are right now I want you to stop for a second and just listen... ... ... ... Did you hear silence? I'm going to guess that you did not. Maybe a car was driving past your house, or maybe there's a conversation going on in an office near yours, or maybe a phone rang near by. Whatever it was I'm sure you heard something.

Perhaps in reading the latter half of the previous paragraph you already had tuned out those other noises. I love in my presentations when I talk about this and the look on people's faces when I prompt them to listen to all the noises that I point out. It seems to me that people who aren't on the spectrum have the ability to tune out all the extra noises in life and when I am speaking my words are the only thing that they hear. That must be nice because for me I hear all the noises without a filter.

I've used this in my presentation for over a year now in that school was difficult for me. Yes, the social aspect was a challenge, but also was the sensory aspect to it. I never had the key words to describe the name of it, but think back to a classroom setting with 20+ students. To say that is a quiet environment would be nothing short of a joke. Okay, so it might not be loud like a busy street corner, or a buzzing sports arena, but it doesn't have to be loud to be, well, loud. What I mean by that is every noise is heard, at least for me, and if there are 20 people in a room, or more, that is a lot of whispers, a lot of breathing, and a lot of potential coughing. Also, there are footsteps in the room and hall, conversations in the hall, and the ever present fear of a fire drill. All in all it isn't a sensory tame environment and when I went to school my days were usually the same; the first two hours went by great with minimal issues and then at about the third hour, sometime fourth which was lunch, I hit a wall.

This wall that I would hit would all but flatten me. Energy? Gone. Headache? Very much so. Knowing what I know now and from experiences I have on occasion I am sure that part of the problem was sensory exhaustion. That's my new keyword for this as I used to say overload but it isn't overload in the truest of senses. The term exhaustion works great because that's how I see it; my body would get to the point of just being tired of all the input.

Another exhausting aspect of this is the amount of focus it takes to listen to what needs to be listened to. I may be hearing everything but if the teacher was speaking I would have to intently focus to be able to hear and process the information all the while hearing each whisper under the breath or crinkle of paper. And in doing all that my mind would just wear itself out.

What can be done about this? I'm not sure and I don't think there is one easy universal answer. The first step is identifying it and I so badly wish now that someone back then would have been aware of this (of course being diagnosed at age 20 doesn't help any of that.) If I would have had a small break somewhere along the way I might have had more in the reserve tanks to forge onward through the sensory clutter. Even now I sometimes need to remove myself from a multiple sound environment to do this. Again, I want to restate that it doesn't have to be a single loud noise to do this as multiple noises at once are just as harsh to my system.

So that's what my thoughts are on this now. I think back to my issues in school and I think if someone had told me what my issues with in regards to this I probably would have denied this or stated a flat, "I don't know." That being said if you are a teacher with a student that might be having an issue like this I don't think you can expect the student to be able to say that the environment is too loud for them. Even now advocating for myself in a situation like that is difficult for me and that's why I do what I do. Sometimes we need help and sometimes the only way to get the help is if there is understanding. As I began this post, chances are you didn't hear any of the noises in your environment until prompted to listen. Moving forward I'd like you to keep that in your mind and maybe once a day take a minutes and listen to the sounds of life. Each time I'm sure you'll be amazed at what you hear, but each time just remember that, for a person on the spectrum, this might be the soundtrack that is always playing without an option to turn it down.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Countdown to 30

Change happens daily. Some days have more changes than other. Then there are days that we know without a doubt a major change will occur. I'm already fretting about one of those days.

History repeats itself. 10 years ago this very month I was worrying about the same thing, in a way. With time comes change and there is no greater reminder of this than one's age. To those that are older than me I apologize and to those younger than me you may someday experience this, but I'm already worried about February 4, 2013 which will be the day I turn 30.

Yes, I said that that 10 years ago I was experiencing the same thing as I awaited the coming of my 20th birthday. Birthdays have always been a day I've loathed to my core and what spawned it a decade ago was sitting in the music course I was taking at a community college and the playing of "Happy Birthday to You" in a fancy manner. From that moment I treated each day as if it were my last as I feared... feared... I don't know what I was fearing but it was greater than anything I could comprehend at that point in time. Perhaps it was because, despite the fact that I thought I was happy, perhaps I wasn't. Truly though I thought I was.

My countdown to 20 started this month 10 years ago as I spent my days either at school or working as a teller at a bank. My life was structured yet I was aimless. My goal was to race and that was all I knew. Emily and I had our routines and everything in my life was nothing but routine. I crave routine and yet I'm looking back and wondering just how I felt. If there's one thing I've learned in life it's that memories are always slanted and for me I always think that the past was better than what it was and as I am fearing my 30th birthday I wondered if I was better back then than I am now.

As a major case of nostalgia hit me yesterday I spent the late evening looking at Google Earth and using the feature that allows you to go back in time. I touched on this last year, in September of all months (maybe the changing seasons creates this feeling in me?) when I talked about the kart track I used to race at. I kept looking at the places I either worked at, or visited, and after that I turned to Facebook to see if I could find the people I used to know. It's amazing how easy it is now to friend someone and then, essentially, never having to worry about forgetting a person but just 10 years ago that wasn't possible.

I tried finding people I bowled with and was amazed at how hard it was to remember some of the people. I can remember of them but other than that they are a ghost and through that I became sadder and tried even harder. Certainly I was searching for something and I don't think it was any person in general but rather I think I was looking for some sort of connection to the world that was.

10 years ago I could never imagine that I would be at where I am at today. I wonder where the next ten will take me but before that can happen I have to endure the five months and the gauntlet that will be waiting for that 30th birthday. If history repeats itself, and it does so on an alarming scale, the next five months will be filled with pondering such questions as, "Am I doing enough in life?" and, "Will everything be okay?"

The way I describe the passage of time is as if I were being dragged along whilst my fingernails are leaving streaks in the ground because I am resisting so much. And that's where I am right now. My dad always said that I, "pay interests on loans that I haven't taken out yet" and this is a great example as I'm five months out and this worrying about this singular date of February 4, 2013 is already in the forefront of my mind. I have tried to convince myself that this isn't worth it until January, but my brain can't see that. I see decades and anything divisible by 10 becomes a milestone and it only happens once a decade but that date is getting closer and closer day after day because, after all, changes happens daily.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Change in the Booth

For those that read daily you would have noticed that there was no post on Friday. Today's topic was going to be written then, but it was just too hard to write then. I hate change and this doesn't just mean change right in my immediate environment. Change on any level is difficult and going into Saturday night I knew a major change was about to happen.

Bob Jenkins doing an interview with my dad about Ned Jarrett.
For most people this would be a non-event, but the broadcast of the Izod IndyCar series Saturday night was announcer Bob Jenkins' final broadcast. Again, doesn't sound like much, but for me, well, growing up he was the narrator of Sundays for me. Back in the late 80's and 90's he was the lead announcer for ESPN's NASCAR broadcast with Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons and listening to that trio was like watching a race with them in your living room. It was such a fluid, conversational tone that told the story of the race that I looked forward to the broadcast as much as I did the race.

He was also the announcer on the radio broadcast that I was listening to when I was at the 1992 Indianapolis 500. That day will always be remembered for the frigid cold temperatures as well as the unusually high amount of crashes, but it will be most remembered for is the finish between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear. My dad and I were seated on the main straight above the finish line and while my dad was complaining about the seats the entire race we had the best seat for the finish. We were listening to the radio broadcast and Bob Jenkins call of that finish was amazing. NBC Sports Network did a tribute to Bob that has that call and finish and can be seen here.

Watching that tribute Saturday night was rough for me because a sameness for my entire life is coming to an end. Sure, he his still planning on being on the PA system at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the broadcasts on television will feel as if something is missing.

Last year my dad had some work that involved interviewing Bob and he was kind enough to sign the flag that the former flagman of the Indy 500 gave me. Typically I only let winners of the race sign it, but other individuals who are a major part of the track or sport can sign it so it was a great addition. In December of last year Bob was the emcee at our USAC .25 banquet and I got the chance to thank him personally for signing it.

For you, the reader, this may not have been the most exciting of reads, but writing this has been an absolute challenge. Each paragraph has been thought of and writing this is like closing a chapter in my life and saying goodbye to a friend even though, except for a quick "thank you" and a handshake I have not met him.

Recently I've heard a string of stories from parents about how their child is very much against change. It's something I have been but I do my best to manage my environment to minimize change. Some things are out of our control, okay, most things are out of our control and for most people a change in the announcing booth would be something that isn't noticed. However, and maybe it was because of the conversational tone he used, or maybe it's that I've listened to him on television since I was 3, whatever the case this has been one of the toughest posts to write as I know next season there will be a new person on the mic leading the broadcasts.

Change unfortunately happens. Times change. As depressing of a fact that it is it is a fact. I do wish Bob and his wife the very best and I hope this post, for parents, lets you see that change doesn't have to be in the immediate environment to create sharp emotions. I dearly wish you could have seen me write this at real time as it has been a sluggish pace as I've thought about all the calls that I heard, or remembering the final episode of SpeedWeek that was hosted by Bob, or his call of Dale Jarrett's first win in a photo finish at Michigan, or, well, times change and what is eventually becomes memories. The true action was on the track but the narrative added by Mr. Jenkins will be missed, but the calls he gave will linger forever.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Conscious Coma Revisited

I wrote a chapter many years ago that's in my book Finding Kansas about a phenomenon that I entitled the "conscious coma." In it, if I remember correctly, I stated that there are times when it feels as if I am on autopilot and the passage of time and other daily activities are sort of lost. Recently, this has been happening a lot.

For the past couple weeks I have been highly anxious. And here's the tricky thing; I don't really know what I'm anxious about but the feeling is unmistakable. It feels as if I'm constantly falling and all in all it is rather tiresome.

I might have written this back when I wrote the original chapter (I don't remember what I write) but I am now certain that there is certainly a connection between the conscious coma and anxiety as the higher the level of anxiety the greater the chances of a conscious coma situation arising. Thinking back to when I was just starting to write I was under more stress than I knew what to do with so that would add to my belief that the two are connected.

So what happens during a conscious coma? I believe my mind goes so deep within itself that the passage of time is lost on me as well as the task of doing small activities becomes automated. Several times the past month I have left my house only to panic an hour later as I could not recall if I had locked the door. Also I have forgotten things at hotels and at home while traveling and I have left my wallet at home a couple times. These are things I typically will never have happen!

In conversations with other people on the spectrum I have heard this type of story so I know I am not alone in my struggles with the conscious coma. If you have a family member that's on the spectrum understanding this abstract concept is an absolute must because, as anxiety rises, things just become more difficult. Yes, I know, that concept applies to everyone but for us on the spectrum it's as if we can only tolerate so much and once the proverbial cup overfills an overload occurs and then routine things can be overlooked despite the fact that the person might have a fine eye for details.

That's where I am at right now. I can't put my finger on what it is that's causing me this tension or anxiety and to be honest I'm not all that mad about; in fact quite the contrary as I thing the past two weeks on my blog have been great and I write my best stuff while in these conscious comas such as being able to write this today. This will pass, but until it does I'm just going to have to put more mental effort in checking everything I do so I don't autopilot my way through the day and then panic on if I locked my front door, or car door, or remembered to eat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Anyone can be fired"

While I was at the USAAA conference I met the authors of the book Unintentional Humor. I was honored to receive an autographed copy and as soon as I got back to my room I started reading the book.

The book is a great resource for understanding the literalness of the mind on the autism spectrum as it has page after page of illustrated examples of how figures of speech can make no sense at all. So, while I was reading it and read the page about being "fired" it sparked a memory from 1990.

I think this story will be in my third or fourth book, but that won't be released for quite some time so I'll share it here and now. It was 1990 and we were either driving to Gordon, Nebraska or driving home from there. All I know is that we were somewhere along the road in Nebraska and at some point in time we stopped for gas.

While we were stopped my brother and sister were talking and somehow the conversation got onto the fact of a person being fired. I had no idea what this phrase meant and from the conversation I gathered that this was the end of a job. However, I also took a literal stance on this and as I looked out into an empty field to my left I was visualizing someone being fired and it was a bone-chilling sight as, in my mind, if you got fired the employer would take you to a field and set you on fire.

My seven year old brain was now having severe anxiety for fear that anyone I knew could be fired at any point. I then asked the question if my dad could be fired to which someone, be it my sister, brother, or mom said, "sure, anyone can be fired."

The gas tank was filled and we couldn't have gotten out of there any faster as I kept looking into that empty field looming there just waiting for the next firing victim. The rest of the ride was one of severe angst as I tried to comprehend why anyone would want a job because if one failed they were set on fire. Even more so, what happens if someone I know would get fired?

I'm sure if everyone can remember back to when they were a child I would think that everyone has a story somewhat like this. At some point in time everyone has taken something literal, right? It's just that, for those on the autism spectrum, it is much more likely to happen. And when it does it can take make the world a very confusing or a highly scary place.

It took several weeks before I finally asked one of my parents if, when a person gets fired, do they tie a person up and literally fire them. I was so scared of the answer because I was sure it was a fact, but my response was a bit of laughter and a, "Why would you ever think that?"

On my plane ride home on Sunday I finished looking through Unintentional Humor and there were examples in there that I didn't even think of in terms of taking things literally. This is a thing of the autism spectrum that, unless it is explained, I think a person uninitiated with the autism spectrum would have a hard time understanding. I mean, would a normal person truly understand that a person could have difficulties with the phrase, "it's raining cats and dogs?" or that yelling "Duck!" at a person doesn't mean that there is a bird about but rather that a person should get lower. (I fell victim to that in gym class one time in 1st or 2nd grade much to the amusement of my classmates.)

So yes, this is something that certainly needs to be understood by, well, everyone. I think teachers though need to be alerted to this fact the most as there was one unfortunate story of a teacher telling a student to go "crack the window" with a literal ending. Figures of speeches and idioms are such an entrenched part of our language and even I use them for it's much easier to say them then to understand them but next time you use one just make sure that everyone understood it because you just never will know when a person, like myself, will visually see the literal interpretation of it and will be fearing for the lives of their family so they are brought to that creepy field in Nebraska and literally fired. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Harsh Apology at DIA

Today may be Tuesday but for today's blog I go back to Sunday and my experience at Denver International Airport.
I'll pick up the action right after the TSA checkpoint as I descended towards the trains that take a traveler from the terminal to their respective section of gates be it A, B, or C. I awaited a train and looked at my boarding pass and it read "B5." Right, so I needed the B gates.

Shortly a train came and we went to the A gates, then a few minutes later it was the B gates. I got off and went up two sets of escalators with two things in mind; find breakfast and find gate B5. I figured I should find my gate first so I knew exactly where I needed to go after I got my food.

I looked one way and it was gates 14-32 so I figured the opposite end would have the right gates. When I got over there though the gates were 33 to something that was much higher than 5. "Okay, I'll ask for help" I thought but when I walked past an information desk I remained quiet. If there's one good thing about being three hours early it's that if there is a problem, like being lost, there is time to fix it.

I did another lap of the circular concourse looking for a  B and a single digit and was having no luck then I made a connection; my boarding pass was what my boarding group was as Southwest airlines has open seating and the boarding process is done by letter group. I flipped over the pass and there it was, C 33.

So this journey home started off just great. I made my way back to the trains and I waited a few minutes and I got on. Just as my feet were planted the guy on the opposite side rotated around and his gigantic backpack hit me in the shoulders. This was just an annoyance but what was to come was a little too much.

After experiencing the contact with the backpack I'm sure my face had the look of being a tad bit angry as I am very strict about my personal space. A simple tap to the shoulders, as this post from April 2010 shows, can be much more than a simple tap to the shoulders. Anyway, I tried to stare off into the tunnel and the sensory candy that were hundreds of pinwheels that spun as the train neared but all of a sudden I felt a tap on the shoulder. But this was more than a tap as whatever was there was staying. Then it left, then it was back, then it left, and then it was back once again. I didn't know what was going on but every cell in my body was ready for war.

I slowly turned to my right and it was the backpack guy and once again he placed his hand on my shoulder and I tensed up as if I were about to be in a horrible road accident just as he said, "sorry." I silently wondered if he was sorry for the backpack or sorry for creating an adrenaline overload for me.

Obviously the answer was for the backpack as there was no way he could have known just how much of a reaction a tap, or multiple taps to the should would induce. It truly was too much. Just as that blog I referenced back to, I was having a hard time focusing and all I wanted to do was get away from that spot. My body has way too harsh of a reaction to being tapped on the shoulder, but knowing that and stopping the reaction are two majorly different things.

At this point in time the ride on this train felt like an eon. I wanted to run away but there was no where to go. I did everything I could not to show my level of discomfort and I began to think just how confusing it would have been had I shown any sharp emotions. To a normal person a tap to shoulder, or a lingering tap to apologize is a non-event. For me it creates the internal feeling of WWIII. As I say in presentations when this comes up though, I say the unfortunate thing is that we don't have any red flags that mark out points where we may have a sensory issue. Often times it will be after the fact that a person learns and even then it may confuse the tapper because this is something that, unless you've experienced or already know about the autism spectrum, a person just doesn't realize is out there.

Mercifully we arrived at the C gates and I was the first one out the doors. I took the escalators once more and was at a carbon copy of where I had just been. I walked for a few seconds and there it was, my gate. Thank goodness it was there because I don't think I was in a mental state to partake in the 1,000 gate dash.

So that was my travel story. I know Mr. backpack guy meant no harm by his actions, but my body didn't know that. Ill-timed taps cause such a harsh reaction and sadly the other person has no way of knowing this. The only thing I can do now is write about it and hope and know that the next time I get smacked by someone rotating with a backpack on their back I need to do everything I can to vacate the area because the easy part is being run into by the backpack and the hard part? Yeah, the hard part is surviving the apology.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Panels: Confidence and Kansas

I'm back in Saint Louis but on Saturday I was once again on a panel at the USAAA conference. It was back two years ago that I was on my first panel at a USAAA conference and the sense of anticipation and fear was so great it felt as if it was going to consume my entire being.

This year was different. Instead of being so nervous I was shaking I felt no pre-panel jitters at all. Practice is an amazing thing having done so many presentations since two years ago I now don't have any fear before a presentation and the emotion that has replaced it is confidence.

I have said many times that nothing can replace the power of confidence. Confidence, however, isn't something that can be forced or faked. After my presentation on Friday a parent asked me, "What did you mean that, if I saw you outside a presentation, I may not recognize you?" and I explained a good chunk of that is because of the lack of confidence.

In an open-ended social situation I have zero confidence. I don't know how to simply be me and I over-analyze things which makes everything all the more difficult and there isn't a natural flow to my words. Now, this is exactly how I felt going into the panel two years ago. Two years later all the fear was removed so, does this mean it is possible that I could achieve a feeling of confidence in a social setting? Or is this comparing a mango and a carrot? (apples and oranges are overused)

This just reiterates the fact that there is no substitute for confidence. Also, I once again felt the power of Kansas as my Kansas now is raising awareness and understanding for the autism spectrum. From two years ago I have grown so much and have so many more examples that I actually was counting down the minutes to the start of the panel whereas two years ago I was fearing the countdown and I felt as if I was being dragged to it against my will.

So I think this past weekend just reinforced all my beliefs that growth comes within Kansas and that Kansas has strong powers. When we talk about our Kansas we aren't going to be caught off guard and we're going to have, what to us is, a "normal" conversation. This, over time, instills a strong sense of confidence that does seep into non-Kansas activities. Granted, this isn't going to change everything overnight, but a little bit of confidence goes a long ways and I while I may still feel a lack of confidence in an open-ended environment I still stronger than I was thanks to spending so much time in Kansas.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Biggest Critic

Sometimes it's rough to have a constant critic following you around... okay, it's always rough to have so. Who am I talking about? Myself.

Earlier today I presented at the 2012 USAAA conference in Denver. After every presentation I do I always remember a line I should have said, or I will remember each and every moment that I wasn't 100% fluid. This happened twice in my presentation as, when I got excited about what I was talking about and got animated, my hand hit the microphone making a loud noise. For those there this probably was nothing, but for me the fear of messing up, even for a quarter of a second, is too much.

So the rest of the day I was pretty down on myself. This is how I have always been in my life as I will quickly forget what I did right and only focus on the little things. Yes, I know that the omission of one line isn't that much and hitting the microphone with my hand may seem irrelevant, but I just can't get my mind off looking at what went wrong.

Later in the evening there was an appreciation dinner for the speakers and sponsors of the conference and it was rather awkward for me as I don't really know that many people here. I stood awkwardly, sat awkwardly, and was probably silent in an awkward fashion. I sat transfixed as to how people make it look so easy. How do people socialize so easily? The group at my table had never met and yet they spoke as if they had known each other since high school. All this personal awkwardness made me feel lost.

Thankfully the person to my left asked me who I was and that started a conversation and the difference was noticeable immediately. Every ounce of awkwardness vanished and my presenter mode came through. Instead of screaming in silence I was confident in my words and this persisted to the end.

As the dinner came to a close I was informed of some of the words that had been said about my presentation earlier in the day and they were quite positive. And of course I already had a blog comment and a comment on my Facebook page, but still I just wasn't sure, but finally I allowed myself to accept that maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought after all. Of course, it could have been better, right? Nah, just kidding. It was a huge honor to present here and tomorrow afternoon I will be on a panel about advocacy and bullying and I can't wait for that as well.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Excitement in Denver

Today, and this weekend, are a big event for me. I just got into the hotel in Denver for the 2012 installment of the USAAA global conference.

It was at this conference two years ago that I was on a panel with Temple Grandin and it was at that point that I was convinced that I had a future in my role of presenting. Sure, I had been on the job at TouchPoint for seven months, but it was at that time that I knew that this job wasn’t just a job, but a lifelong career and passion.

So yes, this year’s conference is set to begin and I am coming into it was a much different attitude than I did two years ago. I thought about how far I’ve come, not just as a presenter but also as a person, from when I did the 2010 conference. Going into that conference I was so nervous in the weeks leading up to it that I felt an almost constant feeling of nausea. Also, I didn’t know if what I had to say meant anything to anyone. Now though I know my voice and message are strong.

I feel kind of spoiled this go round as I have a one hour presentation by myself on Friday and I am on a panel on Saturday regarding advocacy and bullying. Two years ago I don’t know if I would have had the life experience to talk on that subject, but I can’t wait to be able to add to the discussion.

So that’s where I am at today. I am so excited to be at my first conference outside of Missouri and I can’t wait to give the presentation of my life tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Silent Joys

Just over a week ago I wrote The Silent Struggle: What is Different About Me? There is a flip side to that article in that it just isn't that I wonder why I am different in silence but also the immense joys I can feel are often felt in secret.

There are so many seemingly irrelevant everyday things that for me provide for a grand time. The first thing I can remember in life was car rides to kindergarten in the rain. How was that exciting and joy inducing? Windshield wipers! Windshield wipers? Yes, I would stare at the windshield wipers and be transfixed with joy as I watched them go back and forth. There was more than just that as I made a game that had a score system as each time the wipers got to their lowest point as if they were pointed to the right and there was no car, parked car, or pedestrian a point was awarded. If you could have seen me you might think I was lost or staring off into space but that wasn't the case as I was immersed in a very joyful event in secret.

The joys usually continued in kindergarten as I always got to play with these special types of blocks. I wrote about these blocks, and gave a picture of them, in this 2010 blog post but the sheer joy experienced is something that I don't think a person that isn't on the spectrum can appreciate. It isn't that I simply enjoy it, or like it, but these silent joys are felt throughout my entire body.

Continuing in school I often found coloring in block letters to be the most amazing thing in the world. Year after year I got more elaborate on this and in 5th grade I experienced a new level of coloring bliss. It was in the religion book and at the start or each course there was a bubble that had what course number it was and in this bubble the number was white and the exterior was colored and at the end of each course the colors were reversed. Naturally, when I see a bubble number or letter that is white it screams to be colored in so I did so. It started out that I would just color that day's course, but over time I started moving ahead until I finished the book. I was out of things to color so what did I do? I traded books and got to start all over. Here's the interesting thing though and that is I was never told to stop doing this. I didn't try to hide it and the teacher didn't have me stop. Not that this was an issue, if anything, by doing this act of coloring, it helped me pay attention even more so as these silent joys are also the most relaxing thing I know of. So, by coloring, my anxiety level was much lower and I felt at ease.

To this day I still have this coloring joy. It's advanced and while I say I have no artistic ability I am proud of my skills. I will eventually do a dedicated blog post on this (I've been telling myself this since the beginning back in March 2010) art of coloring magazine covers. My favorites are Sports Illustrated and Newsweek as both use big block letters on their covers and the colors I use depends on what team or news event is featured on the cover. Since I began doing this back in 2004 I have done over 1,100 covers and I have kept every one I have done. There are some repeats as to keep my stock of magazines high I will often buy back issues on Ebay in bulk. In the end though when I need to relax and focus there is nothing better than getting out my 30+ Sharpies and engrossing myself in the art of coloring magazine covers.

If I wanted to I could probably make this blog post 1,000 paragraphs long as I think of things that I enjoy to a level that other people could never really understand. Such as how much sensory bliss there is watching anything that spins or being able to research and learn about whatever Kansas may be on any given day. It isn't that these silent joys are just fun or enjoyable, but it's joy to the core; a feeling of sheer elation that is felt all the way to the toes. I may have written in that post about struggling in silence but I also experience immense joy in things that most people overlook or perhaps can't experience joy in. So, next time you see a person on the spectrum doing something that seems mundane, repetitive, or maybe even boring take a step back and wonder if it is something that could just possibly be, for them, the most exciting, awesome, and relaxing thing in the world.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Starting Equipment

Last week I wrote a post entitled "Equipped" and in it I made the comparison that a baseball player would never play without a mitt and a race car driver would never race at high speeds without a helmet. I'll add one more thing and say a firefighter would never go to a fire without the proper tools to fight the fire. So why then are there teachers without the right equipment, with equipment being knowledge, about Asperger Syndrome and the autism spectrum? Now I'm not saying we need to reinvent the wheel and give every teacher 20 years of training. While that would be nice I think a little information goes a very long way so over the course of the weekend I thought of what the five top starting pieces of equipment would be and here is what I came up with.

Eye contact: If you don't know my story, I was diagnosed at age 20 so I went through school with no diagnosis. All but one of my teachers was very relaxed on eye contact except my 3rd grade teacher as she was the, "look at me when I talk to you" type. She was very quick to say that lack of eye contact was, "Very disrespectful" and was give constant lectures to anyone who denied her the eye contact she demanded. To this day I hear from parents of children that have Aspergers that there are still teachers like this.

When I have presented to teachers and I talk about the struggles of eye contact, and the way I felt in my 3rd grade class, I often get responses of tears as the teachers think back to the past of a student they had that probably, now that they [the teachers] had right equipment, had Asperger Syndrome. So often they will tell me, "Only if I knew then!" What I do tell the teachers in the presentation is that I can do one of two things, I can either look at you in the eye and get fully overwhelmed and feel as if I'm going to explode into a shapeless cloud of anxiety or I can look away and be able to truly focus on the words being spoken. So in the end, by looking away, lack of eye contact is actually a sign of respect because I believe the words one says has far more importance than making eye contact.

Kansas: I use the main concept in my book because this is one of the most important concepts a teacher can understand. What Kansas is, it's a metaphor and I ask the question, "if you were paralyzed in every state except Kansas where would you want to live?" Obviously the answer is Kansas and what Kansas is and means is that people on the autism spectrum will have an activity or interest that is, at many times, the only thing that matters. If it is an interest it could be a school subject, computers, movies, and well, anything really. For me math and weather were my Kansas' is school. In 1st grade I wouldn't go play with all the other kids at recess as it was far more interesting have a conversation about weather and the jet stream and the National Weather Service. I often went into monologue mode and if I got on the subject of my ultimate Kansas of auto racing then I usually spoke with a furious passion.

I know my 1st grade teacher often got frustrated with the sameness of my conversations but my 2nd grade teacher used those interests to springboard into other interests as I wrote on another blog as a guest. When a person on the spectrum talks about their Kansas it can often be one-sided, but a teacher that thinks just outside the box can fully make use of it. My fourth grade teacher gave me a fun task; I did my work quite swiftly and I usually had a lot of down time so she had me figure out how long the Indy 500 would take with an average speed of 1MPH, then 2MPH, then 3MPH and so on and so forth. For most people this would be a tedious task and it would be nothing short of an annoyance and on top of all that this was voluntary, but she used my two Kansas' and I was more than happy to crunch the numbers.

I don't know: I've heard some rather sad stories of teachers overreacting to the sentence of, "I don't know" and it doesn't need to be this way. Take me for example; if we could go back in time to 2nd grade and you asked something about the previous weekend's race or maybe something math or geography related I probably would have given an instant answer. Now, if you went with a follow-up question about something emotional, or something that involves anything social related, there would've been a long pause as my mind would have gone into a panic mode trying to think of the answer. When I say panic I truly mean panic; the panic of absolute fear. I know when asked a question an answer is expected quickly because that's the way the world works. However, when something is asked outside my Kansas I have to think harder and thinking harder never works all that well. I panic and eventually I can only say one thing, "I don't know." I may know the answer, but under the gun of the question I over process.

This can be confusing to teachers, I know it was for my 3rd grade teacher, because it one subject or area we have all the answers and not only that we may be very quick with the answers. Then, just on the other side of the border exiting Kansas, we over-think and take a prolonged amount of time to come up with an answer. I got to the point, as have many other with Aspergers, that any question outside the realm of Kansas was instantly disregarded with an "I don't know." I may have known, but the level of uncomfortableness quite simply wasn't worth it. I said that I've heard some sad stories regarding this and I've heard some teachers have sent kids to the office, taken away recess, and at worst multiple in school suspensions of this "behavior" because, in the words of this one teacher, "This behavior is clearly obstinate and defiant behavior. He knows the answer but just wants control." It's this story that is at my core fueling my passion to get the word out because I've been there, in a way, thankfully I didn't have a teacher that rigid, but my 3rd grade teacher often said, "think harder" and, "what do you mean you don't know?" There are ways around this; maybe give more time for an answer or if a person likes to write perhaps have the student write it down. Not all ways will work with each student but please, above all else, don't take an "I don't know" as a defiant act because we often over-process and when we do so it is uncomfortable so our way to manage our anxiety is to end the question as quickly as possible.

Intake>Expression:  So often we on the spectrum are underestimated and it might be the topic here that helps create this. The section title is that out level of intake is much greater than our ability to express. This also probably adds to the ability to be so easily bullied because we are most often unable to express what we need. We can't simply say, "I need help" because that requires socializing and in, at least for me, I think and rethink and triple-think every thing I say beforehand. If I ask for help I can't foresee what the response will be. Will I be made fun of? Will I be looked down upon? If someone is troubling me and I speak up will they trouble me even more?

On the other side we take in everything. We may not show it, and we may not have the ability to let you know it, but we are always listening and will more often than not know everything you said. It seems obvious but many teachers often make the mistake of talking about a student that's in their presence as if they aren't there and this quite simply should never happen. We may not have the same ability to express our feelings, thoughts, emotions and fears but trust me when I say we have the same feelings, thoughts, emotions, and fears as everyone else and for that we should be treated the same.

When things did trouble me or if their was an assignment that I was having issues with, when asked if I were having issues with whatever that may have been, I would instantly say no, or I don't know. Often times I would open up later in time and ask for help, but I had to get over a great chasm of fear on how, exactly, to express the need for help.

One of the reasons a teacher needs all the right equipment is because if a teacher respects Kansas, can encourage in the right way, doesn't demand eye contact, well, I know I felt more secure and safe. If a teacher is constantly having a struggle, or is using lines such as, "what do you mean you don't know?" the odds of, well, I go back to 3rd grade and I never asked for help and never expressed a need for help even though there were times I needed it greatly.

If you met one person... Okay, this is where it gets somewhat murky for all of society as let's take all the personal examples I just gave and toss them out the door. Society likes everything to fit into a nice tidy box but the autism spectrum is not a nice tidy box. There's a saying that, "If you've met one person on the autism you've only met one person with autism." This is so true because, and sadly many teachers have not learned this. I said I was good in math and there are other people on the spectrum that are. However, the next person you meet may have very great artistic abilities and no math. I was the other way and have no art abilities (even my stick figure people were disfigured!). One person may use very formal language as if it were the 18th century and the next person may speak in nothing but short phrases. A majority of us hates anything remotely loud but the next may crave loud noises and go out of their way to create those loud noises.

Okay, so I could write on and on of examples, but this is such an important thing to understand. Using the first four subjects on here a person with Aspergers will be affected differently on each, or maybe not at all. Kansas is a great example because Kansas can be anything. One person on the spectrum may take everything as literal as possible (if I was doing the top six things that most certainly would be #6) and the next may have a fluid understanding of sarcasm.

I have heard from teachers that didn't understand this, "if you've met one you've met one" concept and said they felt frustrated that the methods they used on the first student they had that had Aspergers didn't work on the second one. They then said they wish that had known which leads me to the conclusion of this post. As I said at the beginning, it would nice if every teacher got years and years of training on this, but in the end every little bit of info helps. I've heard from some school personnel that, "learning about the autism spectrum would take resources we don't have." Maybe it's because I already know about it, but I don't think it takes all that much to get at least a sense of the autism spectrum. Our teachers need the equipping as I know that my 2nd and 4th grade teachers worked wonders for me. It was almost as if they were able to read this post and knew all this info back then and I am grateful for that because there is so much potential and growth for those with Aspergers but only if we survive the school years in one piece and with the right equipment the chances of that are all the more higher.