Friday, November 30, 2012

A November to Remember

Decades from now I think I will still remember the month of November in the year 2012. It may have marked the third anniversary since my first presentation, but that isn't what it will be remembered for.

This month has been a career month. I don't know if I'll ever have a month like this again! I had many different audiences as I presented to students, to soon to be teachers, teachers at a conference, and parents.

In terms of how many people spoken to, well, I doubt I'll see these types of numbers again. My previous highest number was 1,011 but this November I more than doubled it with a total of 2,053.

I've thought about those numbers for almost a week trying to make sense of it. When I'm not in the midst of a presentation it's hard for to me comprehend that I am a presenter. Okay, I know that line probably has you confused, but I'm usually quiet, shy, reserved had I probably have a slight fear of public speaking. That is, up until the time I'm presenting when there is no fear at all. That being so, as I right this, I can't believe I spoke to so many people in one month!

I state these numbers as fact and not as a tooting of my own horn. It's probably a major accomplishment to hit a number north of 2,000, and I may never hit that number again, but it isn't about dozens, hundreds, or even thousands. Yes, this November will be remembered for 2,000 but regardless the month the important number to remember is one.

I've written several times on how important autism awareness is to each person. Reaching thousands is of course great, but to just reach one, and potentially change their life or a life of their child, is the real goal of my mission. Should I reach two that's great, but the real power lies within each one. It's such an honor to do what I do even though I don't really know what I do but regardless November is over and while this month has been an accomplishment I've never been one to sit on past accomplishments so onward to December and whether or not I reach 1, or 3,001 people the mission, the passion, and the goals are just the same.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Speed of Presenting Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the difficulties presenting on a team and today I'm going to talk about my presentation style.

I was asked this question by a police officer a month ago and a teacher last week in Vegas. The question was, "Do you always talk that fast?" I actually love getting that question because there are so many elements in play as to why I do talk fast.

In yesterday's blog I stated that, in the first race I broadcasted, I over analyzed my words and the order of play with play being who's turn it is to speak. When I analyze my words I will right away over analyze them and quickly the words become more important than their meaning. What this means is I know what to say and I know what my intended meaning is but I will over think it and become lost in perfecting how to say it.

If you have seen my presentation (by the way... I'm doing a Christmas sale right now. If you buy my presentation on DVD you get a FREE copy of my book, Finding Kansas. The link to order is on the upper right) I speak at a super fast rate. As mentioned, I do get questions on it and by keeping my speed up I don't have time to analyze what I am saying. Two days ago I gave a presentation to a training class at TouchPoint and I made it a point to slow down for 20 seconds and I stumbled upon myself. I thought about what I was saying, how I was saying it, and I began to see the class.

See the class? What does this mean? Another thing about speaking fast is that it doesn't allow me the time or mental space to process what those in the audience are doing. Just like driving a fast car, I have to put all my concentration on keep my presentation on track when I speak fast. I don't have the ability to think about if a person is looking at me or not. I don't have the ability to process if eye contact is being made. By speaking fast I eliminate all the fear of public speaking because the only thing that matters is making sure I don't lose track of what I am saying.

Thinking back on my life I can think of many times that, when I was passionate about something, my verbal speed picked up. Another thing that plays into this whole thing is that my brain often is operating at that fast of a pace. I really click when it gets into a singular pattern (perhaps this is why Kansas is so important as it aligns the entire brain on one subject because, instead of thinking about six different things such as eye contact, nods, facial expressions, time, and lights I am solely focused on delivering the information.

I'd be interested in attempting an entire presentation at a slower speed. Well, maybe not interested in doing it but interested in the results. I don't believe it would end well. Just the few moments I have done it in the past have created such a spike in social anxiety. Just writing about it has made my skin crawl because I know I would become my normal social self and over analyze everything.

In the end it's my speed that allows me to be the presenter I am. I know some people have a hard time following me and to them I apologize, but if I were to slow down there would be nothing. Speed is the only thing that supersedes my over-active brain therefore I will and have to continue on presenting at a fast clip because if I didn't there would be nothing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Speed of Presenting

This is going to be a two-part story about presenting in two different fashions. Tomorrow I'll cover the speed at which I deliver my presentations, but today I want to cover a different form of presenting, or rather announcing, that I have done twice now.

On iRacing, the 16th St Racing League got revived and the races are broadcasted live on the internet. There was an open call to join Wil Vincent, who is the lead play-by-play announcer and has the skill and voice to make it seem as if he is a leading international motortsport commentator, as part of the broadcast team. I saw this, I applied, and then I thought, "What have I just gotten myself into?"

I've blogged in the past about the length of time it took me to speak on iRacing. And even now I don't find it to be the easiest form of communication. And yet, I applied to be on a broadcast team.

There's one key word I've used in this post so far that is important and that is the word "team." I'm not that good of a team player as I have a constant habit of thinking that whatever I am thinking is exactly what my teammates are thinking. I was worried, going into the first race last month, that this would be a problem.

The first race I did was last month and I didn't feel comfortable at all. It was so hard to find a rhythm and to know when to and when not to talk. Because of this I elected just to not talk at all unless I was 110% sure it was the right time. My problem was I was analyzing my words more so than the race I was supposed to be analyzing. This is the topic I'll cover on tomorrow's blog in a way, but if I am so concerned about timing and the order of play then I'm not going to really know what's going on around me because I am so focused on that.

Then, last night, I had my 2nd race. Having that little bit of practice from race one made me a little bit more aware of how the order of play went. My friends let me know from the first race that I had to speak more. I knew this, but at the same time I don't want to speak too much and overstep my role.

I wanted to do this broadcasting as a way to challenge myself and last night the nerves before the race got as bad as they got when I gave my first presentation in front of a crowd. I should also explain as I've taken it for granted that you understand iRacing and the way broadcasting works, Wil Vincent is from England, Paul Jenkins is from, well, I'm not sure, and then there's me. We aren't in the same room so there is no way to give any sort of social cue as to who's turn it is to speak. Needless to say it is a challenge and as the producer gave the countdown to begin, "3...2...1..." the adrenaline began to surge.

Because of the one race under my belt I felt much more comfortable in my role. After the initial surge of adrenaline it became fun. Fun wouldn't be a word to describe my first race, but just like myself in physical social situations I felt more and more at ease. By lap 10 last night I forgot I was broadcasting anything and it became more like a conversation among three people that enjoy racing.

I wanted to do this for the challenge and by the end of the race last night I was beaming. For one thing the race had so many different interesting storylines, but also, from a personal standpoint, it felt great to be part of a team. This is something that is foreign to me; to be on a team that plays off of each other with words is something I've always struggled in, but knowing a lot about racing, and listening to racing broadcasts my entire life made the ability to do so a lot easier.

So I now find this odd; I've talked about when iRacing becomes a hyper-Kansas but now I'm just as excited to drive as I am awaiting the next chance I get to call the race with Wil and Paul and once again be part of a team.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Price of Angst

It's here... the holidays. The streak has been that this time of the year brings me down and this year is proving to be no different.

This year it's different though as there were several triggers that started this. The first has been an ongoing fear of the future. Secondly, last week while en route to my aunt's we stopped at a truck stop and while I was in there a song was playing. This wasn't just any song as the first time I heard this song I was walking into a diner with Linda in Minneapolis in 1999. The story of her is in my book and I don't know if I've really talked about her on my blog as all things regarding her haven't bothered me. That is, until that song played.

Another element in play is the decade issue. Having the overly good memory as I do, and being milestone oriented makes events 10 years ago even more important. Okay, I know logically there isn't anything more special about an event nine or eleven years ago than one that is ten years ago, but knowing that and actually having that happen are two polar opposite things. Yes, ten years ago I was in college as well as working at a bank as a teller. It just so happened that I drove by that bank today and I couldn't help but to think back on those days. I had a girlfriend, Emily, and my afternoons were filled with check cashing and check receiving. I felt so much pride back then, especially on Wednesday's when I would finish my shift at 6 and make it to the bowling alley just in time before league started.

Okay, I could write about the past for a year, but the issue at hand is actually one that has a high cost. Dealing with emotions, and angst, are things I don't handle well. I can't simply get over the past. The past, for me, comes and goes and when the past is the present (deep sentence here, but it is vital it is understood) I can't simply move forward. It isn't a choice; I can't simply say, "okay, event from 2002, be gone!"

Another thing that needs to be understood is that the higher the level of anxiety the higher the chances, from my own experiences, that a system-wide event is felt. I guess this goes in line with the typical Asperger trait of no gray areas or an all or nothing system, but it plays true here. When there is a just enough of anxiety it makes everything seem impossible. In a matter of two weeks I went from feeling as if I had everything to fearing what the tomorrow could bring and then what the day after next has in store.

During these events everything becomes more difficult and the ability to focus decreases. Every waking moment that my brain isn't 100% focused on something has a constant chorus of repeating the same things that are troubling me.

From my travels and presentations I know my experiences are not fully unique to me. This seems to be a common problem for those with Asperger's. Does everyone share this? I don't think so, but this is a common question and concern I hear from parents. When I hear this I don't give an answer as to how to fix it because if I knew I would be doing it, obviously, but what I do do is to give them what it feels like and the reasons why this all happens. Remember, I believe the concept of time is processed differently by those on the spectrum and the present has a much more eternal state than it does for those not on the spectrum. My catch line for this is that, "whatever is now is forever." Since this is so that means the angst of now will be the same angst 5 minutes from now and that angst will be the same angst experienced 5 years from now. The ability to see change for the better is a skill I don't have. Variables are hard to understand and process so when I look ahead to the future the only thing that is known is what is known right this second.

So it isn't even December yet and my holiday funk is already in full swing. I'm not looking forward to the next month, however I will have plenty of distractions as Monday and Tuesday of next week I have a conference I am speaking at in Springfield and then the week after that I have an absolute marathon of presentations in Chesterton, Indiana. Also, if history is any indication, any time I am feeling down my blog gets rather interesting so that should be a positive that comes from. In any event I just once again once to restate the fact that moments like this isn't a choice. When my brain begins to worry just a little bit the chain reactions are so quick that I'm beginning to fear everything even before I have had a chance to understand how my thoughts of event A have created a fear of X. As I said though this should give me writing material and as history has proven, I've come out the other side of these funks each and every time before.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Praying for You

On the ride home yesterday while I was scanning Facebook (don't worry, I wasn't driving, my dad was) I read some really sad news. It took a while to sink in, but someone I've come to know over the past two years has become very ill.

As I said, it took a while to sink in and at first I put up my usual cold wall. I stated to my dad what had happened as simply a matter of fact. Then the miles went on and I began to feel strong, unfiltered emotions. I wanted to do something but I was powerless. I wanted to express my sadness but words eluded me. I wanted to help but there was nothing I could do.

I often end my presentations by stating the fact that we on the autism spectrum are normally awful at expressing our gratitude and just what those around us mean to us. Perhaps this is simply a human thing to do, but for those of us on the autism spectrum it's worse. Anyway, this person was there for me several times times over the past two years and she even went out to get me home after Crash in Nashville. I think I may have said thanks, but I am uncertain if I did.

From her Facebook wall she obviously is loved by all who she has come across. I've only known her for two years and there are few as dedicated to their job as she is. That's just the way she is. Whatever she is doing she goes all out on and I'm praying that recovery is the same way.

I'm not the best at speaking about outward emotions, but I felt I had to write something. In interactions with her I often would say something in jest to which she would always state something along the lines of she thought I wasn't "one of them" jokingly. This is something I don't do with others as it takes me feeling 100% comfortable around a person for me to speak anything other than facts. She has that way about her though.

This person also went out of their way to see my presentation when I was in Denver which meant a lot to me. Granted, I didn't say anything at the time, but that made me feel truly special despite the fact that I gave you the wrong directions and then led you through an automatic toll gate.

So my prayers are with you hoping that your health is restored and that you may once again be back behind the camera and among the people that love you. Get well soon!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Soundtracks of Life: Black Friday Edition

There's a song that I've been looking for on the internet for a very long time. There have been few songs that have defined an era like this song. Then, several days ago on my car ride to the D.C. area, I found it. Before I tell the story you might want to give it a listen. Beware though, I've been told it's one of the more annoying songs ever made.

So what on Earth does this song represent? This is the song that defines the era of when I worked at the video game store. I was thinking the other night just how important those days were in my development to become who I am today. But that's not the story. The story is this...

I started working at the video game store in September 2001 and later that month we got an Xbox demo unit. The manager would rotate games, but Project Gotham Racing seemed to be the favorite, as well as the fact that anytime I played a crowd would form to watch (true story.) I also noticed that within the game's soundtrack was this song, entitled Nekosogi Hoshii, that people seemed to loath and complain about. That being so I edited the soundtrack so this was THE ONLY SONG THAT PLAYED!

Imagine, all day everyday when a person was playing this was the song that blasted. And I do mean blasted because the Xbox demo unit had way too good of speakers. The shops around quickly became irked, but the kiosk right in front of us, a jewelery/ear piercing store that sat in the middle, became the most irate. They always gave us, specifically me, the longest stares of disapproval.

We maintained that demo unit all the way through the holiday shopping period and a few coworkers would alter the soundtrack making it all the songs in the game, but the manager loved the joke as much as I did so he or I would change the soundtrack back to play only Nekosogi Hoshii. From Black Friday all the way through Christmas the song blared throughout our store.

The other night, when I heard this song, I was taken back to those days. I thought on just how far I have come. Back then my only socializing was task based meaning that I could only talk about what was going on. Maybe that's why I created the most hideous soundtrack ever because it gave me something to talk about. My coworkers would always talk about pop culture and other things I knew nothing about nor could I fake it, but talking about a fact, about something that was happening, was something I could do. It's odd to think, but this song and the musical torture that it created helped me socialize with my coworkers, or at least the ones that found it just as hysterical as I did.

So wherever you shop today, tomorrow, or up to the end of the holidays just be thankful that I'm not there working or who knows what song would be playing that may be highly annoying.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Episode of Planes, Trains (or rather Trams) and Automobiles

My annual longest sleep of the year just took place and this year it was even longer due to the fact that I had been up for nearly 40 hours straight. Also, the long journey of travel made it even worse.

It started just after I ended my most recent blog post. I boarded the Boeing 757 at the Vegas airport and it was a completely full flight. I was in the next to last row and I was looking forward to sleeping on the flight. However, there were two people beside me and three in front of me that all knew each other and they began to gab and complain about everything. Of course, that is there right, but at the same time it was so annoying.

As we took off the person beside me complained about the way I was trying to sleep as I had my head on the window which put my left side up against the arm rest. She thought this unfair as I was, "invading space" that was hers. I never crossed the center line of the arm rest (in my mind that is the territory border) so I never declared a border battle, but regardless she was not in a good mood. Maybe it was past her bedtime.

The bickering continued and she yelled, "It's too hot in here!" and she turned the air one and then she exclaimed, "It's too cold in here. I'm never flying this airline again!" I knew this was going to be a long flight.

Because of the five days I spent flagging my body was sore, and because of that I had to constantly adjust the way I was sleeping. This annoyed her for some reason and each time I moved I got an elbow to the ribs. Granted, she wasn't spearing me, but she was certainly breaking the barrier and putting a light force into my ribs.

I was getting angry. What gave her the right to do this? I am a border conscious traveler as I fear the day I create a border dispute. I want no part of being yelled at. So why was this older lady doing this to me? All I wanted was to sleep and all I wanted was her elbow out of my ribcage.

The minutes went on and each time I was on the verge of that mythical place called sleep my body would ache and I would have to adjust my posture. I swapped from putting my head on the window to putting my head down on the drink tray. Several times went I took the tray route the person beside me and in front of me would say, "That is so rude! Why does he get the right to do that? I don't want to feel each time he moves!" said the woman in front of me.

I've had some rotten travel experiences but this was quickly climbing the charts. My anger was making my neck ever sorer so I was having to change posture even more and she became more forceful in her elbows. I didn't know what to do. What could I do? These women were obviously angry at something and all that anger was being directed to me. If I spoke up to them, or stood up for myself, what would that achieve? I think the woman to my left wanted that actually. And if I did it would be a five-on-one and it wouldn't have been a fair confrontation. And, if it escalated to talking to a flight attendant, who's side would she take? Yeah, I figured, not mine. To make this all worse this was a full flight. I couldn't simply move seats. Sleep, it appeared, was not gong to happen.

And it didn't. For the rest of the flight they bickered about anything and everything as well as keeping a high focus on my actions. I impressed myself because I never once acknowledged their existence. That was my only defense. I think they wanted a verbal confrontation but that would achieve nothing. I may not have slept, but there was victory in knowing that I never gave them satisfaction in letting them know to just what level of annoyance they gave me.

When we landed I had 50 minutes to get to my next gate. I now had been up for almost a full 24 hours and had no idea where I was. It took 15 minutes to deplane, and thankfully those five women were gone, but when I got off the plane I stared at the monitors and forgot where I was or what I was doing. I looked at my phone which had my boarding pass to reacquaint myself with what I was doing. I then knew I was headed to Indianapolis but that still left a question; where was I? I shared a status on Facebook that stated, "You know you're tired when you land at an airport and have no idea where you are." and that was perfectly true.

After a couple moments I figured it out and then I had to piece together the fact that I was headed to the B terminals. This would require a trip on the tram which I managed to do despite the fact that everything I did required my thought that should be required.

I made to my gate at some point in time before my flight left, obviously, and as I think back I don't remember this part of the trip. I do remember that when I got on the flight I had a whole row to myself but despite this fact sleep never happened on the 50 minute flight to Indy.

Once landed in Indy my dad, sister, and nephew picked me up and then it was a ten hour drive to the Washington D.C. area. These were a long ten hours, fun, but each passing hour I became more and more depleted in all that I did. The previous six days came crashing down on me, but at the same time I was too tired to care.

I caught a second, or rather fifth or sixth wind we were got to the restaurant that my aunt met us at, but when I finally laid down to go to sleep I was asleep within a few tenths of a second. 14 hours later I woke up today, but I'm still tired, and I still wish I'd have had a better tactic against those angry women, but today is a new day and a day that I think at, some point in time, I'm going to take a nap.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

15,000 and Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning sad. Today is the point in time I am furthest from the Supernats. However, in a wonderful twist of contrast, I had a presentation today at the Southwest Lutheran Educators Conference.

Back in April when I was on my nationwide tour I was asked if I would be interested in presenting at this conference and they gave me the dates and I was so happy that it worked perfectly that I would be here already so I got on the roster of speakers.

It was an odd presentation, and it was even odder to see the principal from the school I presented here in Vegas in April. When I say an odd presentation I mean it was weird going from flagging the world's largest karting event to being back in presentation mode. I was worried that I'd be too sore, or too exhausted to present but my fears were unfounded.

Today's presentation was special though as I have now spoken to over 15,000 people! I can't believe it. I know I say that every milestone I achieve, but it's true. To be honest I still can't believe I've spoken to 100 people, but today 15,000 was eclipsed.

That was earlier today and my day, or rather night is nowhere near being over. I'm writing this at the Las Vegas airport and soon I'll be on a plane with a final destination of Indianapolis and after that a car ride to my aunt's in Virginia. One of my worries about doing the presentation today was if it would interfere with my Thanksgiving tradition of going to my aunt's on the Tuesday. Sure, I could have got a flight to Dulles, but what's the fun in that? Part of the tradition is the car ride there and if I were to have flown there I'd have been cheating. So I worked it out and my dad, sister, and nephew will be at the Indy airport waiting to pick me up.

So that's what's going on with me. I should finish this before we start to board so to end I'll just say that today was such an odd contrast, and tomorrow should just add to the sense of confusion, and I'm looking forward to combatting jet-lag (I do mean this honestly) as I love the sense of one's internal clock flashing 12:00.

Monday, November 19, 2012

After nats

It's over! It hasn't been more than seven hours since I threw the final checkered of the 2012 SKUSA Supernats and already the sense of withdrawal is setting in. Of all the times of the year this is the hardest.

There is nothing more challenging than transitioning from the ultimate Kansas to not being in that Kansas. This isn't to diminish everything else I do, or everything else that I am but to go from the most challenging and exhilarating five days back to normality is rough. And just normality, but for the past five days I have stood with confidence and have been able in my ways. There has been nothing to write about in terms of having Asperger's. As I say about Kansas, its within Kansas that I feel the most normal and the past days I have been in that state. So in a way, as I have retread this paragraph I have written, during the Supernats I feel normal and when it's over I return to my normality.

I'm writing this Sunday night and this will serve as my Monday post as tomorrow is a most unique of days. Usually I just fly home and then on Tuesday proceed to my aunt's house in Virginia but this year I have a presentation on Monday here in the Vegas area. Then, tomorrow night, I catch a red-eye flight and will arrive in Indianapolis Tuesday morning where my dad will pick me up. That's going to be interesting as I don't sleep we'll in vehicles. And my presentation tomorrow will be difficult as I'm going up be sore, tired, and still reeling from Supernats withdrawal.

There's another side effect from the end of the race and that is everything else seems more difficult. My worries have been escalating the past two weeks and now they are more daunting in their scope. I don't want it to be that way, but as I have found out, one of the challenges of Asperger's is that when one thing, no matter how big or small, troubles me or is effecting my emotions it creates a cascading reaction that begins to make everything seem impossible.

Despite how I feel right now I wouldn't trade the past days for anything. Each year I get better at this and this year I had a flawless performance. I can't believe I have done five of these! Five! And in just under a year it will be six. Already I'm counting the days that once again I will be in my ultimate Kansas. Whereas most everyone else is tired, worn out, and the last thing they're thinking about is going through the five days of the Supernats but I'm ready! Bring it on! I'd give anything for November 2013 to be here and once again I have five straight days that I walk with confidence and have no second thoughts about any of my actions. It'll be a long wait, but oh, when they arrive once again I will be more than ready!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A day in paradise

First, this post will serve as my Thursday post. I would normally delay the publish time but since I have no way to connect my computer to the Internet I have been relegated to blogging from my phone and blogger doesn't get along with iOS so I have no way if changing times.

Anyway, yesterday was the first day of the Supernats. It was a much needed event as my mind has been worrying up a storm the past week or so  this event though is so unique has I don't know of a tougher challenge mentally. I wanted to do a video blog explaining all the things that go on whilst flagging but I'd have no way of uploading it.

But yes, even though it is noisy, difficult, and always moving there isn't a time that I am more relaxed. I know, that is so atypical of everything Asperger's but I think that an event that requires so much attention and perfection operates at the speed my brain functions.

Today (Thursday) will be the 2nd day of practice as yesterday was also a complete day of practice. Come Friday the start of competition will begin. Writing that, knowing that with each passing second the end is closer, already is making me sad. I talk about this event all year. And this isn't taking away from any other event I do as I love them all , but this event is so big, so unique, and so international that it is in a class of its own. But, the end of each day is one step closer to the end of Super Sunday. While most people breathe a sigh of relief that it is over I always am holding back tears.

But in any event, while I am already dressing the end, another day of practice is on tap and once again I will be in a complete state of paradise, or I guess I could say the Capitol of Kansas (see my book finding Kansas, or my blog glossary for clarification of what I mean) for another day.

What is the Supernats?

I know I have picked up many followers and readers this year so this whole SKUSA Supernats thing might mean nothing. I could probably write 1,000 paragraphs on how awesome of an event it is, but instead I'll let a video do the talking so here is the 2011 SKUSA Supernats official video. I'm not in it  until the final sequence.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Trap of a No Win System

This week my attention is on being the flagman for one of the largest kart races in the world. This is my fifth one but even though I'm here in Vegas my mind is still on autism awareness and understanding so is like to go back to 2008.

I don't know if you'll believe this, but I feel that the SKUSA Supernats is one of the most important things that have ever happened to me. I know, that's a bold statement, but back at my first Supernats I was not a public speaker. The original version of my book was not yet released, and I had zero confidence in myself. Sure, I could flag club races, but I had no confidence in myself at all.

And not only this; not only did I have no confidence but the effects of that are wide ranging. And when I say confidence I don't mean the confidence to speak one's mind or the confidence to not worry about one's image. No, the confidence I'm talking about is the confidence for life.

Confidence for life? What this means is that I felt I could never be or do anything. Part of this was that awful website I read after I got diagnosed that said "a person with Asperger's will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy." That words defined me and if one believes those words then what confidence is there in life? Here was my logic; I could try as hard as I could but regardless of this I will never be able to succeed because there is no chance of anything other than no hope.

Then, I was selected to flag the largest kart race in North America. Me! I was flagging in and around the Saint Louis area but I had never done anything special that was an international event , but I got thrown into the fire and came out the other side shining. Without a doubt that race 4 years ago was the most difficult event I have ever been a part of, but I made it through and they keep inviting me to be the chief starter so here I am.

Here's the thing; I realize not everyone is going to have a Supernats moment like I did and this is where the need for awareness and understanding comes in. Remember, I said that the website I read was only part of the cause. The other cause for me was the minor social run-ins I had with others. I now realize mine were minor as I was never really picked on at school and was simply by myself. But this was something I grew to accept and never sought friends because it never worked out so therefore why try.

"Why try." Those two words are the words I lived by after my diagnosis. What was the point of trying when failure was a guarantee? If it weren't for the 2008 Supernats I don't think I'd ever have had the confidence instilled within me to be a speaker. Last week was the most amazing week of my life as I had seven presentations in front of a total of 1,680 people. Who I am now started four years ago and it all began with just a sliver of hope that was born of a ray of confidence. Again, not everyone is going to have a chain of events I did, but one thing that I truly believe is that, if people understand our differences they will be able to see who we are more clearly.

Above all things though I know that one of the worst situations possible is a person thinking that everything is a no win situation. I lived in that world for many years. I am grateful I came out the other side and it is my continuing mission to bring about a new level of understanding so maybe another person will come out of that would, or maybe a person will better understand the person with Asperger's. So yes, this week isn't exactly the same as giving presentations. However, for me, it will be a reminder of who I was, and who I am now. I have come so far in four years. Further than I ever thought possible and yet here I am! I never thought anything like this could happen to me because, after all, what's the point in trying since nothing good will happen? I can remember those days vividly and I wish I could go back and tell myself "Go ahead, give life a try! Should you fail, should you fall, it's okay. Life isn't always a no-win game but to have a chance you must first try. You won't always win, there will be hiccups along the way, but go on and live life instead of letting the no-win world be life."

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Week I Wait For All Year...

Last week was amazing. Simply amazing! In the end I spoke to 1,680 people which is something that, well, wow! to reach that many people is something that I think will be hard to judge in terms of impact, but I am so thankful to have the chance.

This week is a shift of gears and of all the weeks of the year this is the one I countdown the most to. Truly the weekend was painful awaiting this week, but it is here! It's time for the annual SKUSA Supernats! I leave today to head to Vegas and I have been just full of excess energy awaiting this day. I'm sure though that today is going to drag on, and so to tomorrow, but come Wednesday I will be in flagging bliss.

I can't believe this, but this will be my 5th Supernats as the cheif starter. It's become a routine, in a way, and what I mean by that is the process of getting there, checking in, the walking of the track, and all things in between. My routine will be different this year when I leave as I actually have a presentation at an educators conference in Vegas next Monday so I'm interested to see how my body holds up as I am usually exhausted come Sunday's end.

I could write and write about the event, but I have a meeting to get to this morning. I hope to do a video blog from the track, but I make no guarntees on that. But I do know this, in two days I will be on the track at one of, if not the largest kart races in the world and oh my, I can't wait!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Presentation #299

Yesterday a major milestone happened as I hit career presentation 300! I never imagined in my life achieving such a major goal. However, I don't want to talk about presentation 300 but rather the one earlier in the day.

Presentation #299 was held at a middle school and once again, as with the presentation a week ago Monday, I thought I was going to be speaking to just one class. I was mistaken though as it wasn't to a class, or a grade, but rather the entire school! All 550 students!

I've given five or six school presentations now and to be honest there are no nerves now. As the students and faculty were filing into the gym I was talking to a TouchPoint coworker and was rather calm. Although I must say that I lost track of time and when I looked towards the bleachers, well, I could try to put into words what it looked like but I think this picture will do better.

Quite the crowd, wouldn't you say? As I saw this I did have a hint of nerves, but not of public speaking but of the power I hoped my words would have. Of all 300 presentations I have done, this was now my largest audience for which I was the sole presenter. I had one shot to reach this audience. I didn't want to blow this opportunity to bring autism awareness and understanding to such a large group.

I planned on the format which has worked in the past with students and that is a 20-30 minute segment which is a non-PowerPoint version of my 90 minute presentation. After that I open the floor for questions for the remaining time. As I said, I've given 5 or 6 of these and each time the staff of the school have told me how amazing it is that I keep the students' attention. I was just hoping that those weren't a fluke and that once again magic would happen.

There have been so many times over this blog that I have mentioned that I gave my best presentation, but I think yesterday in front of a packed gymnasium I gave a presentation of a lifetime. I have never felt more comfortable and confident in front of students and my energy level, timing, and delivery was as perfect as I could be. I worked the floor and by the silence in the room I knew I was being heard.

As for the questions and answers period; once again the magic happened. It isn't a fluke! Every presentation I have given to students the amazing questions always happen. It was actually hard to keep up with them because I wanted to spread the questions out among the age groups but what could I do when no less than 50 hands were up at a time? Maybe someday I'll find a way to illustrate this, but I wish you could, wherever you are where you are reading this, to experience this question segment. For me, it gives me so much hope for the future! I realize I could make this blog post about my 300th post because that is a major deal for me, but nothing can compare to reaching those who will someday run this world. Yes, I wish you could experience the energy in the way the questions are asked. Just writing about it brings tears to my eyes.

Each presentation I've given to students time seems to fly way too fast. I looked over to the principal who gave me the signal for two more questions. Once those were finished it was over, but not without the loudest applause I have ever received along with cheers and foot stomps of the bleachers.  Another magical hour had come to an end. I walked over to where my coworker was and as the students filed out several students asked me questions and one even said, "Sir, you're amazing!" I thought to myself how odd life can turn out. When I was that age school was a place that I felt as if I were drowning and now I can make an impact the size of which is, perhaps, unmeasurable.

After all had left and the gym had become just an empty room once more the principal led us to where my presentation was going to be that night and walking the hall towards it there were many comments from students thanking me. When we got to the library a student entering the gym asked me, "Would you say having Asperger Syndrome is awesome?" With a smile I replied, "At first I didn't think so, but knowing what I know now it most certainly is awesome and I wouldn't change a thing about me." He gave a big smile and said, "Thank you!"

So yes, 300 happened last night, and every presentation I give probably has an impact, but there was something special, magical, and unique about #299. I think back to my first school presentation last year in how I sort of protested doing such a thing. It was somewhat selfish, but I didn't think my words would matter, or be understood. I mean, who am I to speak to students? But now I want more of those! I've said this several times over the past few weeks, but there is an unmistakable thirst for knowledge and I hope, in my next 300 presentations, I have more chances to make an impact and a lasting impression as I did for presentation #299.   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Missouri Back Roads at Night: Oh Deer!

Yesterday I had a presentation in Owensville but getting there proved to be interesting as my GPS decided it wanted to take me 10 miles North of town. It's been a while since I've had a GPS story, but my GPS loves to get me lost in all sorts of ways.

My presentation went great with around 75 people in attendance which surprised me being election night and all. While I was selling books someone asked me where I was off to and I said that I was driving to Mountain Grove and they said, "Tonight? Are you serious?" I inquired as to why and they told me, "Deer. Lots of deer. You'd be crazy to make the drive."

I called my dad when I got into the car and repeated what was said and he told me to be careful and no less than 10 miles outside Owensville I had my first sighting off to the right. This was rather unsettling as ever since the time I hit a horse nighttime driving has been quite eerie. Now, I will say interstate driving is okay, but the road I was on was a narrow, winding road with my twists and turns than a daunting race track.

The speed limit was 55 but I didn't dare do it as I was constantly seeing small animals on the shoulder. I was actually surprised to see so many skunks walking. I had only seen the remains of a skunk, but I saw at least a dozen.

It was now about 45 minutes since I left Owensville and I was coming over a crest and I slowed a tad and I'm thankful I did because the king of all bucks was standing in the center of the road. This deer was built, had antlers the size of, well, a coat rack, and he didn't really care that I was barreling down on him. I've heard the phrase, "a deer in headlights" and I always thought that meant a deer was so scared it froze. However, this deer had more of an attitude of, "Yeah, hit me. I dare you. Do you know how much damage I can do?" Quickly I swerved and I went off the road but thankfully the ground was even with the road. and the trees, unlike most other parts of this road, were a ways off the road.

I had a decision to make. I did not want to continue on but stopping wasn't an option either because, truly, I was in the middle of nowhere. If I stopped where would I stop?

The choice was made and I forged on and 10 minutes later I found out the answer to, "What's worse than one deer? Two? Three? Four?!" Try five! And these young deer were more of a traditional deer in headlights as the pack, or herd, of whatever one would call a group of deer froze in the road. I slowed and corrected the situation by honking my horn and they scattered to my right and into the black darkness of the night.

This is something I should mention; the darkness. Except for my headlights the rest of the world was a black void. The sky was cloudy and there are no street lights. Living in a city one can become oblivious to the fact that night time is dark time.

The next fifteen miles I began to see animals that may or may not have been there. A sense of animal paranoia set in, but there were several times I saw eyes up ahead and then a deer scurrying across the road.

If the threat of deer in a clear night drive wasn't thrilling enough I came around a corner and all of a sudden the world was white. I didn't know what it was a first and I slowed to a stop. I knew no one was behind me, and in fact I had not seen another car for almost an hour. Also, I had driven past houses that were burning leaves so I thought maybe this was a big fire, but there was no smell. Then I realized that this was fog, but it was so random. Seeing how it was fog I drove on because I have been told and have seen many a sign that stated, "Do not drive into smoke."

The fog became patchy and I was nearing my destination per the GPS. I was 30 minutes out and all the while I was checking the GPS to see what the road in front of me would do. Then, I noticed an odd turn. It truly was an odd turn so I slowed and saw a stop sign followed up by another stop sign then a steep decline. I proceeded with extreme caution because, even with my headlights, seeing where I was going was difficult.

At this point in time I am so glad I don't trust my GPS because as went down the decline, had I had blind faith I would have gone around this turn and ended up either on this ferry or in the river. Yes, what my GPS called a road was a ferry service. And when I say ferry this boat looked like it could only carry one car at a time. It was 10:15PM and no one was around so this service wasn't going to be working so I backed up and then noticed the sign that said that the ferry runs something like 10AM-4PM. It would have been nice to know that well in advance, and it would have been nice for my GPS system to, I don't know, chose roads that are actually roads.

I now had another problem. My GPS was fixated on trying to see if my car could swim. On top of that I had no cell phone service and had had none for an hour. Never in my life have I felt so alone. We live in an age where technology binds us together and being alone, truly alone, is something that is hard to do. Unknowingly and unwillingly I achieved this state of isolation.

All I wanted to do was to have someone look at the map and tell me where to go. I could look on my GPS but I couldn't tell if those roads were a ferry or a real bridge. I had a river to cross and needed a bridge but no one could tell me because I was cut off from all the world.

To make matters even more fun the fog returned and was thick enough that I couldn't see more than a car length in front of me. And I was once again entering an area that the deer seemed to like as I avoided a couple of them after I finally made it over that river.

Eventually I made it to a town and from that town I made it to US 60 and then finally I made it to my hotel over an hour later than what my GPS told me. But more importantly I made it in one piece and my car undamaged. Living in a city like I do it is hard to imagine such a drive as I had last night. On top of that the feeling of being fully alone is something that a lot of people would find hard to imagine; no people, no Facebook, no cell reception, no data, no contact.

It was certainly a drive to remember. Today though my focus shifts to my two presentations I have today which will be career presentations 299 and then 300. It will be a major milestone for me and I'm rather excited about it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Back on the Road

I've been in my own place since October 2011 but this past month and two weeks have been the longest continual stretch I have been at home. In fact, I haven't spent one month straight in Saint Louis for a long time.

Thankfully, this streak ends today as I have a presentation in Owensville then I'll drive to the Mountain View area where I will be staying for the week. With this being so I do have quite a bit of stuff to get ready so I have to keep this short, but I will say it's going to be such a great feeling to be back on the road.

Monday, November 5, 2012

On the Brink of 300

I tried to go to sleep early last night but my mind wouldn't let me. The number of 300 kept racing through my mind as I tried to understand it's impact. As I did this my mind tried to understand the emotions behind the impact and it was as if my thoughts were scrambled. I mean, 300!

I'm very milestone oriented and trying to go to sleep when thinking about this number of 300 was impossible. Oh, 300 what you ask? Right now I have done 297 presentations for a total of 13,272 people. I'm three presentations away from 300 and I will hit that number this week.

I think I wrote last week that it is hard to fathom my impact and how it's hard for me to remember what it was like before I had this job. Going back to my first blog post I had only presented 15 times and 13 of those were to police officers.

Presenting to officers was my primary audience when I first began In fact, when those presentations ended in May 2010 I thought my job would end soon after. As usual my catastrophic thinking proved to be wrong, but never did I allow myself to think I would have career presentation totals North of 150, or 200, or even nearing the milestone of 300. And yet here I am. Three years ago today I had yet to give a presentation and never thought I would have the skills to do so let alone be halfway decent at it.

My mind would not get rid of those thoughts. How did this all happen? Why did this happen? Is this a dream? Those thoughts were overwhelming enough but then I thought of the people I've met along the way and when I did this it was as if my mind went it super-hyper-sonic overdrive. It was too much. I remembered the first time I had a repeat customer, I remembered all the awesome questions along the way, the presentation that I met the woman that helped make the Sunglasses Experiment possible. I sort of live in a bubble oblivious to the amount of people I reach but trying to sleep I realized that it's been more than I could, or can imagine.

Friday, November 2, 2012

More Magic

I don't have too much to say today as I said it best back on Tuesday's blog. But yes, once again I had a presentation to students. Well, two presentations actually as I presented to the 6th grade then to the 5th grade of this school. And once again the response was like it has been each other time I've done this and the response is nothing short of magical.

After the presentation, as I was driving out of the school parking lot, I kept thinking that I can't believe the way my life has played out. Three years ago I had yet to give my first presentation and now I'm at 296 presentations given. I still can't believe it and I can't believe that I somehow make a connection with those students. I don't know what I do, or why it happens, but it does and all in all I still just can't believe the way things have turned out.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Feeling of Fear

It's been a while since I talked about dreams and each time it comes up at presentations people are always astounded to find out that I remember my dreams, all of them, in photographic detail. I love dreams as a good chunk of my book chapter and blog posts come from them. However, once in a rare while I will have a runaway dream, or more commonly known as a nightmare. I had one last night.

My dreams are very realistic and it's always funny when I have one that isn't because my dream self will call out the world and then I realize it's a dream. Last night I had a very realistic dream going that got interrupted by a nightmarish scenario; the civil defense sirens were blaring as a storm was rolling in and those around me would not seek cover and I was stuck with them and couldn't get to cover.

The fear in my dreams was bad enough that it woke me up to which I awoke to a surge of adrenaline. I also began to hear everything as if it were amplified. My senses were in overdrive and it didn't help that my place was making more creaking noises than I have ever heard before. With each noise I wondered if there was an intruder in my house, or if there was a storm outside. What started as a mild bit of fear was snowballing into a pure state of panic.

This has been a common theme throughout my life. When there is a small bit of fear my body goes into a hyper-defensive mode that begins to analyze everything and then fear it. There seems to be no middle ground on this; everything is either all fine or I am on the brink of fleeing for my life. Granted, I have never fled for my life, but that's what my body is telling me to do.

So, if you had every nerve telling you to get out of wherever it is you are, how could you possible maintain a sense of social properness? That was one of my problem in school. It seems we on the autism spectrum are good barometers for tension and we pick up on any oddity that is occurring. When something different happens we escalate into a near panic mode trying to make sense of it all. And we can notice very subtle things such as, when I was in kindergarten the fire alarms went off but I noticed that the office staff too came outside. This was only my third or fourth fire drill and yet I noticed that they usually stayed inside therefore this wasn't a drill therefore, in my mind, chaos and destruction were about to unfold and I wanted to be anywhere but there. (In case you are wondering there had been no fire, but there had been a bomb threat to the school.)

Perhaps this reaction to fear is in place because we are poor social judges. Because I have a hard time reading situations and emotions my body compensates by jumping to the worst case situation every time. And when I say my body jumps I truly mean it; I don't think, "okay Aaron... get afraid in three... two... one... PANIC!" Nope, it doesn't happen that way. It's more like a light switch with an instant result and I begin plotting defense and/or escape.

You would think after 29 years and having my fear be right only once that this would have ebbed a bit. However, that isn't the case. I've done a better job and not showing my emotions, or giving into the fear, but it is still there whenever it happens. So just keep this all in mind; I'm sure not everyone on the spectrum has the same reaction I do, but should they be aware that there is no choice for this; it's an automated defense and when it is triggered the only thing I'm focusing on is trying to protect myself from whatever dangers my mind thinks is lurking.