Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Which Presentation is This?"

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday, but I had two, three hour presentations in Springfield and then drove home so time was not on my side yesterday.

Anyway, an interesting series of events happened in my 2nd presentation. I was in the room of my presentation about thirty minutes early and was checking e-mails on my phone. I was seated to the right of the podium, not that I use a podium when I speak, but it was there nonetheless. This person walked to the furthest table away from me and I didn't take notice of her as that's what I tend to do when not presenting, but she stood there a moment and then said, "Excuse me, which presentation is this?" That sounds like a simple enough question, right? I mean, it's my presentation so the answer should have been easy to give. You would think that, wouldn't you. However, the answer was anything but easy.

I sat there and I stared at her trying to think of the answer. Going through my brain was, "It's my presentation." but would she know who I am? I could feel the seconds ticking away. This was quickly turning into a social nightmare as I continued to simply stare at her.

Each time I attempted to answer the question, and I did attempt by starting to make a sound then quickly muffling the noise, I thought the answer was wrong. I thought I could say, "The one on Asperger Syndrome" but I was unaware as if there were other sessions on this topic so I deemed that answer wrong.

Panic! Pure panic was racing through my system. I was 100% socially paralyzed. An hour prior to this I had finished a full three hour presentation and now I couldn't answer one simple question. This, right here, is the essence of living life on the autism spectrum.

About fifteen seconds had now passed and while it's taken you my than that amount of time to read this post up to here let me say that each second felt like a month as I weighed and re-weighed the right answer to give. Also, I could tell the lady asking the question was starting to get a bit confused because I'm sure it seemed a simple enough answer.

Perhaps at the 20 second mark I finally said, "It's the... it's the... it's the one on Asperger's." I didn't care if there was one, or 10,000 sessions on the topic as I just wanted to give an answer. She replied, "Okay, good, this is the one I wanted then."

I recovered from this question and gave one of my best presentations to date and with this presentation being three hours that meant the last hour would be Q&A. This lady who asked the question about which presentation was in this room asked, "You know Aaron, you stated that we may not recognize you outside a presentation and I must say, I was the one who asked you what presentation was in this room."

As she finished that sentence I smiled greatly and responded, "Yes! I love when someone gets to see the visual difference between Kansas and not."
       She responded, "Oh, you weren't in Kansas all right! I was so confused though because it was such a simple question. After you gave the answer though..."
       When she gave a slight pause I once again smiled greatly and I inquired, "You were wondering how on Earth I was going to give a presentation, weren't you?"
       It was her turn to smile and she responded, "Exactly!"

Even now as I write this I find this so incredible. I breezed through two hours of Q&A within the realm of a presentation but one random, unexpected question created a catastrophic lockup. In the end it worked great though because so often people say, "surely you can't be that different outside a presentation" but to have someone to see it, experience, and be confused by it made for such a wonderful example. For teachers, so often, this can be confusing. In one area we can be experts and then five minutes later getting us to respond to a simple question can be impossible. For that question asker yesterday she got to see it first hand, for those in attendance they got a great depiction of this.


  1. great story..thanks Aaron..sounds like you had a great presentation..for me when someone asks me a question and i freeze up i just say i'm having a "brain bubble" and try to get myself some time to respond..i have a bunch, well a few anyway, excuses, when i forget something..just shows we are all humane..

  2. I had a similar experience yesterday. My boss who has no clue what being autisic means, asked me a question, which I could not answer. The question was not specific enough, I was stumped on how to answer it, and still have not answered it. He said, we'll talk. Well, I thought, I'll try.

  3. Well Aaron, as usual I love your post! You help me understand my son more each time I read your Blog! I hope that my son will be able to realize that so many people have the same issues, with and without being on the spectrum! I often find myself unable to respond out of the blue when someone ask me a question. It is, as someone else already posted, part of being human. Keep up the great work Aaron. I don't get on here as often as I would like too, but you never let me down when I do get to read your post! Wonderful Stuff! Thank You!