Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Understanding, One Swing at a Time

I guess you could say my summer vacation has begun as I'm in Indy waiting for Friday (or Thursday) when my nephew, sister, and I drive to see mom in Rapid City, SD. Yesterday I went to go play golf and at first I drove by the course right near my sister's and saw that they were rather busy so I decided not to play. Instead, I went to go get gas then went to the post office to ship off one of my books and DVD's a person had purchased. However, the call of 18 holes was calling so off I went.

Nothing happened the first four holes (except I did have my first ever bunker chip in. Go me!) but on the fifth the pace slowed down and the person behind me asked if he could join me. I said, "sure" unenthusiastically as I, well, I have Asperger's and socializing with those I don't know isn't my strong suit. My nerves showed right away as I hit two drives that went 15 yards, straight down, and into the water.

So I said I'm not all that enthusiastic about playing with those I don't know but it is something I am able to do now. Three years ago I would not golf if I thought something like that would happen and that's why I drove by the course first and decided not to play as it was the fear of socializing. However, I have learned the usual questions people ask in such a thing. Granted, I may never ask them in return, but I do know the process. The first question, "What's your name?" That's easy. The second, "What part of town are you from?" That's not so easy because I normally play golf away from Saint Louis so that leads to a fork where a person will either ask, "What are you doing up here?" wherever here may be or, "Got family in the area?" but almost always, regardless the track of questions, the fourth is, "What do you do?" referring to my job.

If I seem boring in the first three questions, and I probably do as I hate answering those questions, the excitement is shown once I share my job because, unlike three years ago, people seem to know what autism and Asperger Syndrome is and this man I played with yesterday, of all people, was a college professor who had just had his first student with Asperger's so he was familiar with it.

Hole after hole we talked about it, and the student he had and I was able to explain the behaviors as to why his student talked about one subject, and would refuse help when offered. It really was a spectacular conversation as I felt, truly, as if I were raising understanding one swing at a time. Sure, it was only one person but at the end of the day that's what matters, right? Here is a teacher at a college who knew about it, and had a student, but didn't fully understand it because that was never offered to him.

The holes went on and I went on a career best streak of 7 pars in 9 holes, but golf had taken a backseat to conversing. Well, I shouldn't say conversing because that would imply that I asked about him. He always addressed me by name and he had told me his name but I instantly forgot. Other personal elements he said were not remembered, but I remember everything about what I said regarding the autism spectrum. This within itself is part of it; it isn't that I was uncaring but rather there was just more important things to be said. I only have so much mental processing ability and once I get into my Kansas my ability to hear and record what you have to say diminishes.

As we neared 18 he said that in his previous work, which was electrical engineering (okay, I remember one thing) there are a few companies that are only seeking out people with Asperger's because "they're X%  faster" (I don't remember the exact percentage he said but it was north of 30) and "commit 97% fewer errors." Now don't quote me on those stats as that's what he said and I'm quoting him. After he said that though I came back with the national average of unemployment for those with Asperger's and he couldn't believe it. I explained the social issues, the fail set, and how difficult it is for us to get through the education system with all of our esteem and self-image intact.

As much as I complain about it I have to admit that when the final hole is done, and the goodbyes are said, I'm always sad. I realize the finality of the situation as chance are I will never see that person again and it was bigger yesterday because I met a teacher who wanted more information and who wanted to know more about how the brain of a person with Asperger's ticks. When I got into my car I tried to remember his name, and other personal information he shared, but it just wasn't there. This is normal which leads to the greater finality of saying goodbye. However, I do know this and that is the next time this professor has a student with Asperger's he's going to have a much better understanding than before.


  1. I would NEVER agree to play with a stranger! I'm nervous enough playing with people I know and frankly, if I could get away with it, I'd completely pass on the first hole because there's always someone behind waiting to play and I always flub it. I've got First Hole Jitters something fierce! I'm amazed that you found the courage to agree to play with someone you didn't know.

    But, you're right, course conversation tends to follow pretty basic formats, so I can definitely see how you might be a little more comfortable with it. I'm guessing since you've "trained" yourself to deal with social situations, you're actually more apt to expose yourself to it than I might be. Interesting.

    1. I'm actually rather afraid of the response should I say no because often times a course will pair people up regardless. This is one of those times I take the path of least resistance as if I say no then they will get mad and if they're mad I can't calculate the next move.