Friday, January 29, 2016

The Day Before

It doesn't seem real! I'm currently in Joplin and tomorrow I head for an island in the Indian Ocean. I still can't believe it. Because this week has been so intensive on travel and speaking I haven't been able to mentally prepare for this trip and I'll get home around 1AM and I'll have so much to do between a few reports that need to get done along with packing that I'm bound to forget a few things.

This trip is certainly going to be the most exotic location yet and with the introduction of renting a car it will give the trip the ability to travel to more places during the trip. I don't know if this will become a mainstay because the lack of personal mobility is one of the interesting aspects as in Tokyo I had to figure out the train system to get to the baseball game. Yet, traffic is such a bear from what I've read that taxis and the like aren't an option on Reunion.

As I mentioned at the start of the week my blog will be post-dated meaning the saga shall begin on here February 15th. Also, I'm anxiously awaiting the chapters that will be book specific as not everything I write goes to the blog as I've got another story arc which I haven't shared in the slightest in any of the previous trips. Also, this trip was strategically planned over my birthday as my birthday gets harder and harder to cope with each year.

Finally, I do look forward to these trips now because it opens up the writing flood gates and I had no idea just how many people have read my adventures until this presentation week and all the comments about Hammerfest, and Tokyo. While that one incident in Hammerfest I could certainly have been happy had it not occurred it has given me a talking point and people seem to really engage in the adventure of it all. This has motivated me even more to try and make the highs and lows of the trip jump of the screen with words. Of course, I can't change my writing style, but it's reassuring to know that the investment I've put into these trips have taught some things to those that have read and has even given some hope. How? I'm not sure but I'm glad it has because it may seem as if I'm just traveling to travel but as a writer these trips are, well, it's a lot of hard work. I was asked tonight, "Do you even get to enjoy the place you're in?" and I responded, "Not really. I'm so in tune with what I'm feeling along with note taking and constructing what I'm going to write in my head during each day that I don't really get to appreciate the things I write about." This is why I stated somewhere I really want to go to Hammerfest someday as a true tourist so I can just exist on the top of the world without writing or thinking.

Starting on Monday my blog will start a two week, ten post, series of the "Top 10 Most Read Posts". By no means are these the top ten best posts. I shook my head in disbelief at two of those that made the top 10 but search engine key words are an interesting thing, aren't they? Anyway, the next time I'll write something original will be on the airplane tomorrow but you won't read it until the 15th so I will wish you a pleasant two weeks as I head to a place I only imagined that I'd ever get the chance to visit. There's a story there as well and hopefully I remember to tell it in my opening post of The Aspie Traveler: Reunion (via Madagascar and Mauritius)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kansas survey 2016

On my Facebook page I'm currently doing a survey on what the top things Kansas could be. I list the top seven things I've seen, but is my list correct? Chime in on my Facebook page post on if my list I have there is correct or if you think something should be added.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Coming Next Week

I'm im southwest Missouri for the week and I just got to Springfield having a quick dinner before my presentation in Branson tonight, but next week I'll be doing the penultimate leg of The Aspie Traveler. With the first two legs my blogs were post dated meaning I wrote in the moment but ran the blogs when I got home. With Norway it was truly live but for this next trip I'll be going back to the post dating. With that said starting next week I'll be running a series of the 10 most read blog posts. This by no means compares to the top 10 best written posts as search engine key words have had an impact so it'll be a fun little project to see just what has been the most viewed posts of my blog then after that the Réunion trek series will begin. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Do I Like Social Media?

Back on Tuesday I was in Columbia for a school presentation and I was asked a most curious question in, "Do you like social media?" I fumbled about for a bit trying to answer (I call this practicing for my political career by answering questions without actually answering any thing) but what I had to do was to restrain my answer. I gave a bit of an answer but here, in full, is what I wanted to say.

First, I will say that I did like social media and before you cite the hypocrisy in my answer I will say that social media, now, is a necessary... I'm not going to go to the extent of evil but for what I do I very much utilize Facebook as the primary means of distribution for my blog and unless you come here daily or have subscribed via e-mail you wouldn't know when a new post was up.

So why the change? Why did I go from liking it in the past to now having some qualms about it? First, do you remember when Facebook and the like was about you? It was your pictures, your thoughts, your words and now just scroll through the news feed, if you are a member of Facebook, and see just how much personal original content there is. There may be some but it's nominal compared to what it was, say, just four years ago. Gone are the days of being able to see what each person is up to and now it's a much more... militant place.

Regardless of the cause, story, or what have you the level of angst, anger, and downright meanness is rife. Lost now are pictures of where a certain friend may be and replaced are these memes with either Willy Wonka or some other historical figure with a quote that may or may not be substantiated or a graph or statistic intentionally misrepresented just to get people to share and comment on it. Where did social media go and why was it replaced with social mayhem?

Another aspect I've noticed, and I mentioned this to the student that asked me this question, is that from the meme and the 10 second videos that become ever so viral the attention span of the average user, I'd estimate, has been slashed. I feel blogs will quickly become obsolete unless one is writing on a highly politicized or controversial topic that will anger 50% of the population and make the other 50% happy. I feel high quality videos will still have their place (which is why I'm going to have to up my game for season two of Asperger Insights) but in a place of instant gratification and, well, instant anger it's hard to get noticed.

A take away from the previous sentence is the 50%; with each passing week the social media landscape becomes more and more hostile. I rarely post anything outside of my blog or a picture from a race track I'm at but when I scroll through and look at people's comments I'm, well, I'm scared. Yes, I'm scared because the tension in the world is quite high and people's ability to so quickly say, "you said you like X therefore I'm defriending you because I like Y." What happened to civility? What happened to middle ground? What has changed in our world that an online conversation is now something to be avoided because it will quickly escalate to vulgar name calling?

I realize each person is there own person. I've carved out this little place on the other side of the wall that I share my thoughts, stories, and the journey of my life but I'm not going to bombard you with memes that will try and sway your point of view. If you disagree with anything I've said in 1,310 blog posts that's fine and I'm going to stay that way. However, I fear what the coming wasteland may look like as people get more and more brazen in their ability to call people the nastiest of names if they disagree with their standpoint.

Now, to tie this into my blog, how does this influence the autism spectrum? Even on that front on Facebook pages the conversations can quickly turn abrasive and this does the overall cause no good at all. There are so many dissenting voices, so many people that opine what autism is, or isn't, or what to say, or what not to say and perhaps these are things that could and should be debated, but from the downturn in the apparent civility of the online landscape it rarely turns into a debate and quickly turns nasty. Why is this important? The main reason is for those that are being introduced to the autism spectrum today; today there will be parents that get the news and will turn online for answers and if they stumble on the wrong comments on a Facebook post then, well, they may become highly confused and, perhaps, may just give up on the diagnosis.

This isn't to say ALL pages are bad and ALL comments turn into a name calling affair, but at some point I hope people go back and look at what they said and the tones they used. I'm not going to stop using social media as a means to make my voice heard but I'm stuck in my ways; I'm not going to create a meme that will get 50% of people riled up and 50% of people backing me. I'm not going to make a meme pushing an agenda I want to push. I will continue to share my blogs and my words and as fast as the internet is evolving maybe this makes me a bit of a dinosaur, but I'm okay with that and whether blogs thrive or die I'll still be here, in my own little corner, trying to be as professional and as civil as possible in a world that, if comments on any news story on any web page currently would seem, is losing it far too quickly.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

TBT: Brain Waves

Something I've wanted to do for a while is, when it is relevant, is to do a throwback on Thursdays of blog posts of the past as I realize not everyone has been following from the start and there's a lot of high quality material within the depths of over 1,300 posts and the post I wrote yesterday about being in the zone reminded me of the brain wave game I experienced in Chicago over five years ago and wondered if there's any correlation. I didn't get answers then, and I doubt I'll get them now, but here's the original post from 2010:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Question on Brain Waves

As you may have read on Monday's post, I went to the Museum of Science and Industry over the weekend and there was one interesting activity that the museum had that has stuck with me. The activity was a game and I love games, but I never have been dominated in a game like I was in this one.

Now you read that first paragraph, and then looked at the title referring to brain waves and you may be a bit confused, but the game that was played is called Mindball and the way one wins is by relaxing.

Mindball utilizes some sort of brain scan device that is in a belt like, well, belt, that fits around the head. The device measures Alpha and Theta brain waves and by relaxing one can lower these waves.

The game is played head-to-head so Rob and I went at it and as fast as I sat down and was strapped in the game was over. The way one wins is by having lower brain waves and this makes a ball that sits between the two players move in one direction. If the ball reaches a person that person loses, and the game I played the ball, I swear, had after burners on it! It wasn't even a contest. It was so bad that the person running the game said, "Whoa! Okay, let's try that again!"

We waited in line to play this game and the staff never let someone go twice in a row, but my performance was so bad that a second chance was given.

In the second game I thought I was relaxed. My conscious mind was clear, and yet again the ball flew towards me and it was an instant game over.

Looking at the chart of the game my brain waves were at the maximum that the screen allowed, so I guess you could say they were off the charts. As I stood up I made a comment to Rob that, "Well, maybe that's what I get for being on the autism spectrum." I didn't think much of this comment, but the man running the game started to ask a question, but then had to get the next duo into a game. The man kept looking at me and I began to wonder if this abnormally high set of brain waves is indeed connect with autism.

Back when I was in Vancouver during the Olympics I did a different brain waves game and there my brain activity was off the charts. This is fine and all, but I do not know what this means. I looked up what Alpha and Theta waves do and I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about how the physical brain works. I can write all day about how emotions played into my life and the challenges that can come from simple things like eye contact or run ins with ushers at hockey games, but neurology is something that I know nothing about.

Because of my lack of knowledge I simply wanted to throw this out there. Is there a connection? The one thing I read was that a Theta brain state is much like a person driving down the interstate and being unable to recall the last five miles. If this is true is this part of "The Conscious Coma" concept I put forth in my book? Also, if I thought I was totally relaxed, and my brain was so active, is this a busy subconscious and if so would this be the cause of my usual tiredness after a half day of being out of the house due to processing? So many questions!

I usually have answers, but for this I want someone to answer mine as I am curious and need to know.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In The Zone

A theme I've had in the past week about writing is that if I have to try to write it's no good and this is true. One of the first readers of my work a decade ago said I wrote in the "stream of consciousness" way which I'm not really sure what that means because I prefer to call it "the zone"

Being "in the zone" is an all too used sports cliché but it holds true to what I do. I know this from the days I spent racing karts and being an instructor at a racing school. If you didn't know I was phenomenal behind the wheel but I did lack in one aspect and that was giving feedback to what the car or kart was doing. There was one day, a test day on my last day as a student at the Derek Daly Academy, in which the student is finally allowed to alter the setup. The chief instructor knew I was fast, I was one of the fastest students ever, so they didn't do minor changes because I requested freeing the car up so I could rotate it more in the corners. They did so and asked if I liked the changes and I said, "you made the changes" as they actually had gone the opposite way and made the car tighter. I apologize if you're unfamiliar with racing terminology; so what that means is the car would have a tendency to understeer as if you were to try and turn on a snowy road and the car continues straight. I didn't feel this change and my lap times remained constant with what they had done prior. The next session I was assured the setup would go back to a neutral feeling but as I peeled out of the pits the instructor turned to my dad and said, "there's no way Aaron is keeping that car on the track. We've made it as loose as possible so we'll see if he can adapt to that!"

The fifteen minute session went by and I turned lap after lap and came in and I was puzzled at the shocked look on my dad's and instructor's faces and I thought I had done something seriously wrong. Jeff, the instructor, leaned into the cockpit and asked, "notice anything wrong with the car?" to which I responded, "not really, I was .2 quicker that time." to which he turned around and shook his head.

In the debrief after it all I was asked if I could feel the difference in the handling and I said, "I think I did but I don't think when I drive I just do and I change my style that I need to drive by just knowing without knowing. I can't really explain it." This is an excellent skill to have as a driver and maybe had my racing career had panned out I'd have developed that sense of being able to think while driving instead of just being blistering fast (last time I brag on myself, I promise... I think) but what I think I surely was experiencing behind the wheel was this zone thing and this is the same thing, the exact same thing I experience when writing and now presenting.

I presented yesterday and noticed myself having no idea where I was in my presentation in this school presentation and yet I kept going along as it was without thought. This, I think, is the difference in the first 200 presentations to what I am able to do now.

However, where this is most prominent, is in writing as, I have mentioned a time or two, if I have to think about the words I'm writing and put the mental effort to think of where I want my words to lead I am lost. I don't know if this has any connection with Asperger's at all and if it does I think that whatever it is simply is amplified a bit, but there is something here. Now, whether I simply had the ability to do this or if racing in my youth trained my brain to be able to ascertain this zone is probably up for debate, but myself, I'm going to say this zone very much exists, cliché or not, and that racing helped me train to be a writer. Odd connection, really, isn't it? Even more so when my words as I realized I wanted my mission in life to raise awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum was, "there's a new race now" and as it would seem I've never quit racing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Club Hopping

For long time blog readers, well, for those that have been with me since the start you'll know (okay, okay, you probably won't know) that this was the second picture I ever used in my blog as I talked about my "International Event" in Vancouver when I attended the Olympics with a ticket my friend Rob had given me. It just so happened at that time that when I got back from Vancouver I would be starting fulltime at TouchPoint Autism Services now known as Easter Seals Midwest. However, while I was up in Vancouver, Rob's dad is the secretary of the Arbutus Rotary club and their speaker for that Friday, if I recall, took a nasty fall as they were one of the Olympian skiers and would be unable to attend so with a day's notice the Club made a call to the bullpen and I got the nod as the speaker.

To this day I still remember the fear I had that day because I had only presented to police officers and I required a powerpoint to stay on track and I was only given 15 minutes and at that time I had no ability to trim or cut because I was rather rigid.

Last week, almost six years since Vancouver, I would present to my second Rotary Club and this time it would be in Richmond, Missouri. My dad actually had to drive me to this as I was extremely sick but I dared not miss a presentation after missing two last year to illness. And for me, this was sort of a symbolic return to where I began and a way to show how I've grown as a presenter and a person.

One of the members made arrangements and I was given a full 45 minutes and I did a variation of my, "five most important statements about autism" and essentially winged the entire presentation and even had time for a few questions afterwards. At the end there was a standing ovation and, as I usually do when people applaud, I look down at the ground to try and not be there because I don't know how to react to that, but what those looking at me didn't know was how deep in thought I was reflecting back to my 17th career presentation in Vancouver and now giving my 709th and just how much stage fright I had overcome and my ability to be flexible in presenting.

There are so many defining moments in my life that I've just now compared them to seeds being planted and Vancouver six years ago was vital in my development because regardless of how well or awful I was that day (they said I was fantastic) I have come so far but the confidence they gave me allowed for each step thereafter to happen and the difference between then and now is almost unrecognizable.

This is the thing about life; it's hard to know development is happening because we want everything to be perfect now. The thing is this though, I feel; if I would've been as good as I was now then I wonder if I would have advanced my craft. I wonder if I'd still be as humble as I am. This isn't to say I was bad then, but I know in terms of my comfort and confidence on stage is much better now. I used to get so nervous before a presentation I was sure I would lose whatever I'd have previously eaten (hence why I still don't eat before a presentation. Some may say it's a superstition, it's just that had I done so back when I started it may have been, well, I'd truly rather not want to think about it) but now I go in with a smile and do whatever I need to do to bring the information that I think those hearing me need to know the most.

With all this said I'm thankful to both Rotary Clubs for having me and also that things may difficult to start with for a reason. For one, I appreciate what I do a lot more but it's within the challenge that shaped me and challenged me to get it right. I love a challenge (so long as it's a challenge I know I can overcome; otherwise I may give up too fast) and the challenge of presenting, now six years later, remains as I still try to become better, get my timing down sharper, and find better uses of words to convey to my audiences the joys, sorrows, and sometimes comedic outcomes of living life on the autism spectrum. I don't know when the next time I will present at a Rotary Club will be, but if it's in six years I'll know I'll look back on these two presentations as a barometer to see if I have continued to progress in my craft and I know I'll look back on both and smile.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Music and Writing

I've had a few iterations of this type of post as I've talked about music and my early writings. If it hadn't been for the right combinations of songs I don't know if Finding Kansas would've been possible as hearing music evokes emotions out of me which then I turn into words.

Ever since I got back from Norway I've had a bit of a writing block which seems to be the norm now after having such an intensive amount of stuff to write about and since I got back I've wanted to write a chapter made specific for the book but I've been unable to. This was now going on almost four weeks and the longer I awaited being able to start the higher the odds of me actually being able to do it because with my writing I either do it thoughtless or I don't do it at all. This chapter, however, would be vital to further detail the Hammerfest episode, the final restaurant scene in Oslo, and the emotions of my personal life to this date as I look ahead to my trip to the Reunion Island in two weeks but I just couldn't write it even thought it was the only thing on my mind. Then, yesterday, I finished a game.

The game was Pier Solar and the song on piano at the end brought out emotions buried deep within me so I rushed up the stairs to grab my laptop, and thankfully the credits are rather long as the game makers thanked every person who donated to their kickstarter campaign, and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote in a fever pace that I hadn't experienced in many years. It was like the first night I started writing back in 2005 and the words were pure, emotional, and to the point.

Being a writer is much like being a sailboat on the water with no ability to steer as I am at the mercy of the winds. As I said, if I can't do something without effort then I probably won't be able to do it. I've learned that many factors can hinder my writing process be it excessive stress (a certain level of stress/emotion can amplify what would be something average and turn it into word magic) or confusion on how I actually feel about something. Also, if I write too much I can get into this same state as seen by the lack of content when I get back from an Aspie Traveler experience. However, there are a couple things that can unlock the door and allow words to flow and as experienced last night it was one simple song on the piano that magically transformed almost a month of writer's block to an almost 3,000 word chapter linking what was Norway to my next trip.

Back when I started my blog when I had an office I would always listen to music when I wrote. Along the way I went from giving few presentations locally to being all over the place so an office was no longer practical and lost within that was the music aspect. I can't believe I forgot the power of music in my writing life but in the most unexpected of ways we were reunited last night and I hope this time not to forget but I do have to say so far so good as this piece was written to the same song as the chapter was last night.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Finding Carrollton? The Birth of Kansas

It's odd to start a blog with a picture but in this instance in is right to do so. Also, there's a saying that a picture is worth a 1,000 words and perhaps this is true and in this photo what do you see? Small town America? Signs of winter? Fields that will be harvested? Those might be what do come to mind but for myself, well, right there in that picture is the birth of Kansas.

Before I go further this blog post should not be confused with the literal history of Kansas. However, with my definition of it, that field is where it all began almost a full decade ago and I haven't been back since until Monday when I drove through Carrollton.

Carrollton? Kansas? What? This place, Carrollton, isn't in Kansas at all but actually, oh, about 60 miles from the Kansas border. Also, you're wondering what a random field has to be with anything, right? This field wasn't a field at all a decade ago but rather a kart track and a difficult one as well and in April of 2006 the 2nd round of the Central States Super Series took place there. I was the race director and flagman of the series and, well, when we arrived in Carrollton I was hoping to have just a bit more confidence in my directing abilities than what I showed a month prior outside Quincy, Illinois. This wasn't to say it was awful, but when a driver's meeting goes 25 minutes and consists mainly of "ums" and "uhs" there is certainly room for improvement.

I was 23 when this race weekend happened and that's young for one to be race directing. I had been writing off and on for over a year but there wasn't something that tied it all together. Then, this weekend happened, and my life would never be the same.

With that bit more confidence I was a bit more social in my duties. During practice I worked the pits where I also had access to the flags and between sessions I conversed with many of the drivers and families. There were two drivers that each time they'd come up we'd talk about racing history, karting, and unless you enjoyed motorsports I can all but assure you that you'd have been hideously bored. Myself though, this was awesome!

The following day, race day came, and there was a possibility of some rain and one family wanted me to cut laps to assure a dry race but in the sport of karting racing in the rain is a part of the beast so I made no change in the day's schedule and I actually got protested! Since I was the one to review protests the protest, naturally, was denied but I couldn't believe that shy, quiet, and as meek as I was I was able to handle the previous day's conversations and now a tense situation with ease. This was not normal for me. What was going on?

When the race day came to an end and the final checkered flag flew it was as if a switch flipped. I was unaware of it at the time or the mechanics behind it, but those two drivers from the day before tried to continue the conversation but I was having none of it. Gone was the confident race director and replaced was my seemingly normal self. I did everything I could to escape that conversation situation and one of the drivers, and I'm sure he wasn't trying to be mean, looked at me and said, "are you sure you're that same guy we were talking to yesterday?" Those words pierced me to my core as I wanted to be that same person, but I couldn't and I didn't know why.

The drive home that night with Greg, and Gary (The same Gary from this dedication blog from back in October) was one of deep reflection and then it was interrupted with a bang as we got a flat tire in Kingdom City. We were at the Petro station off of I-70 there at the Fulton exit and while the two of them were trying to find a replacement tire I started piecing together the process of events; what happened during the weekend? Why was I able to be so... normal and then not be? It was as if I had visited this perfect place and then it vanished. But what changed? What made the difference? And how could I explain it?

When we finally got back on the road it was now almost midnight and it would be 1:45AM when I would walk into home but my day was not over because I had to write about this as I knew I was on to something. The chapter title that came to mind was "Situational Handicap" and that title remains the chapter title but the concept within is the important matter and that was Carrollton. Yes, it was originally going to be the concept of "Finding Carrollton" as on our race schedule to not confuse those that had no idea where that town was we called in Kansas City on the schedule. I quickly realize that Carrollton was obscure, and also a pain to type, so I went with Kansas City, That sounded awkward so I dropped the "City" and gazed upon my computer monitor and what had become THE concept of the book and as I printed out the chapter for my dad to read the following day I knew I had a title of a book and a chapter that tied everything together.

I don't know if I'd ever have recognized the concept of Kansas without that race weekend and as I took that picture tears came to my face because what was once a kart track is no more and nary a trace is there to ever show that it was. For those that drive up US Highway 65 it's just a barren plot of land on the outskirts of a town, but I know that time, and any time in the future I drive past there, it will be emotional because that's where this all began.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Salt Conundrum

I was in Gordon, Nebraska at a restaurant with my mom, sister, and nephew when an occurrence so seemingly benign happened and to most it would be a non-point but for myself it thrust me back in my seat as I had a “oh…my…goodness!” moment. What spawned such a reaction? To my chemistry savvy nephew it’s NaCl but to most of us it’s table salt.

“Table salt… Aaron, you’re blogging about table salt?” is a reaction I’m sure many of you are having but bear with me as it’s within the story I’m about to tell that is a great illustration of Aspergerish thinking and, I hope, a ginormous learning moment for me. Anyway, we ordered and my burger came out and it was, well, it wasn’t good and was as bland as bland gets. I gave a facial expression of frustration and my sister told me it could, “use a little salt” which I looked at the salt shaker with an expression that conveyed suspicion as to if it would work and then my sister said something I have never once considered, “you know, you could lightly salt one part to see if it works and then salt the rest if it was good.”

No big deal, right? Just a bit of culinary advice, right? Something everyone knows, right? Wrong! This concept was something I never considered. Before that statement I never conceived of the notion that I could do a small test to see if it was a good move to make a further move to salt the whole burger. Previously it was an all or nothing move; either salt the whole burger or don’t salt at all.

Many of the things I’ve learned in life have dealt with learning about exceptions because my brain yearns for absolutes meaning it what’s a yes or no, black or white, and a right or wrong state. What this means is that it truly is all or nothing; the ability to consider things in the middle, or things in a partial state don’t exist. Think about that for a second, think about going through your day thinking in pure absolutes. In many things I have learned to have leeway as I used to be firm on time schedules and there was no greater sin than that of being late. It took many, many years to learn that things happen and this is something that an absolute mindset causes much more grief than good, but in other things, such as something as simple as the option to salt or not to salt is something that took me 32 years to learn.

As simple as the ability to partially salt one’s food may happen to be it’s something that never even occurred to me. Living life in a fluid world with many changes, grey areas, and choices that can be made in portions when one is firm in absolutes is one of the challenges living life with Asperger’s. Today’s blog, as revealing as it was for myself, was about something as simple and as small as salt. I can only imagine what else I have to learn about this world if I’m still learning about ways to not be absolute; to learn that there is a middle ground, that things aren’t all or nothing, and that one shouldn’t settle for a bland burger.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Start of 2016

                A new year… It’s 2016 and I know I didn’t do a year in review blog post for 2015 but I have no idea how I could’ve accomplished such a feat as 2015 was surely the most roller coaster year of my life. I started the year pondering if it [2015] would mimic 2005 which was, at that point in time, the most roller coaster and influential year I’ve had. I talked about how 2015 would be “my year” but come February it all went off kilter and I did have three international trips of using myself in a social experiment, but nothing went according to plan last year and as with 2005, long term, perhaps it was for the best.

                But now it’s a new year and this starts my 7th year as a speaker in the field of autism. It’s inconceivable to me that I’ve now been at this for seven years and already I’m on the road this year in north central Missouri about to give two presentations today for teacher professional development trainings. Much like last year I’ll be off to a flying start and this is exactly what I want.

                One thing I’ll be on the lookout for this year is the progression of where we were in terms of awareness when I began and where we are now. It’s difficult to measure how much progress we’ve made in the world of autism awareness and understanding. Also, it’s difficult, at least for me, deem what more we need to do. I mean, what’s the next avenue we can utilize to maximize the impact of raising the levels of understanding. I’ve been saying this for several years in that I feel we’ve gotten to the point that people are aware of autism, but what does this mean? For the person that has no affiliation to the autism spectrum what does it mean to be aware? Does it simply mean the ability to give the definition? If one can define it, however, does that mean one can recognize what to do if they’re introduced to a situation where they are going to have an interaction with a person on the autism spectrum?

                There’s story after story that comes out via social media about unfortunate encounters of a person with autism and any segment of the population be it a teacher, a police officer, a shop owner, or any number of seemingly infinite segments of society. Perhaps it’s just the nature of social media, but these number of stories seem to be on the rise which means we have to ask on if we are making progress or if we are just increasing understanding within those that already know it?

                There are plenty of questions and I’ll try and get a better look at these questions as we move along in 2016 but then again I had plans on what I’d look for in 2015 and those plans went awry. This month will be a busy one with many presentations all over the state of Missouri and then on the 30th I’ll be off to a truly isolated island for the fourth installment of The Aspie Traveler with then the final installment tentatively planned for June.

                It’s going to be another busy year, along with the second series of Asperger Insights scheduled to be released. Along the way, as usual, I’ll try and blog as much as I can about observations, thoughts, and insights. I can’t really lay out a plan because I have no idea what tomorrow, the day after, of the months ahead have in store but whatever may come I look forward to sharing the journey with you.