Thursday, June 30, 2016

Eye Contact Examined Six Years Later

Six years ago I did the first personal social experiment of mine in the "Great Sunglasses Experiment". Doing that would lead me on the journey of The Aspie Traveler, but this past weekend I worked a USAC .25 national event at Pikes Peak International Raceway and when I’m flagging during the day I use reflective glasses much like the glasses I use six years ago and there is a great deal of comfort using them because I am immune to eye contact issues. The weather in the Colorado Springs area, though, is ever changing and a strong storm was just north of the track and blocked the sun and I had to switch to my night glasses as we went into a delay for wind (I had never witnessed a wind delay before, but 40mph winds made things a bit tricky) and as I sat down with the new staff I found it to be uncomfortable.

As mentioned last week there are a lot of new faces among the USAC .25 crew and I have enjoyed my ability to hide my eyes from everyone. This isn’t because I want to avoid them, actually the whole crew is fantastic, but still I struggle with eye contact. The new staff are aware of my diagnosis and I was very open with them as there were four of them sitting on the wall and I was standing and I said, “This is actually uncomfortable because I have no idea what to do with my eyes now.” There was comfort and discomfort at the same time because I felt at ease enough to open up about the issue of eye contact while at the same time feeling utterly lost in the discomfort of having issues with eye contact. Questions were then asked about what it feels like and where I typically look which then I went into a miniature presentation and things became a bit easier, but afterwards the ill-at-ease feeling returned.

I learned so much six years ago during that experiment and the power of being able to hide, but is being able to hide such a good thing? Obviously, when out in the sun all day, I am going to protect my eyes, but is it a good thing to use them to avoid eye contact at the track? The amount of relief I experience being hidden is ever so relieving as I struggle day in and day out on having absolutely no idea how to hide my struggles with eye contact.

Struggle? Yes, it isn’t just the discomfort of making eye contact but it is the constant state of readiness and alert on watching an area to make sure eye contact isn’t going to happen and if it does I have to ready the backup plans and prepare for the possibility of sustained eye contact which then I have to come up with a contingency plan on how to get out of it. There’s more than just the discomfort of the moment of eye contact because there’s also the fear of it and the constant state of alert and that’s what I experienced when I was with the staff in my clear glasses.

This topic is another one of those strange contradictions because I know I should make eye contact but it’s just so discomforting. I want to be a part of the world and at the same time I want to be hidden from it. This is the struggle, this is the battle I face each day. I can watch two people meet, shake hands, and make eye contact without any hint of a battle, and yes I do mean battle because for myself that’s what it is. For those that don’t have to deal with this I don’t know if I can ever put into words just how tiresome this all is. If you do deal with this then I probably don’t have to write a word more to describe this because you know this all too well. There are some things that can be described in great detail on the way it makes a muscle tense up, or how certain sounds create a surge of adrenaline, but when it comes to this topic the strange contradictory nature of Asperger’s reigns supreme because I want to be a part of that grand world out there. I want to be a part of the world and understands what makes it tick. And I most certainly don’t want to be isolated, but the grand world is scary, eye contact seems to be the initial thing that makes the world tick, and being isolated brings a grand scale of security and safety albeit with a high cost. The cost of feeling alone, misunderstood, and wondering what it’s like out there? What is it like to be a part of the world? What’s it like to not be on constant alert and watching out for the potential for eye contact? Often times eye contact issues are minimalized and may just misunderstood as a sign of disrespect, but from my side it’s greater than that and is a major factor in all that goes on. Avoid it and feel safe, but avoid it and be alone. Sure, I can hide behind the glasses but then how long will that work, how long can I be a phantom? What’s the solution? I don’t have one, but this is the struggle, and these are the elements in play.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Profound Response

I asked a simple question on my Facebook page of "what's the one thing you wish people knew about autism?" and the responses have been profound. If you'd like to read them go to 

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Dinner Problem: 5 Years Later

It's been over five years since the blog post you'll read after this bit I'm about to write and the unique thing about this story and that story is that they both happened at a USAC .25 event.

So last night the USAC .25 crew ate at a Mexican place and an event I haven't seen before occurred. Now one thing about the crew is that from five years ago to today there's only person that remains so the change has been an adjustment this year but I'm much more tailored for change now than I used to be. Anyway, when the food started to come out, the waitress as she walked through the door caught the large tray on the hinge of the door and the massive tray about fell. She caught it with beautiful precision but then as she tried to make one more move the center of gravity was shifted so far over it came off her holder and the end result was a clattering of glass as plates shattered and food got flung in all directions. It was an utter mess but then another person walked in with another plate of food. This led to the situation where some people's dinner was smeared all over the floor and others got their food as if nothing bad had occurred. It was spoken but didn't need to be that it was okay for those that had food to go ahead and eat. Now, why was this so? The social rules about dinner and food vs. no food has confused me so now here is the original blog post on this topic as it was ran in it's original format...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Story From That Dinner: Manners?

It's been mentioned the previous two days, and once again the "dinner" from Sunday night will once again get some air time.

Sunday, after the USAC .25 race in California, we went for food. A family also joined us so there was a total of 13 people spread out amongst three tables. I talked about my "positional warfare" in yesterday's blog, but another instance of note happened when the food was served.

The three people across from me got their food first and almost a minute passed. The conversation continued on as if the food had not been served and the three acted as if there was nothing on the table in front of them. After another thirty seconds passed I couldn't take it anymore so I asked, "Um, is there something wrong with your food?"

The answer given was that they were waiting for others to get their food before proceeding. This made zero sense to me and I recall a long time ago hearing that the mannerly thing to do is to wait for everyone to get their food before eating. But I have to ask why? I don't understand this at all. Is it noble to let one's food go cold while waiting?

I have never been good at understanding manners like this. Does this make me rude? Perhaps, but simply put, I don't understand the logic behind it. Logically speaking, does this mean that when the first person is finished that all others must stop? If I like my food hot do I request that my meal be brought out last? Where does the madness end?

Once my pizza was brought out I, out of habit, dug in right away. Granted, I had not had anything to eat since the morning donuts at Yum Yum, but I didn't think twice until I started to eat. Then I wondered if I should have waited.

I see multiple aspects to this insanity. If a person throughout their life didn't wait to eat, odds are it would be about a 50/50 ration of eating first and waiting to eat. Since this is the case, and since people at the table have no say as to the order of when people get their food, shouldn't the right thing to do be to eat the food while it is still fresh from the kitchen?

Before I started writing this I did a Google search about the mannerly thing to do in regards to this topic and it read like an illogical mess. Truly, the official manner playbook says that it is wrong to eat if A, B, or C happens, but if D, E, and F happen it is okay. If it is a business meeting then D and E falls under A, B, or C and if it is a weekend A falls under F. Say what?

I'm sure people not on the spectrum struggle with manner protocol and this document read as if one would need a doctorate to understand it. Isn't my way easier? If food is served eat it. Shouldn't the burden of manners be on the eating establishment? If I should have wait don't tease me by serving my food. The manner website said that it is mannerly for the person who is waiting their food to encourage others to eat, and it is even more mannerly for those who have their food to politely protest, and then to continue, the person who is waiting should doubly encourage others to eat and then, and only then, should others start to eat. No wonder I am clueless!

Again, isn't my way easier? If the mannerly thing is to have this long drawn out encouragement followed by protest followed by further encouragement to start eating could we not forgo the whole scripted drama and just get to the food? Both ways get to the same destination, but we bypass the construction and unscenic part of the road.

It is no wonder I am clueless about this. Much like The Handshake that I wrote about last year, there are some things I simply don't understand. I don't think I am an overly rude person, but if my food is served and I am hungry I will start to eat. If you get your food please don't wait for me because I won't wait for you. Is that rude?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The One-Way Concept

This is a follow up to Monday’s post in which I spoke of the worst thing to say to a person on the spectrum. In that post I warned of using language along the lines of, “it’s not that difficult.” However, as is the case so often being on the autism spectrum, things are a one-way street.

One-way? Yes because the concept I put forth of, “I think therefore you should know” runs rampant along this usage of language because I know in my life I’ve struggled at this. I haven’t used the language of, “it’s not that difficult” but I’ve certainly thought it many times because if I can do something well then why can’t everyone? It isn’t thought out of ill-will but truly a naïve innocence because it is all but inconceivable to me that others can’t do what I can do making this all a direct yet confusing one-way street.

So often, and I know this has to be confusing for you teachers and parents out there, things are this seemingly unfair one-way street. If you tell me, “it’s not that difficult” I want to throw my hands in the air and give up on everything and yet if I’m good at something and you can’t do it to the ability I can I’m confused. Now here’s the thing; this also goes to things that are difficult because if I struggle then I figure all should and yet they don’t which it is within this area the disconnect takes place because the logic I live under is proven false.

How has this played out in my life? In school I was, well, I was a bit rude at times. Again, I meant no ill-will and I wasn’t trying to be demeaning of other students, but when a student would raise their hand to answer a question and they’d get it wrong I’d let out a sigh. I knew the answer but I’d never volunteer my hand in the air because speaking in front of a loathsome activity but since I knew the answer how could someone else possibly not know the answer? I was truly confused.

Teachers and parents will often be confronted by this one-way street and when it happens I understand it can be frustrating and, yes, it will probably seem unfair that a sentence told to the person could have a devastating impact and yet this same sentence can be thought about by the exact same person. It all goes back to I think therefore you should know. Understanding that concept is imperative to understanding the mechanics in play. To put simply; if I think it so do you. If I expect something, you already know it. If something is difficult for me it is either difficult for you or you know it’s difficult for me so I don’t need to tell you and if you aren’t helping me, even though I haven’t asked, then you just simply don’t want to help me. This is the icy, windy road that is the one-way street and why one seemingly simple sentence directed one way is as bad as doing 80mph the wrong way down a one-way or traveling with the flow of traffic at the same speed. Is it unfair? It may seem that way, unless it’s explained and I’m doing my best to explain the mechanics in play because after the impact Monday’s blog post had I known there’s a need to better understand the elements in play. I can only hope I’ve furthered the understanding here because the amount of frustration, confusion, and potential anger that can stem from the one-way street and I think therefore you should know knows no limits or boundaries.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Worst Thing to Say

In my life, and of the blogs where things have gone awry, there’s been one constant that’s been worse than any other event. When this happens the amount I ruminate on it, and the way it lingers in the air like the worse smelling rotten milk, is exhausting but the things is this; it doesn’t end. Much like that hideous smell of rotten milk that just won’t leave these words I’m about to tell you do more harm to me than any other and that is when someone says, “But Aaron, it’s not that difficult!”

In school, at my jobs I’ve had, or any place I’ve been when those words are uttered I’m devastated. Last year I was told those words in regarding to socializing and here’s why those words hurt; do you think I’m not aware that it’s easy for others? Do you think I want things that come easy for others to be difficult for myself? I’m a hard enough critic of myself as is but when others point it out and then think I can simply use willpower to make what’s difficult to easy is, well, damaging.

Damaging? Why would I use such a strong word? Because it’s true. I remember a teacher I had once said, “Words can only hurt if you let them” but I believe that to be a lie. My self-confidence is shaky at best and when I am demeaned in this manner, to be spoken down upon in this manner, has a ripple out effect that is far greater than the one area that others think shouldn’t be difficult. This rippling out effect also can last a while, and in fact the issue I mentioned that happened last year bothers me to this day.

There’s more to this than just the words because others do have the ability to move on. Yes, everyone requires time but it seems in my life, and others with Asperger’s, we can get hung up on things and simply moving on isn’t easy. Of course, if I speak this to the wrong person they would probably tell me that it isn’t, “that difficult” to move on, but it is. I’m sure those that I know, specifically family, get tired of me working through the same issues conversation after conversation but that’s the way it is and when you throw in another person’s snide remark it amplifies everything.

Do I want things to be easy? Of course I do. I don’t want to create confusion as to why I can do some things great and many things not as well, and as I wrote last week it has to be confusing as to why there can be this great chasm between being great and simply not being able to do it no matter how hard I try, but when another person uses a tone and those words of telling me that it shouldn’t be difficult, well, to be perfectly honest it creates a storm of self-hatred.

I know certain things are difficult and I know when these things occur I often retreat. I don’t know how others socialize so well and at social functions I look at the world in utter awe and wonder, “how do these people do it?” They make the impossible seem so easy and I have such a hard enough time talking to people I know. Now, for those that know me, they won’t think twice about it, but if someone didn’t and saw me, and let’s say they’ve seen me present, they would be confused because there’s a person that has great speaking ability appearing socially paralyzed so why is it so difficult? I get it, I understand the confusion others must face when encountering Asperger’s and maybe a select few will think that by saying, “it’s not that difficult” they are offering the best form of motivation possible. However, this isn’t the case and the seeds of self-loathing are planted.

This post could probably be long-winded so I won’t ramble on, but there’s a fine line between encouraging words and words that can do harm and telling me what is and isn’t difficult doesn’t help me one bit and I only wish I could give a long-winded speech to every person that’s told me something is difficult because I’ll tell them what is difficult. What would I say? I’d begin with the difficulty of trying to filter everything out in a room be it the noise of the electronics, the voices from other rooms, the noises outside, and the potential hum of the lights. I’d talk about the anxiety walking into a building and wondering if that person, or that person, would stop and talk to me. What would they say? How would I respond? How long would we talk? I’d tell them I’d analyze every potential encounter whether it occurred or not, and then stress as I passed them on whether I should’ve said hello only to redo the whole process once I passed the next person. I’d talk about the fear of eye contact, the draining nature of experiencing positional warfare, and the constant fear of being a nuisance to anyone and everyone because that’s how I often see myself. So, you can tell me certain things shouldn’t be difficult but I only wish you could walk a day in my shoes because I’ve adjusted quite well to simply gather the will to leave the safety of home and exit the front door because I never know when the next time a person is going to tell me I have, in fact, not got it together and things other take for granted, “shouldn’t be that difficult” and when those words are mentioned they are played and replayed in my brain for days, weeks, months, and potentially years to come. Of course, to some, this is simply an overreaction, right? Words shouldn’t hurt, right? It shouldn’t be that difficult, right? If only they knew how many thoughts and tears have been created by that sentence and for anyone reading this I want to say you’re not alone in the frustration of being told something should be easy when it isn’t. Would it be wrong for me to say that, for those that use that sentence, it shouldn’t be that difficult to understand how much heartache is caused by those words?  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Aspergers, Scripts, and The Direction of Anger

I struggle with this, I really do, and thankfully (most of the time) those in my family understand this. What is this that I struggle with? The “this” in this blog has to do with conversations and the script I go with into it. Script? This isn’t to be confused with “scripting” in terms of reciting movie lines or echolalia, but the script I’m referring to is the long and difficult work I’ve put in to be able to talk about something.

If I’m going to be talking about something that isn’t 100% based in facts and is teetering on the borders of the realm of emotions I struggle. I can’t just simply have a conversation about that subject, but if I do have a conversation about it the timing may seem random to others. However, to myself it is anything but random as I’ve put in a monumental amount of thought on the matter and this may have an hour, several hours, or even days of thought in advance of just how, exactly, I am going to phrase everything. By the time I speak I’ve got it down to well-choreographed script and I know what I’m going to say in the order that I am but this doesn’t always go according to plan and when it does I may come across as angry.

Angry? What or who am I angry at? Often times it will appear as if I’m angry at the other person as my tempo in speech picks up, I stumble a bit, and I may even give a very angry, “What?!” but I’m not angry at any person outside of my own brain. You see, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I was going to say and what I was saying was difficult to say and now the script I have crafted is being altered and now I’m having to process and processing of things that aren’t based in fact can be extremely difficult for me and while previously I had time alone to process and write a script I’m now having to come up with provisions to the script on the fly and I’m not going to say it hurts in the physical sense but the anxiety response and sense of processing panic I experience on the inside if highly uncomfortable and then I have to scramble to try and regain my bearings so I can try and salvage this script which is now no longer the perfect piece of work I had when I went into the conversation.

This is something, along with yesterday’s blog post, that is difficult to understand unless you live with it because it appears as if I am fully able to have a conversation about emotions and if I’m not interrupted on it I can state each word with proper annunciation and stress the words to make an impact, but just one interruption to my flow and I can get lost and panic. One small change and I can become hung up having no idea what I was saying and no idea where I was going with it and I may appear angry and frustrated which, well, I am but it isn’t towards you or anyone; it’s frustration at the sense of anxiety that’s flowing through my limbs and it’s the panic knowing that you’re expecting more words and I know what I wanted to say, or I thought I did, and now I’m flooded with so many thoughts I can’t make sense of it and I knew I had a script but now it’s much like a 100 pages of written words being blown apart by a strong gust of wind.

I’m sure as parents and teachers this is confusing to witness because one minute things are great and if you asked an unexpected question, or even if a loud noise or a distracting event occurred, the whole rhythm is gone and there might be anger. Should this happen I hope this blog gets remembered because odds are the anger isn’t directed towards you but rather the internal strife that is going on. The person on the autism spectrum may need more time to gather their bearings and if you were to then ask another question you may throw more fire on this so if a situation like the one I’ve put forth in this blog today should come up you might want to try and giving the person time to regain their bearings, time to regain the ability to stay on script because if it’s about feelings or emotions it may seem like random timing to you but I know for myself I’m sure it’s the same feeling one would have standing at an open door of an airplane about to parachute for the first time and it takes a lot of guts to take that leap and that, for myself, is what talking about emotions is like and without a script that leap will never take place.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Isolating Factor

Having Asperger’s is a challenge few can understand and empathize with and this point I want to make will illustrate it because, I ask, how can one feel an iota of sympathy for another when the other person appears to have it easy? What do I mean by this? For myself, the problem I’m about to lay forth began all the way back in the early years of school.

Certain subjects in school were excessively easy for me and I became accustomed to being the shining star in those subjects. I don’t mean to sound the least bit egotistical when I say that, when I excelled, I was years beyond my peers and my teachers noticed this as well. However, to balance how the seemingly apparent ego here I must say that when I struggled at something I was almost a lost cause so I either got something instantly and was the best or I was one of the worst. As with so much with having Asperger’s the middle ground quite simply did not exist.

Now, what does this have to do with anything and where does the hardship in understanding come from? From the things I could do in amazing fashion at a young age this became the “first” (reference to Film Theory from my book) and to be the best simply was expected. However, no one can be the best at everything but this is the bar I set myself to and I realized a couple days ago that it’s hard to recognize where the part of me that is looking to impress and be the best because that’s what is expected and the part of me that’s simply myself coincide. Confused? It’s more confusing living with it, trust me.

I must also restate the fact that if you’ve met one person you’ve only met one person with autism because this, depending on the person and the firsts, will play out differently, but in myself being excellent in the select subjects I was excellent in has been both equally good and bad. Bad? How can being good at something be bad? This is where the disconnect comes in because others would think, “surely he has it made, look at him, 2nd grade and the teacher is giving 10 by 10 math problems to the other students 2 by 2” or to today, “surely he has it made, how can anyone that can travel the world and present in front of audiences have any issues at all?” and it’s this mentality right here which is the problem.

We live in a one size fits all society, from my vantage point which means it’s hard to understand that people have peaks and valleys in their skill sets and just because a person is good at X doesn’t mean they will be good at subject Y. However, if one is excellent at any given one thing others will expect a certain level of competency at other tasks or subjects and having a lack of middle ground this often isn’t the case. For teachers, parents, peers, and coworkers, and I’ll say even people with Asperger’s this has to be one of the most frustrating things to understand and for myself one of the things that makes me feel isolated the most because I don’t want to put myself out there; I don’t want to get into a situation where a person has seen me shine only to see just how fragile I am and the struggles I face. I can rattle off racing historical facts, I can captivate an entire student body, I’ve reached the pinnacle of the racing world, but handling small things in my life, handling random eye contact, and trying to maintain some sort of balance within the midst of my life is the reason why the world impossible exists. Again, unless you know the autism spectrum, how can anyone feel an ounce of compassion or empathy? This is the problem with having Asperger’s and excelling in certain fields. Often times this area of excellence will be within in their Kansas and even if their Kansas is something of a narrow range of knowledge such as Pokemon, or Minecraft variants there may be a thought from others that, “okay, that person is great at that why can’t they just be as great and motivated at everything else?” and that, right there, is the disconnect and for myself, well, for myself it is my fear that others will see the real me, the fragile person, the person that can do a few things great but struggles immensely at most everything else.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Pinnacle... Almost One Month Later

I can't tell you what May 19th meant to me. I've written about it two times and I guess this is now the third, but never have I needed something more than when I got to flag Indy 500 practice. Honestly, words fail at trying to describe what it means to work to get to something for 21 years and to finally achieve it... Well, I've sort of been stuck in that place.

I could write more about it, but instead video does a much better job. Below is the full day of practice from that day but two time stamps to note are 2:42:50 in which you can see me restarting practice with the green and then there's the 6:02:05 mark which begins the sequence in which I proudly display the checkered on the day's action.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The return of Q & A Fridays?

I've been toying with some other ideas to keep my blog fresh so I may go back to one of my things I began with and that's doing a Q&A post on each Friday. With that said if you want to send a question send me a message on my professional Facebook page. 

I'm also thinking about maybe doing something with Facebook Live to increase interactions... Actually that might prove to be interesting so I'll have to the think about that!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blog series upcoming

I've been coming up with some theme weeks where the entire week is based off of various concepts and be looking for a series in the upcoming weeks based on the most viewed blog explaining the trouble with understanding. 

Monday, June 6, 2016


In Missouri and want me to present? Want to see my media kit? These can be found at Easter Seals Midwest's Autism Ambassador page

Thursday, June 2, 2016

To All of You... Thank you... I Wasn't Alone in the ER

To all of you… Thank you! I haven’t felt well since Saturday and I barely made it through the Indy 500 sitting in the stands. I didn’t know what was wrong but it culminated with a trip to the ER yesterday was I was diagnosed with pleurisy and pneumonia. It’s been one of the more painful weeks of my life but that’s not the focus of this post. Instead, the focus is on you, my readers ,and those that follow my Facebook professional page.

It might be safe to say I live in a bubble of sorts and I’m truly oblivious of the reach this blog, my book, and my video series has. I haven’t done this for any sort of fame, recognition, or to stand out; quite simply I’ve done all this because I lived in a place that was hopeless for many years and I know what it’s like, and my goal in life is to spread as much awareness and understanding as possible. Have I gathered a following of sorts? Yes, I went over 8,000 on Facebook last week but that number doesn’t really mean anything to me, or at least it didn’t before yesterday.

The ER experience yesterday sucked. I remember in college comp 101, Mrs. Wilcox said to, “never use the word suck or sucks as a great writer can find better descriptors.” I’m sorry Mrs. Wilcox. The term, “sucked” was never more appropriate as it was after waiting almost six hours from checking in to be seen by a doctor, and my dad was there most of the time except when he ran to my place to grab a pain pill which had been prescribed to me on Sunday after a trip to an urgent care place after the Indy 500. Anyway, being in pain and alone at the ER was akin to where I was a decade ago. Granted, mental anguish and physical anguish are two different things, but there I was, alone again with few to text. While I’m awesome on the professional side of life, my privacy in my personal life has led to a rather lonely experience. This brought sadder and sadder thoughts into my brain and then I decided to share that I was in the hospital, not just on my personal page but on my professional page, and instantly the prayers and thoughts of well-wishes came pouring in from around the world.

I cried. I’m not afraid to admit it as I was deeply moved that people from around the world sent me private messages or posted on my wall. I had no idea people would take even just 10 seconds to type, “get better” and take time out of their day to wish me well. As I said, I live in a bubble and I do what I do in almost a one-way street fashion oblivious to any impact I’m having. Maybe I couldn’t even fathom the impact if I tried, but in the middle of last night when I was back home having a severe reaction to the pain meds and barely able to lift my head, I did have just enough to turn over and see all the notifications on my phone and to all of you all I can say is thank you; I had no idea and from that I know I’m not as alone as I thought I was which is a priceless thought to have, and if there's one takeaway I have of this it's this, for every parent, friend, or teacher out there the simple thing of just being there is huge. I, or the next person on the spectrum, may not be able to show it, but what could have been a catastrophic evening for my psyche wasn't that bad after all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A video

I had a great week of blogs planned but a severe health ailment popped up... More on that when I get better but for now I thought it right to share some of Easter Seals Midwest's videos...