Tuesday, July 19, 2022


Dennis Tyger with the golf cart photo assist 
To understand why the story in this post is so relevant, you should check out yesterday's blog about a race I worked in Rock Island in 2010.

It was a glorious morning in Toronto! It allowed for many great photos to be taken, including the one on this post. This put me in a great mood, but I had no idea that the day was going to get better.

As we got up in the flag stand, there were local starters already up there. If you watch any road course race of the NTT INDYCAR Series, you'll see Bryan and I at each race, but there will also be a local starter that assists. They are listening to a different radio than what Bryan and I are on so they can give us information that we may not be aware of yet, and as we introduced ourselves, there was already a sense of friendliness among the locals.

Over the day, between sessions, conversations were had and laughs were plenty, but something came up that involved talking about sensory issues. Perhaps it was my loathing of lotion sunscreen, or maybe something about sounds, but whatever it was it opened up the door to me opening up about being on the autism spectrum.

Being an author on the subject, and having this blog, it's hard to hide the fact that I am. All it takes is one Google search of my name and a person will know. However, going back to that blog in 2010, there's always a bit of hesitation in opening up simply because I have no clue how people will take it. Being told, "I'm sorry..." as I was in 2010 hurts. It hurts a lot. Even though I'm happy with who I am a majority of the time, a distinct response that makes me question if I'm on everyone else's level can quickly make me wonder if everyone sees me in that light.

As I opened up on my being on the autism spectrum the response was... it was awesome. I got the initial response of, "I had no idea" which I will say some individuals on the autism spectrum don't like to hear, but for myself, in this environment, I love it because I can quickly explain my concept of Kansas and that, yes, if you see me in a flag stand you'll probably have no idea, but see me on the sidewalk or somewhere else out in public and it will be rather apparent.

The two starters that were up there, Gloria and Michelle, both started mentioning other individuals they knew on the spectrum, and they both were extremely proud of a local racer who is on the spectrum who is now racing in the Radical series in the US. From there, the conversation went to the nuances of life on the autism spectrum and the joys, challenges, and everything between.

What a difference a dozen years make! On Sunday, between sessions, the conversation shifted to the alarming high rate of unemployment for those with Asperger's, and if everyone were as understanding, and had the frame of reference the two people in the stand had, I strongly feel that number would be lower. 12 years ago, I felt less of a person when someone apologized to me for my diagnosis, but having the response be so open, warm, and accepting made my heart soar. 

Each day I wonder if I'm going to have to have that conversation... the one that I explain I'm on the autism spectrum to someone that has no idea what it is or means. It can be awkward, demeaning, and leave a scar that makes me want to stay quiet all the time. Then there's days like this weekend, where there is understanding. My motto when I present is, "understanding is the foundation for hope" and I firmly believe this as I experienced firsthand this weekend. With the experience I had it adds a layer of fearlessness in opening up because there are those that understand. There are those that care, and I hope we get to a place where this is the majority and examples such as the race twelve years ago becomes a distant memory.

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