The Top Ten Posts of the First 1,000

#10: The Destructive Wake of Catastrophic Generalizations

This post was in a series after the tragedy that occurred in December 2012 and to this day I still am finding that there are still extreme generalizations out there. Just last month a student with Asperger's asked, "Do people with Asperger's cry? I heard that it's impossible unless the person is really weak." and when I gave my answer that, "Oh yes! Most certainly we can cry!" there was a gigantic smile on his face. That being said, we still have a long way to go to eliminate any sort of generalization because, after all, and I've said in a hundred times on my blog, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism."

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Destructive Wake of Catastrophic Generalizations

My previous two posts have been, perhaps, the most passionate I have ever written. Why is that? Right now I am feeling more emotions than I have ever felt in my life. The weekend was a somber blur with my family as, yes, I have been around them and talking but it feels as if I'm only half here. Where's the other half? In mourning of the past because my fear, as I talked about in Friday's post, is where I was nine years ago.

Nine years ago a generalization about the Asperger's destroyed the life I had up until that point. I got my diagnosis nine years ago this month. The moment of diagnosis when my doctor told me the news he told me, "good luck" and nothing else because he was simply reading what the assessment had told him and since he didn't know, exactly, Asperger's was he could tell me nothing else. With that being the case I turned to the internet, did a search, and read that, "All people with Asperger's will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy."

I read that early in the month and it wasn't really processed at that point in time, but that line, that line that almost read like a prison sentence, sat and simmered. What did it all mean? Slowly the simmering turned into a belief and I took those words for fact. I became bitter and I slowly began to drift away from my relationships with the biggest blow coming nine years ago today.

In my presentations I say this story somewhat in jest as looking back it was a very Aspergish thing to do. I had a girlfriend, only girlfriend I've had, and while I was drifting away I was still wondering if she still liked me because, in my mind, it was impossible that she did because, after all, I had this belief that anything positive was simply impossible because of the website I had read a couple weeks prior. What could I do to see if she still liked me? I certainly couldn't ask directly because that would involve emotions and emotional talk at the time was something I avoided at all costs. What did I do? I decided to go around the situation by deciding to break up with her because, if she still liked me, she would protest. How did I break up? Was it in person, or over the phone? Nope and sort of. Had I called that too would lead to emotions so I broke up via text message with the confidence that she would reply quickly and everything would be okay. I stayed up until 6AM and there was no call or text; my relationship had imploded in the most spectacular of ways.

The following 15 months were hell. Hope was something I didn't believe in all because of one sentence I read. To say that the generalizing line I read impacted my life would be like saying a comet hitting a planet is a minor event. This was a catastrophic shock to my being. I questioned everything about myself and believed that I could and would amount to nothing. Again, all this was caused by that one line.

Generalizing is something that is done and I, myself, will generalize about the autism spectrum. I will say that we typically have troubles communicating and socializing. But... and this is the biggest line, if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism. To say "all" about the autism spectrum can be rather detrimental.

If you've read my book, "Finding Kansas" or have read my blog for any amount of time you know I eventually came out of that deepest of depressions. However, these past few days I have been back in that dark place and have at times cried. I'm not sad because I've gone back to believing the farce that I read back in 2003; instead I am sad because of those that might be feeling what I felt because they heard a catastrophic generalization on the news or the internet these past 10 days.

Look, I know that each of us on the autism spectrum can face hurdles as high as Mount Everest but if we believe we can't achieve a single thing in our lives where is there any room for hope?

I often get asked what I think would have happened in my life had I had a better introduction to Asperger's or perhaps been diagnosed earlier in life. This is hard for me to answer because everything had to happen to me just so to get me to where I am and doing what I am, but for others out there, I believe, there is no need to go through the hell I went through.

This Christmas, as with the past eight, will be a day of mourning for me. Easily this is the hardest day of the year for me, but this year I feel a closer bond to the person I was back in 2003 making the day even harder, but I know that tomorrow and the day after tomorrow will come. I know that this feeling I'm experiencing will pass, but it won't be forgotten because this deep sorrow is why I do what I do and if I can get the right information to just one person then, well, I know the destructive wake that generalizations of no hope give and hope has more power than most people realize.

#9: Someone Somewhere

I had forgotten about this post, but it left a lasting impact because this had two nominees to be in the top 10 and as I read it, I thought back to a moment last year where I was, essentially, the first person a person who had reailzed that they, indeed, had Asperger's. That singular moment is going to live with me forever not only because it was something I never have encountered, but because each and every day people across the world go through that and this is why the need for understanding and awareness is so great.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Someone Somewhere

Today someone, somewhere will get the news. Maybe it will be the person, maybe it will be the parents, but today someone, somewhere will get the news that they, or that their child, is on the autism spectrum.

It's almost a certain guarantee that someone, somewhere will hear this news. The rates of autism are growing and the current numbers, here in America, are that about 1 in 100 live births will be on the autism spectrum. In Missouri it's 1 in 84. That's more children than will be diagnosed with diabetes, AIDS, and cancer combined!

When someone, somewhere gets the news, I feel it is the most important day in their life because they can go down many roads. Will they find the information that I did? When I was diagnosed I did a search on the internet, this was back in 2003, and I found a website that said, "People on the spectrum will never have a job, won't have friends, and can not be happy." This was the first thing I read so I believed it. I mean, if it's on the web it must be true, right? Today, do a search on Google, and you will get 82,100,000 possible pages. Of these, sadly, someone, somewhere may find a page like I did. They are out there, be it from doctors who don't know the human potential, to people on the spectrum stating that it is impossible.

There is better way for a family or person if they can find the right information after hearing the news. For someone, somewhere the diagnosis does not have to end their life, as they knew it, on that day. Instead of reading the misinformation that's out there, I hope they instead see the potential and hopefully find a page about Temple Grandin, and maybe see the list of people in history that were, or suspected of being on the spectrum.

The autism community is growing each day as someone, somewhere gets the news. Whether it is someone like myself, or parents, the internet is a medium to find out what that means. Because of this, I feel we must try to keep our best foot forward. Sadly, not everyone is going to find TouchPoint's parents guide to autism. Not everyone is going to keep that word of hope in their vocabulary.

Keeping hope alive is critical. I lived 14 months without it and it was very tough. I got off to a bad start reading that garbage. Still, today, I hear stories all the time of people finding those bad pages, or even videos on YouTube professing that being on the spectrum is a one-way ticket to "nevers" and "won'ts". Just on Monday, my dad told me of a person he knows whose family is going through the same thing I did.

I have many passions regarding the autism spectrum and have talked to many different types of audiences, but I feel the most vital listener is the someone, somewhere, who today gets the news . Granted, I can't speak directly to them, but by raising the awareness and understanding across the board, perhaps, the number of people who know the facts will have a louder voice than the one's who say life is impossible.

Look, I know the diagnosis is not seen as a message of good news at the time. Also, there will be challenges and some things may be more difficult. However, everyone in their life will have challenges, won't they? If the person, or parents, believe those people on those web pages that say all is lost then someone, somewhere may just believe it and then the real tragedy begins.

Because of all this, we all share in the voice of reality. No one person is going to open everyone's eyes to this. I feel I'm doing my part with my presentations and blogs, but everyone has the chance to change one person's world. If you know that someone, somewhere has gotten that news today you can be their voice that could turn them away from the misinformation that is out there.

You may think I may have dehumanized the aspect of the spectrum by just referring to the new people by saying "someone, somewhere." But I phrased it like this for a reason because I see it as some"ONE" and for that "ONE" person, today, whether they hear "your son," "your daughter," or "you, yourself, are on the autism spectrum," the stories they hear, or web pages they visit, may shape that "ONE" person's life forever.

#8: Terror on the 10th Tee Box

This blog had a lot of, "I want to nominate it, but I don't really." because they were afraid it would offend me if it were considered a "favorite." It didn't offend me in the slightest because this is a prime example of the challenges we on the autism spectrum can come into in the most unexpected of places. I've now used this story at schools when asked, "Were you ever bullied?" as I think the moment the man said, "It's not that difficult!" was the most belittling moment I have ever encountered in my life and also, and it wasn't written in the original post and I'm not going to alter it, he said, "Son, this is America and sometimes you've gotta do things you don't wanna do." which, when I talk to students, I say, "I don't think that line has ever was or since been uttered on a golf course."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Terror On The 10th Tee Box

I love golf; I've had the ultimate high and some rather low lows but when it comes to lows nothing can compare to the incident of today.

I'm in Indy on what is technically a vacation with a drive to see my mom in Rapid City, South Dakota tomorrow. With the weather being ideal for golf I went out today to simply enjoy the sport and being outside. It's been a nice change of pace after six months of nothing but go. That, and I love golf.

All was going well minus the slow play which I would normally care about but I didn't mind as I was simply enjoying the sounds of the birds, the slow movement of the clouds, and the fact that I was shooting good. The story picks, though, on the 10th tee box.

The two groups in front of me stopped into the pro shop and I passed them and got to the 10th tee box. Right as I was teeing the ball up I was told to wait for the ranger's approval to go who was down the fairway. I waited, got the okay, and hit my best drive of the day. Right as I was about to drive away a voice behind me said to wait and to pair up with the threesome that I had passed. So I waited.

The three took to the tee box and they were certainly not my type to play with. Vulgar words, constant taunting of each other's golf game, and crude humor is not my idea of a relaxing day on the golf course. To be honest people like that intimidate me so things were looking bleak but then one of them told me, "As soon as we get past the hill we will let you play on. You probably wouldn't like playing with us anyways."

Two of them hit great tee shots and the third, well, the third tried. After the third player finally hit a shot that went further than 20 yards we were going to drive away when a voice behind us said wait. This was a new guy to this story and I heard him say, "I'm going to pair you guys up but why do you have three carts? You only need two. So you, you need to grab your clubs and put them on the cart with the guy with the blue shirt." The group protested and I sat there frozen. The thought of nine holes with these guys wasn't something I was looking forward to. I know I blogged earlier this week about the enjoyment I had playing with another golfer, but in that instance he wasn't vulgar and we each had a cart. In this instance it was sudden, in the middle of the round, and there seemed to be no choice.

My heart rate was up and they continued to protest when all of a sudden I felt the thud of a golf bag and him saying a curse word with, "I'm not going to be able to finish the round so how am I going to get back when I need to leave?" and with that line I turned around with a look of terror as the whole situation was sinking in.

I looked at the man who was issuing this order and I said, calmly, "I... I have a form of autism and socializing isn't my thing." I was proud of myself because this is something I normally wouldn't do. To stand up for one's self is one of the hardest things to do. However, I may have been proud but this man was having none of it as he said, "Look, I don't care. We don't have signs but a lot of places do that we reserve the right to pair you up and take your cart if need be."

Again I said, this time with a little bit more emphasis, "I... I... I have a form of autism and I truly don't want this. I don't do well in social situations like this." I was teetering on the edge now. I don't like confrontations and this was turning into one. At the race track I can easily deal with a situation like this as I'm an official with the rules as guidance and I understand people may get mad there. Here though, on the 10th tee box, I was sinking into a bit of despair. Things only got worse.

As I said I had autism for the 2nd time the men behind me mentioned they now wanted no part in playing with me but the man who was issuing the orders said, "We reserve the right and sometimes in life you've got to do things you do want to." I was now cornered with no way out. I wanted no part of the back nine but I had that guy's clubs on my cart. Perhaps this is the epitome of a "fight or flight" episode and my reaction was flight.

I said something aloud, something along the lines of, "I'm done" and started to get the balls and tees and I stepped out and as I got to my golf bag the man said, "You don't have to leave! What's so difficult?" What's so difficult? If only he could have felt the unfiltered pain and anguish I was experiencing at that moment. To be forced into a social situation and then to be given a miniature lecture in a condescending way is something that my body does not react well to. On top of that I very much tried to avoid the situation; I made it clear this wasn't going to work and yet he persisted.

After his question of, "What's so difficult" I collapsed. I could sugar coat this story, or say that I was stronger, but on the 10th tee box I was reduced to a hyper-ventilating piece of rubble. The trio that had protested now were confused, and I think a little scared and they simply moved on as if my existence was irrelevant. The man who had caused the ordeal walked away and there I was, alone and shaking.

Time lost it's meaning and I don't know how long I was there, but eventually a different guy came there and said, "Sir, are you okay?" I tried to answer, oh how I tried, but it took a while. I had all this pure fear, unguided anxiety, and severe self-hatred within me. Self-hatred? Then, and now as I write this, I don't know if there has ever been a point in time that I have hated myself more because, as he so eloquently put it, "What's so hard?"

It took a bit but I got an answer and I guess someone had told him I had said the word autism because he then said, out of nowhere, "Are you aware of Asperger's Syndrome?" to which I simply replied, "I've got it." A short conversation then ensued as he told me his grandson has it, and then another group behind me teed off, and I was told to play after them, if I could.

I drove out to my ball with a smoldering fire burning within me. What had been such a relaxing day had quickly turned into the biggest social nightmare since an episode at bowling two years ago. I did hit my 2nd shot but I had no love of the game left. Love of the game, well, I had no love left at all. I felt destroyed, irrelevant, and inferior to everyone else because, "What's so hard?"

There was no third shot. I picked up my ball and drove back towards the club house. I was trying my best to not show my emotions as all I wanted to do was to break down and cry. When I got to the club house the man who has a grandson with Asperger's found me and asked me if I was okay and I replied, "I don't really know." He then went on to say he grandson is the brightest in class but in any situation there is anything as so much representing a confrontation the result was much like the one I was having.

I got into my car and as I pulled out of the parking lot the dam that had been holding back my emotions burst. A furious anger at everything poured out. I felt defeated. I travel the country, I work huge racing events, I speak in front of thousands and one man on the 10th tee box derailed everything. The only thing I was thinking was, "How can anyone without Asperger's understand this?"

So here I am at my sister's now. The incident happened about 80 minutes ago and I'm still a whirlwind of sadness. I don't know how anyone could understand how something that seemed so minor could have such a major impact. I don't know how anyone could relate to the feelings I had in those moments when before and right at when I was told, "sometimes we have to do things we don't want to" and, "What's so hard?" Perhaps this is the pinnacle example of the difficulty living with Asperger's Syndrome. I look normal (I think) I act normal (I think) and I go out and do normal things (if you consider golf normal) but one social situation can cause a total derailment. How can anyone understand that? How can someone without it relate to it? Perhaps this is another reminder about why what I do with my writing and speaking is so important because, while those that have no awareness or understanding may ask, "What's so hard?" perhaps my reason for being on this Earth is to say, "What's so hard? Let me tell you..."

#7: Fighting Fire and Fire

To this day the fire still burns and the presentation I mentioned is my non-PowerPoint one which I think I've now perfected so as I stated, it is sometimes good to feel this.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fighting Fire and Fire

There's a fire burning within me right now. It's been with me since the day I started writing and that is the desire to have someone, anyone, and everyone understand. It started out with the simple desire to have those around me understand who I am, but over the past two years it's been growing as I've been blogging and presenting and now the feeling is growing to a massive level.

There's a fire burning within me right now. It's been an on and off thing in my life but when it burns it's as if everything else is irrelevant. This fire burns intensely and it chars everything it comes in contact with. As it burns it distorts all other thoughts and consumes them into a vortex of worry.

When I want to achieve something it is the only thing that matters. Right now all I want is to be better, louder, and clearer in my voice for the autism spectrum. I've always been passionate but this is passion in overdrive. My fire for the cause is burning at a level I could never imagine. I mean, when I wanted to race it was the only thing that mattered but this, this feels as if there's lightning within me doing everything it can to explode out in a blaze of stunning perfection.

When something is worrying me it becomes the only thing that matters. Right now all I want is the matter at hand to be gone. I've always had issues like this but each time it's always as if it's the first time. The bad thing is, is that when this fire burns, it blinds. Who I am is lost, small matters become mountains, and the will to fight and not give up ebbs. Slowly it feels as if the fire will collapse my very being and I will implode inward in a blaze of darkness.

So that's the point-counterpoint of my being right now. This is an unique situation because I've never felt both at the same time. Thankfully the two are unrelated, but both examples are important to understand. One thing I get asked a lot by parents, often after a presentation off to the side, is, "I just don't understand why my child let's something bother him that much." Or the other is, "I just don't understand why my child, when he wants to do something or reach a goal, obsesses on it to the level he does."

I feel this is one of the main issues that I deal with because whenever there is a destination I want to reach all other paths are irrelevant. This can play out many ways and in school, when one subject struck my interest to a level that it lit a fire, all the other subjects didn't matter. Ha! I can remember in 2nd grade, during the science hour, I constantly would ask about outer space. Granted, we were learning about plants and photosynthesis, but I didn't want to know about that! I wanted to know about the asteroid belt, or Neptune. My great teacher, Mrs. Jendra, never got mad and always responded that I'd have to wait until fourth grade to learn about that. Oh, how I wish the internet would have been around back then!

As this fire can play out in a way that drives learning and ambition it can also consume. When something troubles me it may start out like a burning ember, but soon that embers catches something else alight, and then before long an out of control wildfire is raging. This fire can start out as something small, or something big, but eventually it will be the only thing that my mind can think of. To simply say, "Don't worry about it" is to diminish my feelings about it because at that point in time that worry carries with it the weight of the world.

During these times of fire, be it the fire of wanting to achieve something, or the fire of worry, I hope this post will be remembered so you can be better equipped to understand the elements in play. Right now I'm trying to harness this fire that will be a blaze of brilliant colors and at the same time trying to put out this fire of worry. (Yes, I know, I have not made any mention of what said fire is but it in the end it isn't an issue blog worthy... yet... it isn't a serious issue if you are concerned though.)

I'm excited about all this though! My writings and presentation were born out of the fire of worry and having both at once has, for one, made this blog today. Also, I think I've come up with what a potential new presentation I could give would look like, so it isn't always a bad thing to be feeling the way I am. But I just wanted to share what I am feeling because I go back to why I started writing and that is the simple desire to be understood.

#6: A Tale of the Force

I had been presenting to police officers for about three months when I rode along with a police officer. From this event my presentation to police officers drastically changed as I had a better understanding of what an officer goes through each day. Also, each time I pass the intersection of the accident that claimed the officer that is mentioned in this blog I think back to this day and a moment on that overpass I will never forget as I saw the two officers salute the fallen. It's fitting someone nominated this post because this greatly changed my understanding and increased my passion to get information to police officers about autism as I now, in just a little way, understood the reality of the dangers they face. That, and to this day the commanding officer at the stations, "Be careful out there" resonates in my head each time I see an officer.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Tale of The Force

My life took an odd turn this year when I began to do an hour block at the police academy for the P.O.S.T. in-service training. Why was this odd? To be 100% truthfully honest I must say I was scared of police officers. The fear was an unknown fear much like a phobia of something that isn't rational. I've never had anything personally happen, but maybe it was due to the fact that may dad liked to drive fast on the interstate and seeing a police officer was always a stressful experience. Whatever the case I started doing these presentations in January and am currently halfway through as there are a total of 35 sessions between then and May 4th.

From those presentations I also give a presentation to officers in CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training. While I may know much more than others on autism, I didn't have any idea what it is, exactly, that officers do. My only experience has been the "uh oh" my dad would exclaim when he saw an officer shooting radar his way. The solution to this was to do a police ride along and yesterday I experienced a day with the police force.

My morning started early and if you saw the time on yesterday's post I got that up nice and really early (4:55AM I believe). I got to the police office at 6 and walked in having no idea what to expect. The officer behind the counter was a bit confused and asked if I had my paperwork filled out. Paperwork? I simply got an e-mail that said be there on this day and at that time. I was lost as to what to do so I wondered back to the bench with absolutely no idea what to do. I was indeed lost, but just as I was in the pinnacle of my panic the officer I would be riding along with walked in.

The paperwork was filled out in a matter of seconds and it was simply the same type of form I sign at the racetrack informing me the potential risks that could happen. Just as I do at the track I signed the papers without really thinking about the risks. What could possibly happen?

I wanted to see what the roll call was like and made sure I was there early. The officers in this district all assembled upstairs and the officer (I don 't know what rank he was, he was higher but how high I am unsure) went over what calls the midnight shift had. Traffic had been bad over the weekend and then the somber news that the officer that was killed, David Haynes, on the 24th would have his funeral and burial that day and the procession would be coming through on Interstate 55.

The only thing I've seen about cops have been on television shows. I don't know how serious they are, how nice they are, or if they have a sense of humor. I do know they care about what they do and each other because the officer that was leading the roll call meeting ended with, "Take care of the people out they, but also take care of yourself today. Be careful out there" Chilling.

We left the station and went driving around. I started out rather quiet, but quickly started to ask questions. He made his way through some areas that sometimes have car break ins throughout the night, but none were found on this morning.

With the sun in view over the horizon we returned to the station and the officer went inside to get what every motorist fears (cue creepy music), a radar gun! We went to his favorite place to catch unsuspecting speeders and we sat. We sat, and we sat, and we sat. This morning the drivers were behaving themselves and I theorized that people are in no hurry to get to work when the weather was so nice. Just as I finished that a car was going plenty over the speed limit, up a hill, so the officer started his way to catch up.

Much like a vulture that swoops down to catch its prey, we essentially showed up out of nowhere and was on this driver's bumper. The plates were ran before the stop and they were clean so the stop was made. The officer sat for a moment and then got out. As he proceeded past the trunk the officer reached with his entire hand and touched the trunk. I thought nothing of this and watched as the driver waived his hands about in obvious disgust that he was stopped. The officer came back, wrote the ticket, and returned to the irate driver. Again, before the ticket was handed, the officer reached for the trunk.

I was going to ask the officer why he did this, but forgot as he mentioned just how angry the driver was. We turned around and went back to the trap to catch another driver.

It didn't take long as this van was going WAY over the limit. Since the driver was going fast that meant we had to go faster. I drive down this road all the time and didn't realize how slow the limit is as we flew down the hill to catch up. I instantly wanted to take the squad car out on a race track!

The officer got out and again touched the vehicle's rear with the utmost care. Much like a person pets a small pet with care, the officer gently touches the vehicle.

This driver was an older person late to teach kindergarten. The officer came back and began the routine of checking license, plates, and ownership. Just as the officer was finished the van pulled away and did a 180 and was facing us. The officer went from a calm conversational mood to ready for anything that could happen. The tension was obvious and I began to realize just how dangerous of a job an officer has. He had no idea what the intentions of this driver were. Would they plow into us? Were they armed? I wasn't at the time because I was simply puzzled as to why anyone in their right mind would pull away.

The van lurched towards us and then slowed down and the old lady pulled alongside. He rolled down her window and said, "I'm really late, could you hurry up?" The officer handed the lady her ticket and then informed me if that was anyone but an older lady the end result would not have been pretty. There is nothing worse that pulling away from a stop, let alone asking an officer to "hurry up".

As we pulled away the officer informed me the question I was thinking as he asked, "Do you know why I touch the car?" I stated I had no idea and he said, "For one I am making sure the trunk is closed, but more importantly I am getting my prints on the car so should the driver shoot me as I approach there will be evidence that I was there". The realization hit me then and there that being an officer is dangerous. I knew it was, but never actually thought it through. Every stop, every person met could be the last action they perform. I've raced for years and if I thought it through each time what hitting a wall head on would feel like I don't know if I'd be able to drive. For officers though they know, they prepare, and must be ready each time for anything. Today it was simply an older lady having a lapse of good judgment. But what about next time? Or the time after that?

Blogger's note: I wasn't originally going to put on about the hands to the trunk as I didn't know if it is an inside secret, but after doing a search the info is readily out there so I don't feel as if I am letting a cat out of the bag. Also, because I don't know the protocol, I have intentionally left out where we were or who I was with.

Time went by and over the radio the dispatchers gave updates as to when the funeral procession would be leaving. At this time there was another speeder that needed attention so we caught up to the speeder and while he was running the plates the dispatcher informed him that there was a person with a health issue that needed attention. Lucky for the speeder because we broke off and headed to just one block from where the trap was.

Because this wasn't a violent situation he asked if I wanted to come into the house. I did and what I saw was something I've never witnessed before as this person was coming off of a drug high and was in need of medical attention. I never witnessed what drugs do to a person, but was utterly shocked with what I saw.

For an officer this is probably a common occurrence. I never saw anything like it and thought that stuff of that sort was simply made for television. To witness a person who was unable to know where he was, who he was, or why he felt weird is something that can't be explained in words. I'm good at describing emotions, but this was something else; perhaps it was a realization of what really happens in the world. I don't know how a person could handle events like this daily.

Some more time went by and it was time for the procession to start. We were a good bit aways from the start, but we headed to the vicinity around I-55. We spotted another officer and drove by to talk with him. Even though a very somber moment was about to happen the officers still had a sense of humor. As a police helicopter flew by one of the officers stated that the pilots must be anti-social types because they never pull up next to another officer to talk like they were. The other then stated that, with the rocks and dirt that would be blown around by a helicopter landing, they wouldn't have much of a paint job left on the vehicle.

Interstate 55 was closed in the Southbound direction and I wondered why this was. I thought of a small funeral procession that is commonly seen. Slowly the first set of lights flashing became visible. A small crowd assembled on the overpass in silence as the procession neared. Cars going North pulled over and even though there were people about it was eerily quiet. The lead cars went and then the motorcycle division roared by, but even through the sound of the motors and tires on the road there was silence. This silence was weird to experience, it was very much a mutual understanding of all those around what had happened and what could happen.

We were on the off ramp and as the hearse came into view the two officers stood at attention and saluted. This image will always stay in my mind. The brotherhood between officers is one that may only be rivaled by firefighters. The perfection in their salute as the hearse drove by almost put me in tears. These officers didn't know David Haynes, but yet he was one of them.

The words of, "Be careful out there" rung through my mind as on any day this could be them. The dangers of the road, or by criminal, can be seen or unseen. The tenacity to do their job is something I can't grasp.

Five minutes after the hearse drove by squad car after squad car was still passing us. The procession was as far as we could see, but I had to get back to the station to drive to the academy to give my presentation on autism.

My presentation yesterday may have been the best I've ever given. I now understand the dangers of their job. I think we all do to a degree, but understanding and seeing it first hand are two different things. I gave the presentations my all before, but now I've found a new found vigor because the more information the officers have going into a situation the more they can do. If they don't understand a situation, or the elements in play, the end result could be bad. My hour may just be an hour and just a snippet, a very small snippet, in their overall training, so I have to do anything ad everything to get my message across.

After my presentation I came to the office for a while and was invited to a meeting. I drove to the meeting and afterwards I drove home. As chance would have it I drove by the intersection where Officer Haynes was killed. There was a make shift memorial on the corner and I pulled over and looked at it and soaked the day in.

Haynes was my age and had been on the force for just a year. I'm sure all officers know the risk and I share that element of danger in what they do when I race. The difference is though that racing only serves the purpose of entertaining the one doing it. Police officers put themselves on the line to serve and protect society. I don't know how they do it and don't understand how they cope with the stresses of their job. I have a hard enough time making eye contact, but eye contact won't get me injured.

If you can't tell by the repeated lines of appreciation, I am at a lost for just what they do. As I pulled away from the memorial I understood why that line was said with such a solemn tone, "be careful out there".

#5: The Power of One

This had the most nominees of all but in the voting process didn't get the next to top spot (I'm choosing #1) but this post is one of my most read of all time and I think one of my most profound. I wrote this post in 2011 and I think we are further along, but there is still a long way to go and it all begins with "The One." Sometimes I get caught up in numbers and last October on my national tour I had one presentation with 1,500 people at once! But the presentation I remember most was the first one in Fort Wayne, Indiana which only had two. There was a therapist and a parent and the impact that they said they got from hearing me was life changing. So yes, we can get caught up trying to reach the masses, but in the end it's all about the one and if just one person is changed, or rather gets the awareness and understanding that is needed, then it was all worth it.

This Blog
This Blog

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Power of One

Recently I have been a bit on the spoiled side with having four presentations in the past month with over 100 people in attendance. I love bigger crowds, I'm not going to lie, but it wasn't until I was driving home late Friday night that I realized the power isn't in the bigger numbers.

My passion and mission is to raise as much awareness and understanding as possible and being able to do it 100 or more people at once is great. However, for there to be true understanding in this world we need to focus on the one and not the 100. What does this mean? All of us who are or know someone on the spectrum are advocates whether you know it or not. For those that attend my presentations, well, chances are they already are aware of autism. Out in the public though, this is where the power of one is.

Here's the thing; when a chance arises to inform a person about the spectrum you should take it. It is with the people who know nothing about the spectrum that need it the most. Speakers, like myself, can talk to big groups, but they already know of the spectrum. Granted, I'd like to think that I add some understanding in my presentations, but it is out in the general public that the ones we need to reach are.

I hope one day there is no need for a post like this, but I think back over the course of this year to times that I did state that I needed help and my plea fell on deaf ears. The quote I heard at the Salt Lake City airport will not soon be forgotten, "Sir, I don't know about autism and I have a flight I need to get ready."

Had I been in a better state I should have thrown it a quick thing of what autism is. This is the power of one; if we can get to as many people as possible then incidents like this might not happen. One person may not have the ability to make a situation perfect, but one person does have the ability to make a bad situation worse. And they may not mean to do so, but if they don't know about the autism spectrum and that those on the spectrum may need a little more help then they may choose the wrong words or actions without knowing it.

We're farther along than we were eight years ago when I was first diagnosed. I no longer have to explain Asperger Syndrome, or explain that I didn't say the word "hamburger" (true story, happened twice) but there's still a mass out there that may know the word autism but have no idea what it is, what it looks like, and what to do about it.

So, with all that being so, we all have the power when the chance presents itself. Now I'm not asking for everyone to grab a bullhorn and drive up and down the roads in the middle of the night spreading autism awareness (that would be cool though, although I'm afraid it wouldn't end well) but when the chance pops up, say, at the Salt Lake City airport, you can give a quick 10-15 second explanation of autism. We don't need to go into extreme depth but rather just enough to open the door of what autism is.

Here's what I hope happens. If you're reading this you already know about the spectrum, but if we can harness the power of one then maybe that person who now understands will come across another person who doesn't know about the spectrum and then they share it and so on and so forth.

I'm sure something like this has been thought of before, written before, and spoken of before, but truly the power of one lies with us. We can make the difference to that one individual who is ignorant of the spectrum. One by one we can make that difference and get us closer to a world where everyone is aware.

#4: Saying Goodbye

Would I have considered this for the top 10? I don't think so but here's the thing; this post is something everyone is going to go through. Loss is something we all deal with so in a way this post is something that everyone can relate to and as one of my coworkers says, "Autism is human behavior to the extreme" so if a person can relate to a story I share then they may have a much better understanding of what may be going on. That, and I think anyone who thinks back to one of their first cars is going to have memories of the new places driven, and the sense of freedom experienced which is, in essence, what this post is about.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Sometime in the very near future I am going to have to say goodbye. Parting ways is always a difficult task for me and I have been awaiting this time for several years now. In fact, I can't believe this specific goodbye didn't take place in 2008. What am I saying goodbye to? If you have read my book you may know that if I start a writing out like this it usually involves a pet, but today I am talking about my 1995 Nissan Maxima.

This car wasn't my true first car, but it was the first car I had to pay for and my 1983 Mazda 626 I first owned was more of an annoyance so in my heart this car is my first true car.

The car didn't start out as my own as my mom owned it before me. One of my first solo driving experiences came in this car when, in 1998, with learner's permit in hand I drove around the small town of Gordon, Nebraska. I didn't drive for long, and of course my mom was seated beside me, but I felt alive and on top of the world. Freedom had a new meaning and I loved it.

A couple years later while I was suffering through the 626 Emily proposed that I buy her brother's car. My dad did so, but on the same day my mom bought a new car and proposed that I buy her Maxima. I did so and in a way I felt like a little tycoon with my three cars, but quickly I went down to just owning one.

In a way my life as I know it started out in that black Maxima. I had my first car trip to an unknown place in 2002 as I drove to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to meet a Star Mazda team. Before this I had never driven anywhere far except the familiar road between Saint Louis and Indianapolis. At this point in time I was not diagnosed, but nonetheless my dad kept telling me that he was, "so proud of me" for being able to drive up to that track. I don't know what the big deal was as I found it easy, relaxing, and a reminder of how great and special the world is. I instantly picked up the trait of loving long road trips by myself.

My Maxima was with me in 2003 when I lived in Las Vegas for a month as I was an instructor at the Derek Daly Academy. The drive out to Vegas is something I will never forget and I hope to make the road trip again someday. If there was ever a time that I grew as a person and challenged myself it was on that trip and my Maxima was with me the entire way.

A couple months after Vegas I was in Florida and the first realization that I may be on the autism spectrum occurred. I was seated behind the wheel and saw three friends or brothers just goofing off playing keep away with a hat and they were laughing and having an amazing time. I was talking to my dad on the phone and I broke down as it all made sense as I realized I never had, nor probably never will, be able to have that sort of "let loose and have fun" as they were having.

So many of my stories that are in my books took place in that car. I can still remember the final time Emily rode in the passenger seat and the time I drove to Washington D.C. in 2003.

During the time I have had the car the only thing I have had replaced were the brakes. This is a very good thing because for many of the years between when I got it and now I didn't have a job. In a way I am lucky I got this car as when my mom owned it she somehow managed to blow the motor and catch it on fire. As I would find out this car has a "never say die" attitude.

I truly believe my car saved my life. As I wrote last year I hit a horse with my car. If the "A" post would have failed you probably never would have known about me. It was this instance that I thought I would have to say goodbye to my car and was one of the reasons, along with the glass shards sticking out of my scalp and hands, that I had tears in my eyes. Amazingly though with a new hood and new windshield the car drove just like it did before the meeting with the horse.

My car was with me in 2009 as I went to the Indianapolis 500 by myself for the first time, then drove to my aunt's house, and then drove to New York City to have a meeting at Autism Speaks. It was this trip that finalized the foundation to make my passion raising autism awareness and understanding.

I don't know how I am going to do it. How am I going to be able to say goodbye to this vehicle? Over the course of the time I have owned this car the person who I was and the person I am now is probably almost unrecognizable. Through my travels in that wonderful car I am who I am today. How can I say goodbye to that?

Three days ago as I was headed to the office on I-64 my vehicle just turned off while traveling 50mph. This is a bad thing when power steering goes away and the brake pedal becomes as hard as a 10 ton boulder to move. After that experience every time I come to a complete stop my vehicle just turns off. With each time this has happened it has become harder and harder to restart. A mechanic over the phone said it sounds like a clogged catalytic converter (I used to pronounce this a, "Cadillac converter"). This is not cheap repair, and also the right front UV joint is going, it needs new struts, the recent ice storm managed to damage the driver side windshield wiper, and it needs an oil change. The amount in repairs is probably triple the value of the car.

Still though, how can I say goodbye to the vehicle that saw me through the darkest times of my life, but was also there as the light at the end of the tunnel was reached? I don't know how I am going to be able to. In a way this is harder than when I had to say goodbye to my pets as their bodies failed them. I know my car is just a collection of parts and doesn't have a mind, soul, or alive, but in a way it does. I don't know if it is my associative memory system, but my car is more than just a car. It is the collection of all the memories I have experienced on the many miles I have traveled. It represents the darkest of times, and the brightest of times.

But its time is running short. I realize my next drive in that car may very well be my final drive in it. Where will it go? I don't know. One person is interested in buying it, but wherever it may go it will be gone. When I was four and my dad got a new van I cried for hours over the loss of van he used to own. That was then and there were minimal memories in that van, but this car I own now has a decade worth of memories.

Maybe this is an experience everyone must go through; that of being saying goodbye to one's first vehicle. I don't know how other people handle it, and maybe it is a non-event as again, there is no soul or life in a vehicle, but for me this car is more than a car. Maybe it does have a soul, but it is the soul of all the places I have been and people I have known.

Yes, my next drive in it will probably be my final drive. It may me a mile, may be five miles, but my time with that wonderful car is about over. It was a great car and I almost feel guilty for having to say goodbye, but maybe this is one of those life milestones that makes us grow as a person.
What makes this post so spectacular is the spontaneous nature of my aunt. This video blog was 100% unscripted and I had no idea my aunt would "crash" the party so to speak. Each year since I've thought about doing one but how can one top perfection?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Chaos

I was going to do another video this year, but when perfection is done like last year's nothing would come close so here it is once again, last year's video blog regarding the scary world of food touching.

By the way, you can follow my aunt's blog at

#2 The Great Sunglasses Experiment (this would be too long to put on this page so that's the link.

#1 of the first 1,000: An Aspie's Dream

From about post #800 I knew I was going to do a top 10 of the first 1,000 and back then I had this post picked out. I got more private emails about this than any other and this even ran in a book published in Australia entitled, "the AUTISM experience." This post is the core of what I do. This post explains my hopes, dreams, and my message in a direct manner that is easy to understand. We all have dreams, and the dreams put forth in this post remain to this day. I feel my dream is closer to reality than ever before but we must continue to push to achieve this. And, the closer we get, the harder it will be to make progress but we must be not grow tired, or complacant, because we all have dreams and for some the dream is, quite simply, to be understood.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Aspie's Dream

Last week I wrote about my experience being apologized to for having Asperger Syndrome. This led to a lot of emotions and it got me to thinking about the fact that I am probably not the first to have this happen to them. Furthermore, how many parents have said that their child has autism and then they were apologized to? All week I thought about this and it has inspired this:

I want everyone to know that, for the most part, I am happy. It is my dream that people learn this. I may have some challenges, but I am not defective. I don't deserve or need your pity and am happy being me.

There are times when the world tries to get me to fit in, and sometimes I try, but there are other times when a social situation may be too much for me. I have had situations in the past where I have been called weird or odd for not trying to fit in. It is my dream that the world begins to not only know about us on the autism spectrum, but begins to understand us.

We have a lot to learn from each other. I look at, sometimes completely perplexed, how two random people can have a random conversation. I know others look at me, completely perplexed, when I get excited about a random fact that I recall about auto racing or when I have the ability to learn some new obscure facts. It is my dream that the world comes to realize that socializing can be difficult the same way it would be for you to recall minute details from the 1992 Indianapolis 500. We are the same, but different.

It is my dream that I never get apologized to again. This can only come from understanding. Being on the spectrum isn't something to look down upon! Yes, it has its challenges, but it has its blessings. Each person is unique and let's cherish the uniqueness and not look down upon it. To be apologized is to tell me, or parents of a person on the spectrum, that I am defective and something is really wrong with me. In my mind an apology like this is reserved for something really horrible and I don't see it that way and I hope, and dream that, eventually, all will see this.

I dream what everyone else dreams about. I want to have a full, productive life. I want a family, a career, and the ability to live my life to the fullest. Some people seem to think that an autism label is the end and that to dream such things is a waste of time. No dream and no person is a waste of time. Yes, we may need to work harder at some things, but if we're not given a chance then how can we succeed? There is so much potential in a mind on the spectrum, but if not given the chance how can one dream of the things that I dream about?

Finally, my biggest dream is the day where the word autism doesn't draw a repulsive reaction for those who aren't affected by it. Autism has to be one of the most misunderstood conditions, but understanding is coming. I haven't had to debate someone on what autism is for quite sometime and when I say Asberger people don't think of a food item or Olympic venue (sad, but true!). Everything in this world started as a dream, and my dream was already started by countless thousands of people before me and I hope I can do my part in fulfilling it. I know I am not alone in my dream and all of us can do some part in educating some one, whether it is a school, politicians, or a random person in a grocery store. I feel the world is listening and is open to learning about us. In all reality there isn't that much that separates us; we're all people, we all have dreams, and for us on the spectrum we just have different traits. We have feelings, we can be scared, and most of all we just want to be understood. This is my dream.

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