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Thursday, November 26, 2015

The state of fatigue

I apologize for the lack of content this week but I am in a state where writing is difficult. I haven't been this exhausted since 2008 and between the amount of writing I've done all year, the presentations, and the Supernats I am honestly having a hard time keeping my eyes open. To further compound this I'm editing and reading for the first time my second book which has drawn out a lot of emotions. I need to rest up, though, because the third round of the Aspie Traveler begins in just over two weeks. Speaking of traveling, I may shar a chapter from my second book as it was written about a trip I took in 2008 which really was the genesis of the Aspie Traveler so be looking for that next week. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

After the Nats

It's over... The week I await all year is over and this year has meant a little bit more as I realize that the SKUSA Supernats isn't just a race for me but rather it has shaped who I have become.

Seven years ago I was given the honor to become the chief starter for the event and in my eighth edition as the chief starter I enjoy every lap more than the last. Yesterday we had a couple single file restarts which to restart the race I stand in the center of the track staring at the field coming right to where I am. Imagine it very much like staring down a raging bull and I have to hold my ground trying to keep the field slow until the time is right to fly the green. I could describe it more but I think this video will give you a better idea of what I call the ultimate rush any sports official any where can experience.

Before I talk about why this event shaped who I have become I want to state that one of the reasons I love it so much is the mental and physical endurance is required. I ran more than I've even ran in my life the past five days and I never thought my body would be able to sustain that much running on top of the amount of the flags I have to display with vigor. I'm not one to exercise that much because my brain has such a hard time buying in on the fact that I'm willingly running to feel tired. However, this running had to be done and there was a but in and I had energy in the reserve tanks I never knew I had. Of course, today, I'm exhausted, but it's the good kind.

So why does this event transcend the event itself and is more than simply 500 racers from 45 countries seeing who can complete a set distance the fastest? I guarantee you that if not for this event you would not know me. A big theme of my blog this year has been about planting seeds. In my presentation I used to just limit this to my dad and 2nd and 4th grade teachers for planting the seeds that allowed me to be where I am today but this is unfair because many, many more people have planted seeds to help me progress to who I am and to be given a global stage seven years ago was instrumental.

Seven years ago I had nothing really going for me outside of the fact that I had a book that had just been released by a self publishing firm. That is somewhat of an accomplishment but just releasing a book doesn't open doors automatically and I was still unsure of myself. Then, I was chosen as the starter for the Supernats and that first year was a true test. It wasn't an easy weekend at all and whatever could go wrong did. It was the toughest challenge I faced at a track but I did it. Now don't get me wrong, seeds had been planted to give me the skills to be able to get to that level and one should never be put into a situation that they are ill equipped to handle. I had 13 years of experience and with each year the ability and responsibility picked up a tick.

It wasn't too long after the Supernats in 2008 that I met those that would get me to become the Community Education Specialist and now Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Midwest. The two may seem unrelated but the two are intertwined. The confidence that was instilled in me, the Alias that was formed during that first Supernats, and the fact that I had my first ever conversations with rather powerful people about Aspergers and they actually listened to the concepts I put forth and asked questions made me realize that, perhaps, I for once had something going for me.

With each passing Supernats I am reminded of where and who I was and as the finals pass and the remaining sessions trickles down to five, four, three, two, then the final race I become rather sad. Few heard it, and those that did probably didn't pick up on it, but in the final race yesterday when I was confirming with timing and scoring that two laps remained I said, in a flat yet sad tone, "copy that scoring, two to go" with a stress and elongation of "two to go" because this was it... This was the end.

I'm never in a good place mentally when it's over. I'm exhausted, and I've just spent over 60 hours in five days managing the start finish line but not only that because I then know that I'm at the longest point before I get that experience again. It isn't just a race; it's the event that person I am now was born. It's the event that each year I grow a bit more and realize I'm stronger than I thought and I am capable of much more than I give myself credit.

While I sit on this plane that just took off, and just now flew over the track that is already being disassembled, I have to think not at whatnot over but what is to come. What seeds were planted this weekend? What will that next step be? Even I can get caught up in making this perfect right this second,but constantly seeds are being planted for the future and as I look out at the seemingly endless horizon it's a good reminder that the possibilities for the future are endless and all this started with one event seven years ago.

Friday, November 20, 2015


We are just about to start day three of the SKUSA Supernats and this is my ultimate Kansas as proven by this smiling selfie.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The calm before the Hyper Kansas

Today is always one of the trickiest blogs to write because today is the longest day. Last year I wrote about the routine of the day as I await the evening staff meeting ahead of the start of the SKUSA Supernats which begins tomorrow, but with this year there is change. This is my eighth Supernats as the chief starter and the previous seven installments were held at The Rio, but this year it’s held at the Las Vegas Convention Center with The Westgate hotel serving as host. This change makes today different as the routine I’ve had is different, but one thing that remains is the wait.

While the venue may have changed the event and what lies ahead remains the same. Tonight we will have our staff meeting and I’m sure the words will be same. We will be told that the motorsports world will be watching and the importance of perfection. This is the Super Bowl of karting and drivers as far away from New Zealand will be competing. Even though I know the script of this meeting I hang on every word because this, starting tomorrow, is my favorite five days of the year and this is the ultimate of all Kansas. For some, maybe, this is just another race, but when I get the honor to be the one at the finish line with the flags, it’s truly an honor and to give anything less than everything my body and soul can give would be all but a crime. This isn’t to say that I slack at any other event, but this is the big one, the one I look forward to all year.

Another thing that this staff meeting ushers in is that this race is real. It’s finally here! Once the meeting is over it will be around 7:30 and somehow I’ll have to manage to force myself to sleep but sleep is elusive when one waits all year from what lies ahead in the morning. I’m sure I’ll be tossing and turning awaiting… anxiously awaiting the morning and the smell of race fuel, a hint of rubber, and the moment I unfurl the green flag for the first time to start the 19th running of the SKUSA Supernats.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dueling Cement Theory

I apologize for the lack of posts last week; I had 15 presentations spread out over 1,000 miles and all in all it was awesome. Exhausting, but awesome! I have a lot of thoughts from that week and of course the big news from the CDC that the incidence rate of autism looks to be 1 in 45 so this post could be all over the place.

With the rate being 1 in 45 the voice that the need for autism awareness and more importantly understanding should be the loudest we’ve ever had. This isn’t to say that this wasn’t the need in the past, as I feel whether it was 1 in 1,500 in 1983 or now the need is just as important because if just one person gets the early intervention they need, or one teenager gets the understanding from their peers instead of being mocked could be life changing. That’s what’s at stake here. Of course, remember, if you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism and from some early intervention may not be 100% needed, I’m a minor example (I had some, but not in the traditional sense as I wasn’t diagnosed until 20) but for others this could provide monumental strides forward.

There was an underlying theme I came across last week and it was a bit of a role reversal from what I normally hear. I do hear a lot of stories; some good, some soul-wrenching, but I have heard my fair share of stories from parents complaining that their child’s teacher just doesn’t “get it.” However, last week, it was the reverse and to explain this I have to use my cement concept I haven’t used on my blog in an extremely long time.

Why is early intervention important? Imagine the brain on the autism spectrum as being wet cement and if we want a patio we are going to have to pour it out and work with it in haste before it dries and sets. So too, sort of, are the brains on the autism spectrum. Now don’t get me wrong as there’s always hope as I remember my fourth grade teacher said that the, “Hoover Dam will be drying for 40,000 years” but of course the longer we wait the more work with, say, sledgehammers and jackhammers we will have to use to find wet cement and that brings me to the stories I heard last week.

Typically I hear from parents that the teacher will not be tolerant of the potential need that a student with Asperger’s may need another approach, or might have some sensory needs. Again, don’t get me wrong as there are so many amazing teachers out there, like the teachers I met last week that did get it but the problem in these stories lay with the parents that all but deny the diagnosis and would contradict the teacher’s teaching methods. Now here’s the thing and the reason why everyone needs to be on the same page; if a child is taught a certain set of rules at school and is learning to be a bit flexible on some things, but when the child gets home and the opposite is taught I must ask what that patio of wet cement would look like. Imagine two workers with two different visions working on the same patio and when one side has it right the other side comes in and makes it to what their version of right is. We could debate what is right all day long which that isn’t the point of this post but rather the point is this; if the world isn’t on the same page and in this story I told I will say it sounded like the teachers knew the dynamics of the autism spectrum and the parents could use a lot of help understanding the autism spectrum, but without being on the same page that child has to be, and is, highly confused. And who wouldn’t be? Another concept to use here is my “Film Theory” in that “whatever happens first always has to happen” and if there is a reshoot session every day the ability to move forward is going to become complicated.

It’s fitting that I write this today as today marks my annual trip to Las Vegas and the running of the SKUSA Supernats that I work. I say fitting because what I have laid forth in this post is the essence of the race I’m in. I may be an official at the physical race this weekend but make no mistake of the race I compete, and all of us are, in. This race is one we must not yield in. I’ve talked about the power of one but that one is now in every 45 and if we don’t push, should we yield, and should we become complacent the chances of each individual meeting their potential could very well be squandered and that, well, that’s the race because it doesn’t have to be that way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Where's My Posts

So here's the thing; I've had some great blog ideas this week but I've also had and have the most intensive presentation week ever. Already in two days I've given seven presentations! I'm not complaining, I live for this and from the students, to the teachers, to the police officers I've presented to thus far it's been great tomorrow and each day after is just as busy so I will "try" and write something relevant this week but if I don't you now know why. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Mission, The Race

The picture above may be of a real race, and I do mention "race" in the title of this post, but the sport of motorsports is not the topic of this post. However, I can use the event in the picture to illustrate a point as in the picture I am in the midst of starting a race (and making sure I get off the track by the time the field reaches me!) and in a way this represents my mission.

Many people can claim to have the best job in the world, but I'm sure I do as my job is my mission and it involves a race. This race doesn't involve air pressure, position changes, or apexes, but it does share one key aspect and that is the speed to which it is achieved. You see, with every presentation I give it is very much like the photo above for not just autism awareness but the understanding and understanding is the object of this race.

Without understanding, every aspect of awareness doesn't matter. I know awareness has gone up in just the five years I've been doing this, and that's great, but without the next layer it means nothing. If a person knows the word autism that didn't five years ago does that actually change anything? One can increase their vocabulary but unless they know what it means and how it impacts a person, and the world, the awareness component is a fruitless endeavor and that's why my mission is a race.

I don't want to boast about what I do as I, most of the time, take little pride in what I do. I do it simply because it needs to be done and whether I'm a great presenter or not means little to me; the matter at hand is delivering the information because right now in small towns, big towns, schools, or metropolises there are kids, teenagers, adults that are going through the levels of misunderstanding. I saw it just yesterday when I was presenting and when I mentioned that, "I used to be the least emotional person in the world and if you asked me anything subjective, or anything remotely close to be emotional I said three and only three words of 'I don't know'" and in the second row a grandson looked at his grandma and in a mixture of what appeared to be sadness, hope, and a realization of "that's me" he looked his grandma right in the eye, let out a minute smile, and nodded. The grandma looked back and gave the same response and nodded. At that moment, the green flag was out and the process of true understanding had begun.

There's much talk, and I love it when I get the chance to talk about the human potential within those on the autism spectrum but many times, due to bullying and misunderstandings that potential often times won't be realized and that potential for the betterment of all is squandered. It doesn't have to be this way and each day when I wake up I think about this race and the importance of it. To me, what I do isn't just a job, I do it because of the pain I know people experience. I've been there; my world just over six years ago was one where the word hope was never used. My vision of the world was that it was a cold, nasty place and I would never find my way. These thoughts were reinforced by the constant misunderstandings and right now these misunderstandings still happen out there and with every presentation I give, when I talk about the new race, I envision the picture above. However, instead of having a pack of racers zoom on by I see it as, what I hope, will be a new phase in each person's life whether they are a teacher and are better equipped to work with those on the autism spectrum, or a police officer who has to make split second choices and will be better equipped to give the support or protect a person on the autism spectrum, or the parent who never knew why their child acts the way they do, but most of all I think of all the students I've presented at school who are the future and the ones there that are on the autism spectrum and can see there is a life beyond the diagnosis. The diagnosis need not define the person, and after my presentation I can only hope that the way I see it as a race commencing and a new phase in life, even if it's just 1% better understanding is there. Things won't get magically better right away, but to keep the race metaphor going I'll say no race was ever won in the first corner, but unless one starts a race they can never finish it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A heads up

Coming next month will be the third installment of The Aspie Traveler. One thing that is unclear is how much I'll be blogging about it, or rather the balance. Why? I'm focused on making this a book and writing in book style is a major contrast to a blog. Maybe I can use snippets from what I've written for the book. I know I want give you the best read possible, but I also want the extra space and depth that a book allows. Perhaps this within itself will be part of the challenge. 

Oh, and where am I going? I won't announce yet except to give one hint and say that it's more northerly. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

The State of Now and The Acceptance of Fate

This is a topic I've written much about, and will be one of the main themes of my second book, but it is also one of the most difficult challenges I face and is, I believe, the driving force behind the ease with which my mind is willing to give up.

So the title of this has two different things. I just eluded to giving up. This is  the "acceptance of fate" aspect but what leads to this? This is the state of being which, in life, is constantly changing. However here's the thing; I know my brain handles the concept of time differently which means that whatever is now is forever. Take a look at the post before this and the day I about gave up. Despite the positives before that day at the conference the only thing that mattered was what was in the here and now, and since what happened now was bad this meant everything would always be awful thus I accepted this fate. 

The concept here is something I've been hearing more and more of from teachers and parents as of late. Maybe it's just been luck, maybe it's on the rise, but it is vital to understand the elements in play here on the reasoning we can seemingly give up so easily. You can point out our successes and you might get frustrated that we don't see it but how can we? We are blinded by the current state of being and I don't know why my brain is incapable of seeing the prospect of change in the future, but my mind operates under the code of "whatever is now is forever" therefore all is lost. 

This past weekend was difficult for me as my brain played the unfortunate game of, "if I were normal..." During this awful game I become extremely sad as I wonder what it would be like and if that would mean I wouldn't have spent the weekend alone. Would I have gone out with a group of friends doing whatever it is that groups do? Would I have an amazing conversations with people I don't know? The possibilities on what could be are endless and just as endless during this is the self loathing that I am who I am and not what I have this image of normal to be. 

You see, that was the state of being this past weekend and in my mind it was the only thing that mattered. Today is a new day and I'm looking forward to presenting tonight. The fog with which I was in has passed as the state of being has changed. I realize life isn't 100% good all the time, this is obvious, but it would seem we on the autism spectrum are much more prone to issues with the here and now and accepting our fate of failure, or loneliness if that is the current state of being. No matter how many times my catastrophic and terminal thinking are proven to be wrong I still fall into the trap of thinking there is no hope, no change, and the future will be just what is in the now. I don't mean to make this post overly depressing, but these are the elements in play and the challenges I face.