Speaking on Autism

I’m a retired teacher, right? Talking in front of people is not a problem.

I spent twenty years talking in front of people. Well, groups of about twenty kids under nine. They were not always an easy audience. At the start of each year I also spoke to their collective parents.

Then I spent five years talking in front of sometimes hostile-ish, reluctant college seniors. I instructed them on how to teach math to elementary students. At least half of them hated math and/or didn’t understand it. Hence the occasional feeling of hostility because I expected them to do the math.

Now, I am preparing to talk in front a group of maybe thirty adults about autism and how to listen effectively to parents or grandparents of children with special needs.

April is Autism Awareness month and, this April, I will be speaking to a group of Stephen Ministers. Stephen Ministers are caring listeners, called care givers. Their care receivers may be experiencing challenges in any number of areas ranging from grief over the death of a loved ones to parenting struggles. Everything is confidential.

In one of my former lives, I was a Stephen Minister. I honed my listening skills during my training for this ministry. Years later, as I worried about how I would react to retirement and fearing that I may curl up into a disused ball of worthlessness, I signed up to be on the receiving end of this ministry.

Now, I am preparing to be one of the presenters that provides care givers with information to help them in their ministry.

 One thing that has happened to me in the last few years, is that I have become ADD. Well, let’s just go ahead and add that H. I am ADHD. As a result, I have been thinking both about preparing for my little talk as well as thinking about blog posts. My brain, divided in this way, has not let me do either effectively.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I could combine my divided efforts into one. As I prepare the topics that I will discuss in my talk, I will write about the same topics for posts, but in a little more depth. As a result, some of what you read in upcoming posts will be about topics that I feel will benefit people who might be trying to help support, through a listening ministry, parents or grandparents of children with special needs. There might also be an adult care receiver who has special needs.

But, because I learned as a Stephen Minister that many of the people who spoke provided me with information that was also useful in my personal life, I hope that all the people who are at the April meeting will learn something that will help them become more aware of people they encounter in various settings, people who may have autism.

If you are reading this and have a family member with autism or other needs, shout out something that you think I should be sharing with this group of people who are, by nature, a nurturing and non-judgmental group.

And watch and share to future posts that will help me in my presentation.

Stories that share experiences about autism are good to sprinkle around, right?

(Totally unrelated, I am also drafting an email to try to snag a guest author appearance in April on a local radio or television show that features local people. I’m not good at marketing myself and I hate doing it. Wish me luck.)

8 thoughts on “Speaking on Autism

  1. Not long ago, I was asked if I would speak at a national Tourette Syndrome conference on the topic of “Telling your story.” I didn’t even think about it, I just turned them down flat. My fear of public speaking was the major factor, but right behind that was Impostor Syndrome. What makes me qualified to give such a talk. Part of me has whispered “But what if you did it?” to me several times. I think it’s awesome that you’re doing this. I’m impressed and a little envious. Your post has given me a shove to try to write out that talk.

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    1. I have the whole imposter syndrome going, too, since I’m not the parent of a child with autism. You shouldn’t though, you have direct experience with Tourette. Talking in public is it’s own beast for some though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Frequently I don’t feel tourette-y enough. I don’t have Coprolalia and I don’t hurt myself with my tics. It’s funny that something can be so distressing but still not ‘good enough’ to represent the community. People really like to *own* their disorders.

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  2. Sometimes my dad will help me by getting Declan off his bus if I need to be somewhere else. My dad knows, but still has a hard time when Declan is openly disappointed to see him and not me. Sometimes, he’s excited to see him to play with him, but when my dad messes up on the video game, Declan will tell him 1. he’s not good and 2. it’s time for him to go home. The bluntness can be very off putting to people that don’t understand how honest autism can be. If they were meeting a person with autism, I think this is good to know. If they were talking to a parent or caregiver, I think it would be good to know how isolated the parent or caregiver is. Home is the safest place. People don’t visit. Even if we were in the community or at a party, we wouldn’t be participating the same way. Look to the corners and edges of gatherings, that’s where you’ll find us.

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  3. I would make sure they understand that autism isn’t just a state. It isn’t just a simple spectrum. It is several traits that cluster together and each trait has its own spectrum from barely detectable to total disability. At the high end, it blends imperceptibly with neurotypical behavior. The saying that if you’ve met one autistic person you’ve met one autistic person is true.

    Sheldon Cooper is not a valid model. The reality is much more painful. Actually, every major character on Big Bang Theory has some traits of “cute” autism. He’s just the most obvious.

    Oftentimes those who were “slightly autistic” can have a terrible life because their symptoms aren’t recognized and are ascribed to moral failings or personal preference. And that’s the “EASY” top-end of the spectrum. It gets more difficult for the person and their caregiver as traits become more pronounced.

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    1. Thanks, Fred. You very succinctly described a message I have been trying to formulate for a blog post. I noticed a while back on your blog an older post about she autism spectrum not being like a rainbow. My original idea for a post about this topic came after reading a similar article in the Aspergian stating the autism spectrum is not like the visible spectrum. I have wrestled with the term “high functioning” since then. I think, I had given up trying to write this post, but your comment makes me think I should try again. Thanks for your input.

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