EDUCATIONAL TRAINING

A few hours ago, I had the opportunity to “teach” early special ed elementary school students at Towson University. It was a nice change of scenery from the medical world. Either way, it was a great opportunity! I did not get paid to speak, but I do not necessarily care. It would have been nice to get paid, but I do not talk about my diagnosis entirely for money. It is an added bonus but I talk about my Autism for educational purposes and to inspire people and raise awareness. I know it sounds cliche to say this, but I feel I have the best job in the world. I help people both on and off the Autism Spectrum by telling my story. So today at Towson University was all women, which I think is interesting. Autism is more prevalent in males than females, so in that regard, I would like to see the roles reversed, if that makes any sense. In other words, a female on the Spectrum giving her POV or perspective of  how Autism impacts her. And that’s why I think Allie and I would be perfect co-workers. Allie can give her side of the story and I can give mine. People can see just how unique and different two people with the same diagnosis are. My job at Pathfinders does just that, BUT my co-worker is lower functioning and has a hard time talking…and is a male. So two men advocating. That makes it sound like Autism is male-driven. I feel when people think of Autism, they think of boys. Not true. But going back to today…I am very appreciative of the opportunity I was given to, for lack of a better term, “Teach” a college class. I got to take over a Towson class for 40 minutes and make it informal and conversational. And that’s how I prefer talking about Autism to people. Everyday casual conversation. I was essentially an assignment for these college students. To me, that is almost a badge of honor. I am helping inspire the next generation of special education instructors. That is like a high to me. All eyes on me, listening to what I have to say, and applying it to everyday situations is the biggest form of flattery. BUT I feel I am walking a thin line or on eggshells whenever I talk about Autism. The last thing I want people to do is take what I say about Autism as a blanket story and apply it to other people on the Spectrum. Do not…let me repeat…DO NOT DO THAT!!!!!!!! That is a huge insult to me and my work, in my opinion. I do not want “normal” people who listen to what I am saying and thinking that it will work for every single person on the Spectrum. And when it does not work, they come back and say “You lied!” Um…no I did not! I gave MY personal perspective on it…not yours, not theirs, not the world’s…MINE AND MINE ONLY! I have no idea how Autism impacts others. BUT if I inspire one person to do what I am doing and spread the message about Autism and its impacts on them as an individual, I think I am a success. I have a love/hate relationship with being almost the “official authority” or the “go-to” person for Autism in Baltimore. I am flattered and honored that people see me and almost idolize me like that, sure. BUT I am extremely apprehensive about saying anything about Autism because, again, it’s just me. I am not talking about the entire Autism community. I do not want people to get that idea. I have to kind of tip-toe my way about talking about the diagnosis. It’s nice to be so highly thought of, but I feel a lot of pressure. I can’t mess up. I CANNOT misspeak. If I say one wrong thing, it could potentially ruin my status and maybe even alter other people on the Spectrum’s lives for the worse. I could not live with myself knowing I messed up another person on the Spectrum’s life. In closing, my posts and opinions, views, experiences, and stance on Autism are my own. NOBODY ELSE’S! Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your take on this. Thanks!

-Tom

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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