NEW TERRITORY

Today (May 1, 2019) opened a new page in my life as an Autism self-advocate. I talked to Baltimore County police cadets about safe interaction with those who may have Autism or an I/DD (Intellectual Developmental Disability). The training took place at CCBC Dundalk. Truth be told, I was kind of intimidated during the training. This was for two reasons. One: It was my first day and first time doing this type of training. And two: I’m thinking, “Oh God! I’m surrounded by cops!” But it was all good. I was actually sort of welcomed with open arms as a guest of honor. I got the impression that they wanted to be there and involved. These recruits and cadets wanted to learn more. I had a co-worker, 30 cadets, 3 police instructors, and a job coach in the room. Once I relaxed and reassured myself that this was “just another day at work” I was fine. I’d even go as far as to say I had a little bit of fun. At the very least, it was informative and a great learning experience.

It was sort of weird for me to be co-training on something I have little to no experience with in my personal life. I felt out of my element. Hospital settings? No problem! I have trained with my bosses and co-workers in medical settings since December of 2016. Plus I felt maybe a little more than qualified for the position and comfortable from day 1 because I was so used to used medical environments at that point. Now take something you know so well like the back of your hand and go, “Oop, no. This is totally different.” Now all of a sudden, it’s a totally different story. I know I will warm up to the Law Enforcement trainings and get accustomed to it and what to do and expect. But as of today, Day 1, it was nerve-wracking. All these thoughts were racing through my mind. “What if I screw up?”/”What if I say or do something wrong?”/”What if they don’t understand what I am doing or saying?”

But what I can say from this one first-ever police training, I can tell you that unless I wildly misjudged the cadets’ demeanor and attitude, they got exactly what I was trying to convey. I even got a standing ovation from the officers, cadets, and instructors. That is not something they had to do, and it was unexpected, but it felt good to be recognized and appreciated.

So I am glad I went out of my comfort zone today. If anything, it helped me as much as it helped the cadets. It helped me expand my knowledge of Autism and community integration and safety. It helped me broaden my horizons. I fully intend on continuing Law Enforcement trainings as well as my usual hospital trainings. I know I am helping make a difference and maybe a safer environment for all involved in Maryland, at least parts of Baltimore. I am getting paid to do the training today, but to me that’s just an added incentive. The real reason I do this is because I feel good knowing I am making a difference–at least I am part of making a difference–in peoples’ lives. It really is fulfilling and the best feeling I could ever ask for! And to have the chance within my line of work to get to experience that fulfillment time and time again, I feel honored and blessed.

This is not me being arrogant, self-centered, big-headed, conceited, or anything like that. I get thank you’s, adulations, awards, pride, self-satisfaction, recognition, a paycheck, and for the first time today, a standing ovation. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all that. But to me, it comes with the territory. This, to me, is a JOB! I am not by any means in it for recognition (well maybe partially that), fame, fortune, money, or adulations. I do it because I know I am educating as well as entertaining. I legitimately LOVE what I do! I love the fact my work is my play and passion!

So I want to hear from you. Have you ever gone out of your comfort zone or area of expertise? And how did it turn out? Thanks for reading and as always, feel free to comment!

Best,

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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