"Mom, my teacher was mad at me for asking to go to the bathroom each time I had to go, but what would happen if I left without asking? She wouldn't know where I was, and she wouldn't like that either, now would she?"
Ok. Tell me if I'm crazy.
So I was talking to someone just the other day about participating in a Life/Finance Coach's radio show. Part of the preparation process is to chat about background, my occupational concerns and of course Aspergers.
"You seem perfectly clear to me!" the producer said to me. (More than once.)
He was really nice and I know what he was saying. Although possibly a little detailed, I am typically able to get my point across. (Eventually.)
But consider another exchange. Now keep in mind that I am a writer and I get some pretty good feedback on what I have to say "on paper", and how I say it. ...And yet in an exchange with an organizer of a grass roots parents-of-kids-with-autism, I totally fucked up.
Here is what happened. There is a "playgoup" for people with autism. (In society today, I think that means "kids" since I think adults with autism feel pretty much invisible.) They have craft tables set up, a bake sale... You get the idea. Last month I asked if I could volunteer at a table, doing crafts with kids. They already had face painting, balloons, coloring, so I suggested origami. (Although I'd be happy to do anything to help out.) Now, I happen to know that high-functioning kids with autism/Aspergers, not to mention adults, would enjoy origami. (Has to do with the complexity of the folds.) In May it wasn't going to work for them and that was fine-- She suggested my sons and I attend as a parent and just mingle. So I did.
This month I began receiving emails for the volunteers, that it was "that time again" and who would like to volunteer for a table? The email specifically mentioned letting the organizer know if we had any hidden talents.
(Uh, yeah. I do origami.)
I emailed her and mentioned that I would love to do an origami table. She sent a great, enthusiastic response! She said she might even want to sit at that, and let's plan an origami table. She asked if I had the paper. (For 200 kids to use at least 3 or 4 pages each? Uh, no.) Were there any other supplies I'll need? Please respond asap so they can send out an email to the group, and add that origami will be attending. (That's my paradigm, not hers.)
I responded about the paper, and oh by the way if that won't work I can do simple balloon animals or face painting. In the email I casually (I think) asked if it would be OK to bring a few small-sized fliers to just set on the table for a class I'm teaching. I mentioned that I am trying to support myself independently and if I can bring the fliers great, if not that's fine. too.
Personally I was more excited about volunteering, rather than the possisble opportunity to promote a class. I thought hey-- two birds with one stone. But Origami? That definately takes top billing in my book.
Suddenly the organizer wasn't so excited about the origami.
"I think once you come to your first event, you will understsand the direction of the group."
I was maybe just a little bit miffed. (Just a little, of course.) I hadn't yet mentioned to her that my older son already asked if he could volunteer to do balloon animals at the June event. You see, my sons have a special place in the heart of a popular local performance clown. Had a little something to do with when Chili, my Aspie then 5 year old, asked her to make him a strand of DNA out of balloons. Add to that, that my older son Addison is like the pied piper with younger kids. (Without the funny pants. But he does tend to skip sometimes...)
Now, keep in mind that I also volunteered to do face painting. (If you've visited my shop on CafePress.com then you have already seen that I enjoy art and like to design. You can visit it at http://www.cafepress.com/APanopticLife . That's a plug, by the way! Make no mistake about it!)
So the point I'm making here is that the three of us were willing to come and contribute 2 volunteering bodies, at least. I also wouldn't have a problem contacting that performance clown, who very likely would have volunteered her time. And oh yeah, I get paid to work with kids- preschoolers- teaching them how to use the computer. So I'm pretty sure the kids would love me. (I'm not making any claims about the parents.) And all of this was overshadowed by the fact that I asked-- not insisted-- ASKED if it might be OK if I just left some fliers on my table while I am making cranes with the kids. The organizer's message was pretty clear: Maybe next time.
As a side note, she did ask me if the company where I'm teaching the autism class wanted to sponsor the event.
Is it just me, or was I blown off?
I responded to her, and although I tried to hide my "miffed-ness", I'm guessing maybe a little bit of it leaked out anyway.
She didn't respond, although that email was sent to the whole group, with a long admonishment regarding solicitation. They "will be asked to leave". (Wow. Harsh.)
So here I am, a person with Aspergers, trying to communicate with an organizer of an autism event. And yet I still can not get my point across. She seemed to think that my purpose was to solicit, when all I really wanted to do was volunteer, and now I'm not allowed to. Where did I go wrong? What happens the next time I have a question? Will I not be allowed to come at all? I feel like a puppy on the highway.
This is the dilemma of people with Aspergers. Everyone misunderstands. (Well, practically everyone. Aspies seem to understand eachother, surprisingly.)
I'm not even going to go into the trouble I had with whether or not to RSVP to the volunteers. Do I RSVP no for volunteering and yes for attending as an attendee? Jeez... Life can be so confusing. Ask me about how two Universal Laws can be diametrically opposed and yet tied together to unite cosmological realities. Ask me about the universe, but don't even try to get me to figure out a RSVP.
(By the way, that's cosmology, not cosmetology.)
The point I'm making here (yes there is one) is that as a person with Aspergers, how is it possible that I can express myself so clearly in some ways and be so completely unclear in others?
This guy I was talking to yesterday, the producer. He was really nice. He asked about why I had such trouble fitting in at an office, and the other ways my Aspergers is a challenge in my life. I told him it's my communication. I wasn't sure of how to respond when he said "Well, you sound clear to me."
Uh, thanks? (Just wait until I try to ask where the bathroom is.)