If anyone were to told me before I started OT school, "Bill, you are going to go through some outrageous changes as you are going through OT school." I would have said, "I am determined to make some changes, since OT is giving me a second chance at a job. But, outrageous? Are you kidding me?" A year and a half later, I sure have gone through some major changes- from trying to run for three different leadership positions, to being the student committee chair for AAPOTA, to being in the middle of this year's ASD Steering Committee elections, to taking part of Occupational Theatre project, to now drafting a presentation proposal to speak at my state OT association's conference. I guess you wouldn't think of these things from a normally quiet and reserved person like me.
As I was wondering why, I actually thought of a rugby-esque scavenger hunt. (I put rugby because it's a fairly rough sport, especially considering the players don't have the benefits of helmet and shoulder pads like football players do.) The participants would be for those who are aspiring to be in OT leadership. Each time an opportunity comes up, we are put into a battle box in trying to find the treasure(s). There might be only one treasure. There might be more than one treasure. But, it all depends on the situation. In the end, the winners earn the treasure, or the leadership positions/opportunities. The losers, on the other hand, will get mystery prizes. They might be useless pieces of junk, or they might be something valuable that doesn't seem like much when they first got it.
As for me, I ended up getting the mystery prize for my first 3 times. I was about to throw them away before I got my leadership position at AAPOTA. So, I held on to these "seemingly worthless" mystery prizes. Eventually, they turned into something tangible. For example, I somehow found my way to be involved in my OT school's student council. Another example is that I am able to connect with this year's ASD Steering Committee candidates through my prior campaign experience... which eventually led me to being the director of the Occupational Theatre Project. Of course, along the way, I have built a strong friendship with my former ASD Steering Committee election opponent, Jaclyn Tarloff, which turned out to be instrumental for my own OT journey- in both being a contributor and leader in the OT profession.
Of course, having seen Jaclyn accomplished so much since we met at the Student Conclave and the fact that I have been called an OTS celebrity by several OTS's and OTAS's from other schools, I felt that it's time to challenge myself a little further. As I was struggling to think about what to do after Occupational Theatre, one of my instructors mentioned that students could try to be presenters at my state OT association's conference- whether it's a poster or a presentation.
I initially thought, "I don't have poster material stuff. But, I might have a presentation worthy stuff. On the other hand, can I even speak for 1 hour? 10 to 15 minutes is really stretching it under normal circumstances. Do I want to include professionals?"
On my drive back home, the Aspie me thought, "That's way beyond my capabilities! I am not the type who can ramble on and on for even 30 minutes. Plus, the idea could be very outrageous! This is not happening." But, the OT me thought, "You are the best person who can speak for Aspies in the OT world! Imagine future AOTA presidents giving you credit for changing how the OT profession deals with individuals with autism. Also, since you said you want to deliver an Eleanor Slagle lecture some day, this is a step that you must take! Plus, I am sure the OT and OTA students from other schools (aside from USC) will be proud of you no matter what. Besides, if it's a big hit, you can expand on it and bring it to future AOTA conferences."
Ultimately, I took a deep breath and told myself I am going to do this. I am working on the proposing phase right now, which I must get a proposal done before I head off to Philadelphia for the AOTA conference. Like the occupational theatre project, I decided that I am going to have fun in this challenging process.
Bill, you will be great. It is so courageous of you to speak about your experience and share with the your OT community how we can best serve and work ALONGSIDE our diverse clients and colleagues. Kudos.
However, I have one bone to pick with you! :) In my current fieldwork placement, one of my favorite language strategies we use with children in creating some therapeutic competition for motivation, is to stray from the "winner vs. loser" paradigm and, instead, talk about 1st place and 2nd place. Just as you have found in your leadership endeavors, when one door closes- another opens! And as those doors have opened for you, they do for each of us, in a way that is conducive to our growth and understanding, as well as tenascity! While Dr. Clark refers to us all as powerful pixels, we still have puzzle piece edges... and we just need to find the place uniquely created for us that is our right "fit", and that allows us to contribute to our OT community in a way that cultivates our special skills and abilities! I have not a doubt in my mind that you have been able to do so through seeking positions, and finding yourself somewhere unexpected along the way. THAT is winning: Finding your way when plans sometimes change.
You will inspire many. I cannot wait to see how your presentation takes shape. Big high fives, buddy! :)
I think modern day culture in the context of winning and losing really intoxicates people with autism, or any other persons who can take things super literally. Of course, a lot of things in the real world where someone is bound to lose out makes things a lot worse. I remember a quote as I was writing this, "Nobody remembers who finish second but the guy (or girl) who finishes second." For a person like me, that quote could imply to me that, "Hey! I must finish first, or wherever I can to at least show that I accomplished something! Who knows... I might not have another opportunity to be this close again."
Fortunately, that's where my knowledge of Chinese idioms comes in to "counteract" this. Basically, the idiom said, "Failure sometimes are precursors to success." It takes a while, but this is what will eventually help me rationalize in these situations. :)
Then there's the "finding your way when plans sometimes change" piece. This might actually be something difficult for someone with my disability as well. I have heard a lecture by Amy Laurent, a notable OT in autism research, in my school based OT class this year. She basically told the class that stubbornness can be a trait for people with autism. In the context of competition, these people could say something like, "Why didn't I win? I am as good as the person who beat me, if not better. Moreover, I don't get to do what I desired to do now because I lose."
Basically, these people could hear the door slamming shut on them, but they might not hear another door is opening for them. Even if they hear another door is opening, they might fear that that door will also slamming shut for them again. After certain number of times, they could prefer to distant themselves from the doors so that they don't hear the loud slamming of the doors.
Of course... now that you have commented... I actually think a roly poly could do the trick as well. Not only it could be a good fun toy for young children with autism to play with, it actually could be a nice education tool, too. I am sure the OT in you will know what to do with this. :)
Anyway, I think you might have given me a theme of what I want to cover in my presentation proposal.
Score! See? Now that's a winner's way, Bill! :)