By Dan Coulter
Where’s the graduation speech for people with Asperger Syndrome?
Throughout June, I read parts of a number of graduation speeches. While much of the advice was good, and some was even funny, it struck me that it would be great to have a graduation speech specifically tuned to people with Asperger Syndrome.
So I wrote one. This is for anyone with Asperger Syndrome who graduated this year. From college, middle school, one job to another, World of Warcraft…anything.
As I look out at this sea of faces, few of which are making eye contact, I wonder how many of you would be more comfortable if you could stand up and walk around? As a person with Asperger Syndrome myself, I found pacing helps me concentrate. If that works for you, feel free. If any of you brought fidgets, by all means, use ‘em.
For my part, I’ve condensed my graduation advice into a series of short recommendations. Here goes.
Listen more than you talk. Listening shows a person that you have the excellent judgment to recognize that he or she is important. This is key in friendships, romance, employment and more.
Talk in bursts. Practice saying few sentences at a time and pausing to give others a chance to get their ideas in. If this forces you to make your points in a few words, this impresses people.
Impossible isn’t always. Research and modern scanning techniques show that we can often redirect the pathways in our brains to learn to do things that don’t come naturally or easily. Two words: motivation and practice.
Failure is a key to success. The best baseball players of all time struck out more times than they got hits. But they kept coming back to the plate. Learn from your strike outs and keep trying.
Develop your strengths. Using your natural abilities can impress people and give them a reason to look past odd behaviors. Finding a way to use your interests and strengths to land a good job is the Asperger Holy Grail.
Change what you can. If you can’t change everything you’d like to change about yourself, go as far as you can. People tend to give you the benefit of the doubt if they see you’re trying hard.
Meet people through your interests. Taking a class or joining a club with people who like what you like gives you topics for conversation and the chance to be with new people long enough for them to see the real you.
Become attractive by being confident. If you don’t see yourself as attractive, keep yourself clean, wear current clothing styles, comb your hair and work on your confidence. Confidence is its own make-over.
Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Confidence is quietly believing in your abilities. Arrogance is showing or telling other people you think you’re better at something than they are. People hate that.
Avoid needless arguments. When people disagree with you, you don’t automatically have try to convince them they are wrong. That drives people away. Respecting other people’s opinions is a ticket to acceptance.
Analyze criticism objectively. Discard what’s unfair, but use what’s accurate to change and improve. It can be hard for us to see our own shortcomings. Critics can do us a favor.
Hold your tongue. Train yourself to put comments that pop into your head on hold long enough to evaluate how they’ll be received by other people. What you wind up saying may not be as funny or dramatic, but it’s more likely to win you friends.
Practice your social skills. Good manners can be the bridge that lets you connect with others and unleash your talents.
Eat healthy and exercise. You’ll be stronger, feel and look better, and have an edge in the dating pool over the potatoes still on the couch.
Be an advocate. Stand up for yourself in polite, but assertive ways. Learn to ask for help when you need it. People respect self-respect.
Appreciate your family. As most people get older, they begin to see that their parents were actually making sense all along. Why wait?
I have more, but an Asperger speech that rambles on kind of defeats the purpose.
Whatever you graduated from this year, I hope you use your graduation as an opportunity to change for the better. If you don’t think and act like everyone else, make that a positive thing. There’s a saying, “Everyone wants to be normal, but no one wants to be average."
Think of how you can make people say, “He’s (She’s) different…Wow!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the book, "Life in the Asperger Lane" and thirteen videos about Asperger Syndrome and autism. The videos are available as DVDs or downloads. You can find more information and articles on his website at: coultervideo.com.
© Dan Coulter 2012 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved