Speaking to Others – From My Perspective

I’m Alex Manners. I’m proud to be an Asperger’s Champion, a motivational speaker, TV & radio presenter & author. I’m focused, determined and have a lust for life. I consider myself lucky to have Asperger’s because I believe it will be the catalyst that allows me to “pursue my passions” and achieve my dreams!

I present talks on “My Life Living with Asperger’s” to many different companies, law firms, universities, schools and autism groups. I have presented talks to places such as Coca Cola, Linklaters, Viacom, Zurich Insurance and the Autism Shows across the UK. I have also written many articles and had many TV & Radio interviews on my Asperger’s, Presented my own children’s radio show for two years, have started my own “Autism & Football” campaign, appeared on series 10 & 11 of “The Undateables” on Channel 4 and written my own book.

Presenting live talks

Presenting talks in in front of hundreds of people would be daunting for most individuals! My grandma once said that she would not be able to eat for a week if she had to present a live talk. However, I absolutely love presenting talks all about my Asperger’s, whether online or face to face. I am never nervous and like to look upon this ability as one of my ‘Asperger’s Superpowers’.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 10 years old and have been presenting talks all about “My Life Living with Asperger’s” for the past three or four years. Before covid hit the UK I had never presented an online talk before. Suddenly that was about to change.

Online v face to face

At first, I found working online a challenge as I missed meeting people, travelling the UK and going on adventures. One of the most difficult things was that I could not see the reactions of people during a talk. I could therefore not gauge how a talk was going until the end. If I am being honest, I was only presenting talks online due to covid so I was in a pretty stressful place anyway.

Now I am presenting nearly all of my talks online and I have grown to love working in this way. Firstly, I can reach lots more people from all over the world. I am not limited to how many people can fit in a room so can essentially speak to as many people as I like. When presenting face to face talks, I can only fit one or maybe two in a day due to the logistics of travel. Now I can present up to five talks a day. I can also work from home, in my own office, in an environment totally suited to my needs.

Travel and public transport

However, the best thing about working online is that I don’t have to travel. Traveling can be the most challenging part about my work. What happens if one of my trains is delayed or what do I do if I lose my ticket. These are just some of the worries I have. Also, lots of people with Asperger’s struggle in busy environment and with certain sounds and smells. So, not having all of these travel worries is fantastic.

My advice

When presenting an online talk, I always make sure that I log in 10-15 minutes early. This gives me time if something goes wrong. I also ensure that I have a spare laptop, phone or device I can use should my main laptop stop working. My biggest worry Is always with the Wi-Fi. Luckily, I have never had a problem with my Wi-Fi yet during a talk. Our neighbours have a different internet provider and they have very kindly agreed that should our Wi-Fi stop working I can always go and work or present a talk in their house. So, having back up plans is really important.

When I am travelling to a venue by train, I always ensure that I get the train before the one I need. It is better to arrive early than be worried about being late! Another thing I always do, is print off any tickets. This is encase I have no Wi-Fi on my phone or my phone runs out of battery. I also print of my directions and times of each train. What I try to do is minimise an many possible problems as I can.

When I am presenting a talk, I always pretend that I am speaking to my parents in the living room. If there is something or someone I am familiar with then I can always focus on them during my talk. I also ensure that I can always see a clock. This helps me to dictate the timings of my talk.

What if you deliver a training session and a delegate has Asperger’s?

When you are speaking to somebody with Asperger’s there are a few things that you can do. Explain things in as much detail as you can, avoid using any idioms, phrases or sarcasm, give them more time to answer a question and don’t worry if they are not giving you any eye contact. Also, if you are asking them questions then closed questions are always better for us than open questions.

Always have a quiet space that the individual can use if they need a short break or if they become a little stressed. Adapting the environment is also very important. So, if they don’t like sitting near a clock due to the ticking noise then allow them to sit further way from the clock. If you know this individual will be present before the training starts, then send them over as much information about the training as you can beforehand. Include the structure of the session and any photos of the room or location. When sending over this information, it may be a good time to ask them about any adjustments that can be made to help them on the day.

Conclusion

Whilst having Asperger’s can be a challenge, it is also something that I look upon as a positive. Being able to start my own business and present talks in front of large audiences is definitely two of those positives or ‘Asperger’s Superpowers’. I never feel nervous speaking in front of large numbers of people and am very brave to be able to share my story to educate and inspire others. I also feel extremely lucky to have been able to manage my Asperger’s over the past 25 years. Because Asperger’s is a lifelong condition it will continue to pose many challenges. But those positive elements are the things I like to focus on every day. If I did not have Asperger’s, then I would not be Alex Manners.

If you want to achieve something in life and have the drive, determination and ‘never give up’ attitude, then I believe you can achieve anything.

Want to learn more about me or Asperger’s?

Grab a copy of my book, “That’s Not Right! My Life Living with Asperger’s” on Amazon in paperback or kindle.

My Website: www.thealexmanners.com

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