March 6, 2013
By Lee Passehl
I have talked about my radio control car racing before. For the past five months, I have been racing in a league called the Ultimate Formula One Winter Series. Everybody I race against is neurotypical. A big reason why I race is that I am treated as a normal person, not as someone special-disabled. When I step onto that drivers stand and I squeeze the trigger, I am on the same neurotypical playing field as everyone else on the track. In fact, I am respected.
But it took many years and lots of painful lessons learning the hard way. When I would misbehave at the track, my dad would pack up everything and send us home early. I had to learn about sportsmanship, etiquette, tolerance, disappointment and, most of all, self-control. This meant following the appropriate social rules. I started to understand this after a phone call from the race director at my former home track. I had screamed obscenities at drivers who would not get out of my way. The track owner called my parents the following night and said that if I behaved like that again, I would not be allowed to race at the track again.
My parents knew that winning was really important to me; I would do anything to keep competing. I always had to be first, like first in line at the bus stop. Most people let me through or else I would have a meltdown. Obviously, I didn't have a lot of patience. I had to learn to control myself and not be so demanding. One year I rolled my car over a pylon while trying to take the lead on the first lap of a big race. Had I waited for the leader to make a mistake, I would have won the national championship. By learning to be more patient, I drove better, and was able to drive more cleanly and perform better in races. It has also forced me to communicate better with my parents and other people. My dad sets up most of my cars, and I have to be clear about how the car is responding so we can make the proper adjustments.
For me, racing has turned an undisciplined child into a well-behaved and socially-acceptable man. I learned by having my privileges taken away and returned many times. I am still working on my skills today. There's so much I still don't understand. I hope every autistic can find something that can help them integrate into the social world. Radio Control car racing taught me how to lose and lose graciously. It has helped me set goals and to work slowly to achieve something, even if it took a long time.
If you are interested in seeing my latest racing pursuits, here's a link to the club site news.
Lee blogs for the Autism Society about his life with autism. Read his story!
Topics:Living with Autism
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