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Asperger's and public speaking

Discussion in 'General Autism Discussion' started by Pete, Mar 12, 2014.

  1. Pete

    Pete Active Member

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    Do you think that Asperger's itself can be responsible for a fear of public speaking or doing poorly at public speaking? Or are other traits such as Anxiety Disorder more likely to be responsible?

    I'm newly diagnosed with AS and I have always found public speaking really difficult. In my employment I'm required to give presentations from time to time. Now that I'm in my 40's I have improved a lot and can usually present ok, but this week I had a shocker, lost train of thought and got nervous/anxious, and felt mortified afterwards. Definitely a big blow to confidence!

    How do you deal with public speaking? Avoidance seems like the most attractive option at the moment but that could harm job prospects. But maybe just accepting that it's not for me and thereby being less anxious is the best way to go. Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Pete
     
  2. Turk

    Turk Well-Known Member

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    Im not sure the fear of public speaking is purely the domain of the Aspie. I know quite a few. NT's who share the same fear. I have no doubts that Aspergers or an anxiety condition can amplify the fear though. I personally dont like public speaking either, but its usually job related and something I know a lot about. So It kind of takes the edge off. The fact you have spoken in public before and you've managed, generally puts you in the same class as everyone else. I think we all have our bad days. As an Aspie though, those bad days have us questioning ourselves, more than others. If you know the subject matter, it just comes down to managing the anxiety. For me it involves running through the presentation out loud, beforehand, controlled breathing and minimal eye contact. Eye contact is still obviously important, to a degree, but I occupy myself with notes etc and just glance around the room, rather than fixing my eyes on individuals. Not ideal but functional
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014
  3. King_Oni

    King_Oni Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I think it's anxiety and not AS... but then again, I shift around between intro- and extrovertness from time to time.

    I don't mind public speaking as much, granted it's about something I want to speak about and know what I"m representing. I will not get on a stage and talk about something I don't support (even if it's for a job/company).

    However, and here's my personal issue with speaking in general. My speaking tends to be messy. I tend to forget words at times, mix up words and that makes any public speaking activity a bit messy and less professional. That's not when addressing a crowd only, that's just how I tend to speak anywhere. With my parents, my girlfriend, a cashier... it's not as much of a stutter as it is my brain leaving words out and subsequently realizing "wait... you forgot a word". I'm a bit scatterbrained with that.

    With public speaking I think preparation is important (and perhaps even more so when you're an aspie who might deal with anxiety and such). But then again, the times where I had interaction with a large crowd was of a different and less formal kind. Being on a stage as a vocalist for a band doesn't really leave you prepared and you gotta improvise a bit on the go.
     
  4. Sportster

    Sportster Aged to Perfection V.I.P Member

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    I have to agree with King, I think it's more of an anxiety thing and not the AS. I speak publicly on a regular basis, probably more so than one would expect from an Aspie. I'm regularly asked to preach at church and even teach a Sunday school class. Oddly enough, neither activity bothers me. On the other hand, though, I cannot sit and have a one-on-one conversation with someone like in a counseling environment. My brain locks up and I almost go mute.

    I do have one little trick that helps when I have to speak publicly. I take off my glasses so I can't see the people. All I see are shapes, but no faces. Everyone thinks I do a good job of "addressing the crowd," but all I do is look from one shape to the next.
     
  5. Jimbo

    Jimbo Well-Known Member

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    I have been preaching as a layspeaker in churches for 16 years and I still get a little nervous, but it all goes away as soon as I get started. I think my aspieness causes me to over prepare. I have had people tell me I am the most prepared speaker they have seen. After you do it awhile you will get used to it. I love it now and folks say I'm good at it and that my messages always seem very heartfelt. I think aspies have a natural lack of self esteem and confidence. You probably visualize yourself as something totally different than what others see in you. Good luck!
     
  6. Vanilla

    Vanilla Your friendly neighbourhood hedgehog V.I.P Member

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    I once spoke with a therapist about this, who is formally diagnosed with AS herself. She told me that one problem many Aspies have with public speaking can stem from the fact that some (not all) people with Asperger's are better at communicating through typing, or writing, than speaking verbally.

    The reason behind this she explained was that while we are intelligent people, we take longer to process information in our minds (as apparently we retain so much information, that it takes a while to rifle through these thoughts). It means that we need time to properly construct our sentences, which writing gives us the luxury of doing, where as in speaking, you need to be fast one your feet.

    This is a problem I have anyway.
     
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  7. AspieSam

    AspieSam Disability Advocate and Sensory expert

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    I'm very good at it. But, like Vanilla's therapist said, I am better with a script rehearsed over and over till it sounds natural. But, my need for this is magnified buy my dysgraphia ( perhaps), dyslexia, and ADD. Lucky for me, I write speeches, essays, ect, when possible: often, like some people speak, who speak fairly well. Without advanced vocab. I'm sure, I'm not the only aspie who writes their speech, story, etc, out first. And rehearses a lot.
     
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  8. Flinty

    Flinty Off Indefinite Hiatus, I Guess V.I.P Member

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    Here's the thing about public speaking: succeed at it once and it shouldn't bother you again. At least that's my experience.

    In other words: it's probably not an ASD thing.
     
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  9. ChildoftheCorn

    ChildoftheCorn Active Member

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    I present around the state on a regular basis, and I'm currently coteaching a class at the community college. I hate it. Every eye is like a death ray pointed in my direction.
     
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  10. wyverary

    wyverary Bare-footed hippie V.I.P Member

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    This is one of the defining characteristics of Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which I have but, as you said, many Aspies do not. There's a thread on the topic somewhere, I think...
     
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  11. GallacticGorilla

    GallacticGorilla Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the idea that aspies do not process information as quickly, and consequently not as good at speaking off the cuff. However, I used to hate public speaking. It is actually statistically one of the most common fears among people ( Aspie or not). That said, after being forced to do it a dozen or so times, i got over that fear. I plan what i have to say meticulously so Im not just grabbing at the air for what to say.

    I also had to take a public speaking class in college, and that probably was the biggest help of anything else.
     
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  12. Vanilla

    Vanilla Your friendly neighbourhood hedgehog V.I.P Member

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    Oh really? I'll have to look in to that
     
  13. Sully

    Sully Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I've seen a few surveys of people's greatest fears. I've never seen one where fear of public speaking didn't rank higher than fear of death.
     
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  14. Harrison

    Harrison The Mad Taoist

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    My job for many years involved public speaking plus I didn't know I was an aspie. Never had a problem with it after the first one, in fact I feel happier on the stage than in the audience.
     
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  15. AsheSkyler

    AsheSkyler Feathered Jester

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    I'm alright if I'm up there to entertain or educate, although I may be a bit jittery. But if I'm forced to do something controversial or it's just sprang on me that I have to get up in front of a crowd in two seconds, oh, it's bad. I can keep it together and put on an act, even if I come across a tad unhinged. Man, I really wish I'd melted down on the guy that put me through that last one, I'd have beat his butt and felt no remorse for it, and I'd bet he'd be a little more thoughtful of others in the future.
     
  16. Pondering

    Pondering Well-Known Member

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    I always get super jittery right before getting up and doing it but once I begin, it's fine. I focus on what I am talking about as opposed to how many people are looking at me. It makes it easier to know that people are usually there to listen, not to judge. If it is not my best speech etc. I find it also easier that people will forget it in 20 seconds. If it is good depending on the topic, it will make an impact on people. For the jitters, it helps to take a lap, take slow deep breaths, squeeze your shoulders as tight as you can for a few seconds and let go, try to keep your thoughts quiet, and smile. If you smile, you will feel better. Scientifically proven. Be confident. And drink a little bit of warm water to keep a moist throat and clear voice. I do public speaking quite often. It never gets easier and I'm never totally comfortable beforehand, but I have no difficulty in public speaking. Usually, it is a matter of effort. I don't think it has anything to do with AS. If someone is having a hard time with public speaking because it is frightening, then it is probably anxiety.
     
  17. Keith

    Keith Well-Known Member

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    I took a public speaking course in college and got an A. I credit my good memory and self-disciplinary skills when it comes to memorization and preparation. I was even able to do a good impromptu persuasive speech.
     
  18. zurb

    zurb Eschewer of Obfuscation

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    Personally, I have great difficulty distinguishing where my Aspergers stops and where 'comorbids' like depression, general anxiety, performance anxiety, selective mutism, tics etc start. Sure NTs can suffer all these things, but not usually together or to the same degree. So I'd answer your two questions with a big resounding YES!
    If you want some help with it, you might check out a local Toastmasters club.
     
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  19. grommet

    grommet Well-Known Member

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    Public speaking has always been easy for me. I have led groups and given lectures with as many as 50 people present. Since it is only me talking, I don't have to socialize really and I am speaking on a subject I know about also, I have high verbal skills so people often find me eloquent. I only mention that last part because I have had people say that to me many times.
     
  20. EdR

    EdR Well-Known Member

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    Speaking in public also come easily to me. The only source of anxiety that I have is if the talk is good enough or if I have done sufficient research. But once I'm on stage the performance is effortless.

    I have been told that I am in constant motion, walking, waving pointing, whatever..... Not sure if that is related to anything at all or if it is an unconscious measure that I take to expend energy and nervousness.

    While public speaking, I am talking at people, rather than to them. Afterwards, in the social phase I return to my socially awkward and inept self.

    Fear of public speaking is an affliction that affects most people. The secret is preparation and practice.

    You can practice on your own. Read a magazine article about something that really interests you and summarize it on three pages (1 1/2 minutes/page is my rule of thumb.) Read it through again and again until you have it down; not necessarily memorized verbatim, but something that approaches 50-75%.

    Now repeat it aloud several times, noting where you stumble. Work on the stumbles until they are covered.

    The penultimate step is to record yourself giving the speech looking "um's", "er's", "you know's", excessive pauses, cadence and other delivery issues. It is likely that you will be appalled at the frequency of these verbal slips. Don't worry, they become easy to control if you are conscious of them. A few scattered "um's" are not noticeable to the casual ear.

    Anyway, keep practicing and recording until you think you have a pretty good product.

    All that remains is to go through the same process with your specific speaking paper. It will be much easier than the second time. And your public speaking engagement will go well because you are prepared.

    After a few iterations, all you will need to do is prepare the talk before the engagement.