The Energy of Austism


In science class, we learn that that there are two kinds of energy – kinetic and potential.  The differences in life and on the course are profound.  For autistics, it’s another obstacle.

My son often sees himself as a budding expert.  Music is his current focus.  “People just have to give me a chance.  I’ll be great,” he says.  We tell him the “secret” is practice, practice, practice.  He says he has all the greatness bottled up inside.  Someone just has to give him a chance.  He does not understand the difference between doing and desiring, kinetic and potential.

I say to him, “People will judge you and remember you for your actions.  Not your words.  Don’t tell me how great you are or want to be.  Show me.  Turn that potential into action.”  At this time, neither of us are on the same page.  We don’t understand each other.  He does not grasp this concept.  I have a better understanding of where he is coming from.

Growing up I kind of had the same problem.  I had a tremendous desire to excel in sports and music.  But I did not like to practice.  I truly believed that the stronger the desire, the greater the chance of success because surely people would recognize that admirable trait in me, give me the big break, and then magic would happen.  But it never did until much later in life – after I learned the hard lessons and got over the self-inflicted hurts of rejection.  Will Aaron ever get there?  I don’t know if his autism will block it or not.

In the meantime, he came to me one night and said he wanted to get back into physical training.  But all the wrong words came out of his mouth, starting with – “But.”  I refrained from the usual lecture of kinetic/potential.  I needed a new approach.  I’m convinced of his potential.  He’s long, lean, and fast.  His body is hungry for growth and that showed during the summer as we trained together.  He got stronger.  He could be explosive.  He overcame a lot of autism-related obstacles.  We still haven’t gotten to the mud part.  Now, cold seems to be a factor.  He is convinced that the cold weather gives him severe headaches.  Now we may have to strike cold water obstacles too.

Kinetic/potential energy issues are not limited to people on the autistic spectrum.  I see people freeze all the time at obstacles.  Fear often induces a dead stop on the course.  That potential energy can either translate into burpees, try, or do.  Misdirected energy is nearly always harmful however.  The best performance is always pure directed energy that overcomes the obstacle.  Mixed energy often results in injury, bruised egos, and latent energy.

That latter is a negative energy that builds up over time.  It creates an electro-chemical reaction in the brain.  Every time it is stimulated, it invokes a memory of the first instance.  Your brain will remember the first time you injured something.  Every emotion, every pain, every circumstance.  Before you ever try again, all of that comes back and activates.  You re-live the entire event.  The latent energy builds up and turns into an opposition to potential.  At this point, you can either give-up or try another way to get to kinetic.

The best way is to let go.  I had to let go of all that negative crap built up over a childhood of failure.  The mean kids and adults.  Hurtful words.  Rejection.  Lost opportunities.  I had to let go of the feelings I had at the time of some injuries.  Like, “How could I have been so stupid?”  I learned this valuable lesson from a yoga master.

Will it work for my son?  I will try.  His brain is wired differently so he may not get it.  But I will try.  I want him on the course.  But my desire and potential for him only goes kinetic when he does.  My battle is to keep the latent, negative energy demons away from us.  Forget the last time and move forward.


Mr. Caldwell, aka the OCRMudmaster, is an competitive master's division OCR athlete.He lives in Medford Lakes, NJ with his wife and three sons.He trains in his backyard on his DIY gym.

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