Maryland Heights Local Is a National Spokesman for Aspergers Disorder
Aaron Likens has found success and happiness in his lifetime.
Aaron Likens is a 29-year-old who suffers from Aspergers, a potentially serious debilitating mental disorder.
Aspergers Disorder is a milder variant of Autistic Disorder.
Aspergers Disorder affects individuals who are characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior in childhood. There are impairments in two-sided social interaction and non-verbal communication.
Though grammatical, their speech may sound peculiar due to abnormalities of inflection and a repetitive pattern. Clumsiness may be prominent both in their articulation and gross motor behavior. They usually have a circumscribed area of interest which usually leaves no room for more age appropriate, common interests.
Some examples are cars, trains, French Literature, door knobs and hinges, cappuccino, meteorology, astronomy or history.
This description depicts Likens almost perfectly.
Although he has no formal education more than a GED (General Education Diploma.) He dropped out of home schooling at age 16, yet recorded the second-highest score in the state the year he took the test. His fourth book on the subject of Aspergers debuts in October and has a blog with some 900 followers. He has traveled across the country as an ambassador for Aspergers research and used to races cars and is involved in the sport as an avocation.
Some Aspergers suffers are incapable of working. Likens, who lives in Maryland Heights is a full time employee of TouchPoint Autism in Creve Coeur.
He often speaks to EMS, police and fire personnel, school children and parents groups about this affliction. His words are captivating.
Life has never been easy for Likens. He was told at age 20 he had Aspergers and likely would never get a job, have friends or find happiness.
All of this is not so. He has the job, some friends and appears to be content with his life.
When he’s not working, he’s involved with cross country motor sports. He serves as clerk of the course at race events and is the flagman at the finish line of those races. He’s attended every Indy 500 (where he grew up) since 1997 and his goal is to be the official flag waver at the finish line of this epic event some day.
He self published his first book “Finding Kansas,” but at first got nowhere. The 240 page spell binder is written in stream of consciousness. “I’ve never read a word of the book. That would be just too emotional for me,” he confesses.
Tears did come to his eyes when it finally became published by Amazon.com and he walked into a Barnes & Noble book store only to see the book already on the shelf.
“I’m kind of a writer by accident. I just kept diaries to try to communicate to my parents my emotions and my feelings. It is all very impactful. When I was a kid, I had no desire go outside for recess. Why would I want to do that when there’s a cool game to play on the computer?” he questioned.
Recently he road tripped some 8,900 miles from New York City to Los Angeles, speaking mostly to children in Lutheran Schools. He did a brief radio appearance on WGNU Radio in Chicago. “The female host was almost in tears by the time I was done,” said Likens.
For that, he was presented the 2012 Mental Health Champions Award by the Missouri Mental Health Foundation in Jefferson City.
He takes everything in stride.
“I wrote ‘Finding Kansas,’ kind of as a metaphor for finding happiness. “I found my peace of mind in a comfortable place like Kansas.” Hence the title of the book.
Most of the non-road days are spent at a desk at the TouchPoint headquarters. He writes his daily blog there. “I’m always thinking what I’ll be writing the next day and the next day,” he said.
“My goal was always to become a race driver. I started out in Las Vegas racing, but the sponsors didn’t come through with the money.”
But that’s OK. Likens has found peace with himself and a professional career to boot. Not bad for a young man with a formal education of just one semester in a community college.