By Ron Sandison
Early in my adult life autism caused me to be underemployed for all the degrees I had earned including a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University. My first two years after seminary I was employed part-time as a telemarketer and part-time in a church as an intern for youth ministry. I saw this job as a curse from God—I hated it. Now looking back I can see the humor in it and the great skills God developed in me through telemarketing. These skills were essential in writing my book A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.
One humorous incident, I fondly recall, occurred when I sold Omni Home Security System. I became frustrated with the constant clicks from people hanging up on me—heightened by my sensory issues with sound. The home owner would state, “I already have one!” Click. Tired and frustrated from eight hours on the phone, I decided, “I’ll devise the perfect response to the next home owner.” Whom should claim to have a home security system, as did 90% of the perspective clients we called.
“I already have a home security system. Thank you,” the home owner replied.
“Please, let me ask you a few quick questions. To be sure, your system is up-to-date.”
“Okay, but keep it short. I am busy making supper.”
“Is it in a black box?”
“Does it have an automatic timer?”
“Do you cut the blue wire but never the red and orange ones?”
“You don’t have a home security system, Miss. You have a bomb!” I replied. The call center became dead silent. You could hear an ant sneeze.
Thank God, my unfiltered autism comments have become fewer and fewer over the years. Telemarketing was not a curse but, in fact, a blessing in disguise from God. Through telemarketing I learned three main skills that have empowered me as an autism advocate.
#1 Communication skills to share my wisdom and express my ideas to the world.
One of the battles I fought with autism was lack of communication skills. My speech development was so delayed that my seven year old brother Chuck boasted to his friends, “I think Ron’s from Norway since he sounds Norwegian.” It took me over ten years of intensive speech therapy to be able to pronounce words with “TH” and “L” sounds. I gained new communication skills telemarketing by chatting on the phone to hundreds of random people and learning to ask appropriate questions and engage my listeners’ attention.
#2 Success in life is a numbers games so don’t give up.
In telemarketing 99% of perspective buyers decline the service but 1% respond positively. The trademark of a successful telemarketer is he or she never takes rejection personally—this is hard with Asperger’s. Perseverance leads to sales. While writing my book I interview over 40 of the top autism experts and over 40 parents who have a child or children with autism. I also had hundreds of experts and parents reject my cold-calls and emails for an interview. Instead of taking these rejections personally and thinking, “I am a failure”, I shook the dust off my feet—sending another email or making another call.
The next call or email often lead to a speaking engagement or an interview. As King Solomon stated, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).
#3 Confidence to speak up for injustice.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Telemarketing helped me gain self-confidence to speak and share my journey with autism. In high school I was scared to death to call a girl on the phone to ask for a date. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was chatting on the phone with Kelly who asked me, “Why does your voice lack inflections? You sound like a Transformer.” I had a crush on her and felt embarrassed by her question.
I currently speak around the U.S on autism awareness and anti-bullying giving a voice to those on the spectrum without a voice. During my book tour I have spoken at over 30 events in 3 months and had many radio interviews plus TV appearances. The next time a telemarketer calls you right at suppertime before you drop an F-bomb or slam your phone down; remember the person on the other end could have sensory issues and through telemarketing is developing life skills to gain independence.
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.
He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website http://www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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