Blake: Interview with an Autistic Life Skills Coach
Blake Baumann is a life and success coach for young adults with autism through his business ASPIE-R.
He has the passion, experience, and drive to provide resources and help for autistic young adults who may not find help elsewhere.
Blake shares his wisdom and expertise with us from the Austin, Texas area.
How did you think of the idea for your business?
As someone who has autism, and a parent of 2 young adults with autism, other parents of autistic adolescents and young adults would often come me to ask me how I got my kids to drive, work, go to college, have friends, and even go out on dates. At the time I didn’t realize how unusual that was because I didn’t know any different.
I didn’t discover that I had autism (Asperger’s) until my eldest son received a diagnosis when he was 15 and then we discovered me as well as my eldest daughter had it too. At that time, my wife encouraged me to consider professionally helping other parents with their children and upon investigating I saw that there were a ton of resources for parents and children; however, very few for young adults.
I decided to research and saw that 50,000 adolescents with autism were turning 18 every year and just knowing there weren’t adequate resources, especially for Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder individuals (aka Asperger’s or High Functioning) which is where my children fell, sparked me to explore how I could help. Also, I saw that there wasn’t a lot of hope with most young adults on the spectrum averaging $9 per hour, only 15% finding full time employment, and then a higher suicide and substance abuse rates. It wasn’t a compelling future and I know that inside of every young adult is a genius that if you can help them tap into it, can help them to live an extraordinary life.
After much thought and exploring my passions, I chose the path of Life and Success coaching. I chose my business name which is ASPIE-R, pronounced “aspire or /əˈspī(ə)r/”, which is ASPIE + “R” meaning essentially to help autistic adults rise high to achieve their ambitions. My mission is to help autistic young adults to unleash their genius so they can live an extraordinary life.
How did you fund your business in the very beginning?
I was very fortunate to have the startup capital needed from the beginning. In my early 20’s I went through a difficult period of which I did not know that I had Asperger’s and just thought I was broken. I had a triggering event that pushed me to the edge where I decided to write down everything that I perceived was wrong with me so that I could fix it.
Number 1 on the list was social and personal communication. Over the next 3 years I read over 500 books, took training courses, and went to seminars with a focus to improve communication as I knew people would not learn to communicate with me and so I would need to learn to communicate with them. It served me well as I went from an hourly employee to an executive leader within 3 years. From that point I had the resources saved and invested 6-figures into self-education as there isn’t a whole lot of formalized autism training out there along with investing in an intensive professional coaching certification program.
How long have you been running your business?
I officially started my business in April of 2019 although I was certainly coaching well before it. I was an executive for a technology company for 10+ years and I was accustomed to working with young adults on the spectrum to help them balance life, have goals outside work, and succeed in their career. It was one of the things that sparked me to make the move of starting ASPIE-R.
Did you have any previous experience in your field before you started your business?
Informally I absolutely did. As an executive leader I prided myself on being able to take young adults and help them grow their careers as well as pursue dreams outside of work. I think it was primarily because of the struggles I had in my early 20’s and knowing the difference that can be made by having people who believe in you as well as the coaching and mentoring they provide. As the technology executive, I always felt a closeness to the neurodiverse individuals primarily because I understood them at a deeper level and because the neurotypicals typically looked down on them. I took it as my job to help them thrive and achieve at a high level which many of them did.
Now that your business has been running successfully, is there anything you wish would have done differently in the beginning?
The biggest thing that I wish I would have done differently is believed more in myself. Imposter syndrome veered its ugly head several times throughout the process which delayed me in starting my business. It was that I was not a doctor or medical professional that attended 8+ years of college or had a fancy degree hanging on the wall. What truly pushed me past that was my wife reminding me that I have something better than a medical degree or doctorate, and that is I have the experience of living with autism all my life, going through the struggles personally, and overcoming them in a big way. Also raising 3 neurodiverse children to be successful and help them to overcome their challenges. Once I truly took ownership of the belief, it was no looking back.
When your business was merely an idea, what steps did you take to make it a reality?
When I was deciding to take my business from an idea to reality, the steps that I took:
- The first thing I did was do market research to ensure there was a sustainable need for my business.
- After that I decided to find blueprints of successful life coaches to model what they were doing and then add my own spin on it to make my coaching business unique.
- I researched the best coaching certification programs that were more than just online courses as I wanted something with a lot of depth and then enrolled in coaching program.
- While in the coaching program I created my mission and vision statements for my business which led me to creating my company name.
- I formed my LLC through a service that does all the paperwork for you called incfile.
- I then went and designed my website at what was called Snapweb for $200 and launched it.
- From there I created a facebook video telling my family and friends what I do and asked them to share.
- Received my first client 2 days later and have not looked back
How has being autistic helped you succeed with your business?
My superpower that autism has given me is the ability to recognize patterns, whether in people or external systems. In people I can pick up on their patterns in their beliefs systems, rules, metaprograms, etc. and tap into it to show them how it is producing the undesired result. We can then shift or create a new pattern to generate the outcome they are after. I think the true gift in pattern recognition is in communication ironically. Having the struggles I had early on and investing so much into learning communication along with my pattern recognition superpower gives me insight into being able to speak the programming language of the person I am working with so that we are working in their own learning model which helps to produce results more efficiently and more rapidly. I have no doubt without this autism superpower I would not have the success I have had with coaching or throughout my executive business career.
Has being autistic created challenges for you? If so, what helped you overcome or cope with the difficulties?
So being autistic does come with challenges even to today. The three major challenges that I deal with personally:
- Protecting my battery life. Speaking to a ton of people drains me and to battle this I work-out daily, meditate, working on rewiring myself to where I get energized from speaking to people (work in progress) and then I get out to play golf where I can just be by myself out in nature. I have built boundaries with my family to know that if I am in my office that means I need alone time to recharge to which they respect.
- Paralysis of analysis. Having a mind that sees so many possibilities sometimes can cause it to lock up. I get to a point where I don’t take necessary actions because there is too many options. I have done my best to have default systems in place to make decisions to prevent this; however, it does still happen from time to time. In those times I will reach out to my wife or mentor to help make a decision so that inaction doesn’t last for more than a day or two.
- Anxiety. Generally, it’s caused by unexpected phone calls, meetings with parents of young adults who are interested in my services, events I need to attend, or going to places with a ton of energy like grocery or retail stores. Now, just because I experience it, 99% of the time it doesn’t interfere with my life as I have trained myself to take action despite it. Also, it has lessened as time goes. In working with my clients I teach them the strategies that I use so that they can move forward despite anxiety as well as work to dramatically reduce it.
Although I do have other sensory challenges from time to time, the three listed above are my main ones.
What advice would you give a fellow autistic person who is thinking of starting their own business?
Three pieces of advice that I would give you:
- Do it – 99% of success is just showing up. It’s amazing when you show up how things just seem to fall into place even if its not how you quite envisioned it.
- Build yourself a strong support system. Having people who believe in you, will cheer you on, and who you can turn too even if its just one other person exponentially increases your chance of success. The more you have the higher your chances go up in my experience.
- Block out the thought of perfectionism. Most people never start because they feel like they don’t have the perfect amount of knowledge or the perfect amount of resources or even the perfect amount (you fill in the blank). The truth is that there isn’t a perfect amount and as you take 1 step, opportunities will find you and your path will become clearer. You must take the imperfect action knowing that for every action you take there will be a learning moment that will help you to take a better next action to help you achieve your business goals,
Does your business have a social media profile or a website where The Autistic Innovator readers can follow you and learn more about what you do?
Facebook Page: @ASPIERCOACH