Braintree man with Asperger’s syndrome finds his voice in Quincy Toastmasters
QUINCY – Clive Wan has Asperger’s Syndrome, and for people with autism, social situations can be difficult. Typically quiet, he joined the Quincy 675 Toastmasters Club in 2016 to gain speaking confidence.
“I don’t have a lot of social interaction,” Wan said. Yet the 34-year-old Braintree resident has become president of the club, which meets at Quincy College.
Scott Sucy, from Braintree, said: “When it came time to nominate someone to be my successor as club chairman, I wanted to choose someone who would not only be a great chairman, but who would also personally benefit from serve in this position. .”
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The Quincy 675 Toastmasters, a chapter of the public speaking club Toastmasters International, has been helping its members improve their confidence and presentation skills for more than 70 years. Each week, members share an evening of speeches, critiques, and camaraderie.
Wan has come a long way. His first talks with the club were full of statistics. As he spoke, he held his hands clasped at his sides and stared at the ceiling. Over time, with positive feedback, he practiced making eye contact and adopting more natural body language.
Fear of public speaking is common, whether speaking in a group, giving a work presentation, or leading a project. Wan’s hard work won the hearts of his fellow members.
Wan is a process engineer who studies flow and pressure in industrial piping systems. As a child, he took special education classes and moved to mainstream school. Wan has two degrees in chemical engineering: his bachelor’s degree from UMass-Amherst and a master’s degree from Cornell University.
Toastmasters teaches many ways a speaker can engage an audience. Once, Wan challenged himself to give a humorous speech. He told how, as a child, he studied maps. It was a fascination that annoyed his mother, who saw it as a waste of time. She thought he should read books instead.
Then one day in 2017, his family flew to Seattle to visit his aunt and uncle. Driving from Seattle airport, their GPS wasn’t working and her family’s smartphones were running out of battery. But Wan came to the rescue. He guided his father to the correct highways and exits, all from memory. There were laughs when Wan finished his speech.
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“I told my mom that I guess it was good that I wasted all that time studying maps,” he said.
Wan has good spatial skills and said, “Asperger can be more focused on things that form a pattern. Visually, colors, shapes, and patterns are easier to remember.”
Each speech is graded by a club member, and Wan has worked to incorporate the rater’s suggestions for natural gestures, effective pauses, and fluency of words.
Wan said concentration was difficult.
“People with Asperger’s think too much about their surroundings. I can overthink or focus on distractions.
Although his progress is remarkable, Wan’s public speaking only takes place at his club.
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“It’s socially awkward. It’s hard to make friends. Toastmasters makes me feel comfortable because I have a social group to go to. I wish I could take the initiative to go out and talk to people instead of staying home.
Maybe things are about to change. Wan’s presidency ends in June, and he has volunteered to be the new manager of Toastmasters Area 64, which requires him to visit and interact with other clubs.
What advice does he have for those who would like to befriend him?
“We think in different ways,” he said. “Realize what benefits and positive qualities people with Asperger’s bring to the table.”
For more information about Quincy 675 Toastmasters, visit quincy675.toastmastersclubs.org.
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Milton resident Suzette Martinez Standring writes Bright Side, a good news column with information about the South Shore and the people who live there. If you have an idea for a future column, contact her at [email protected] Also visit www.readsuzette.com.
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