“Until the age of five, I was classified as an autistic child.” This revelation shocked my public speaking class in 1971. I chose autism as the subject for an “informational speech” assignment because I was also taking a psychology course called Exceptional Children. I’d just read a chapter on the little-known condition and found it fascinating. But a good speech requires more than an interesting topic. It needs an ending that packs a punch. Because I was majoring in drama, not journalism, I didn’t think twice about using some creative license. My startling “revelation” was a boldfaced lie.
Two things I didn’t anticipate. An informational speech is followed by time for questions. My classmates had plenty, most concerning what I remembered from back then. I improvised like crazy about a soft-spoken woman, repetitive behavior, and other false memories. At the end, my professor commented on how remarkable it was that I was now an extroverted theater student. I hoped my intense blushing would not give me away as I returned to my seat. Apparently not. I got an A.