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Playing in Traffic My Journey from an Autism Diagnosis to the Indy 500 Flagstand

Playing in Traffic is the inspirational true story of one man’s triumph over adversity. As a boy, Aaron Likens wanted nothing more than to fit in. Walking invisibly through everyday life was miles better than dealing with the chaos he found while trying to navigate his way around the roadblocks he found in school, in personal relationships, and in employment situations as a young adult. How ironic that someone who preferred not to be noticed would end up pursuing, and landing, one of the most visible jobs in chief starter of the Indianapolis 500, watching a celebrity wave the green flag to start the biggest automobile race in the world and the twin checkered flags that fly over its winner. At 20-years of age he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a condition now on the autism spectrum. For years Aaron struggled to cope with the reality that his life was different. But at least now he knows that there’s a reason for that difference; that’s better than the daily hurt he endured while wondering why things that came so easily to others were major hurdles for him. His diagnosis also brought out the best in those who believed in him. That started at home with his father, but then expanded to include friends in auto racing as well as individuals in the field of autism awareness, some of whom helped him unlock a hidden gift for training students, teachers, doctors, police officers, and FBI agents about autism. Ultimately, this is a feel-good story of overcoming obstacles both seen and unseen. But from the first page to the last – between the green and checkered flags, if you like – the life of Aaron Likens serves a reminder that with dedication, love, and patience, all things are possible.

quote“Since meeting Aaron Likens in 2009 and hiring him as an Autism Ambassador, his impact has been profound. Play- ing in Traffic distills his incredible journey from living with an autism spectrum diagnosis to becoming an acclaimed flagman for the Indy 500 and a beacon of hope for count- less individuals. Through his writing and his thousands of public presentations to a diverse array of audiences—from parents and educators to healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and even the FBI—Aaron has shared invaluable insights into life on the spectrum. His book is not just a story of racing or personal achievement; it’s a road map for understanding and inclusion, demonstrating the immeasurable value of seeing the world through a different lens.”  

—Ron Ekstrand, CEO Easterseals Arkansas

quote“In 2009, Aaron and his dad, Jim, walked into my office at the United States Auto Club. Aaron was quiet and reserved. Jim explained that Aaron had a condition that allowed him to process things visually more quickly than most people.

He’d always wanted to use those skills to follow his hero, Duane Sweeney, and be a flagman. Intrigued, I talked with James Spink, who headed up our .25 Midget program for youth racers, which is visually one of the fastest-moving series we have. I asked James to give Aaron a shot. After his third or fourth event, I overheard a young driver’s father comment that ‘this new flagman is the best we’ve ever had!’ I’m very proud of Aaron and inspired by his determination.”

—Jason Smith, USAC, Sr. VP Race Operations

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Finding Kansas: Living and Decoding the Enigma of Asperger's Syndrome

Finding Kansas is a memoir like no other, written by an unlikely author who at first never dreamed he would find even one reader. When he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 20, Aaron Likens began to collect his thoughts and experiences on paper-the highs, the lows, the challenges, and the unexpected joys. What he found was hope -- not only for himself, but also for others with Asperger's. Now a sought-after speaker and blogger, he is passionate about sharing his insights into this often misunderstood condition.

Aaron has another passion, too: the world of auto racing. A successful flag man at racing events across the country, Aaron calls racing his Kansas-a place where he feels safe, confident, and normal. For others on the autism spectrum, Kansas might be trains, history, or the weather. It is here where, like Aaron, they find freedom, and the possibility for growth and change

National BestsellerFinding Kansas: Living and Decoding the Enigma of Asperger's Syndrome is available on Amazon.com, where customers have given it 4.6 out of 5 stars. Finding Kansas is also a National Bestseller.


quoteAaron shares his journey of discovering why he thinks, feels, and behaves the way he does. It gave me great insight into what someone with High Performing Autism (as well as other places along the Spectrum) lives with each day. It helps me understand my grandson's behavior better and equips me with knowledge that helps build a healthy relationship with him.

— Amazon Review


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