Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Think Different

I have a lot of different ideas running through my head right now. I hope that I can get them out of my head and convey the jumbled mess I've been thinking about today.

If you don't know, my 13 year old brother has autism. he was adopted by my family when i was in high school and he was 3 years old. he is the one of the best things in my life and has really changed my view on the world. you can read all about him here.

zach is now in the 7th grade and a full blown teenager. think back to when you were in 7th grade. all the emotions that come along with being 13. you probably had friends that you talked to about things. you asked them about girls/boys, you wrote notes and passed them during class, you started being more independent, you had feelings. well, zach has all of these things too. he just doesn't know how to handle it. he has a crush on a girl in his class who enjoys him as a person, but does not like him back.!! seriously!  he was at a week long camp with his class this fall when he found out that this girl did not like him. he was so upset he got angry (which is often how he shows his emotions, through anger. it's scary the older he gets). so angry i had to go pick him up from camp and have him spend the night at my house and i brought him back in the morning (it was closer for me to go pick him up then my parents). on the way home he told me "my heart was broken today". about making me melt. my husband talked to him about how there are lots of fish in the sea..yadda, yadda, yadda. but he doesn't really get it.

zach isn't one of the classic examples of autism. he displays certain traits but then there are other things he can do that we are simply blown away by that technically he "shouldn't be able to do". he is officially diagnosed with autism because that's how we can get him the services he needs. 1:1 ed tech at school, hippo therapy, and summer programming. zach knows he is different. he knows he isn't like the rest of the kids in his class. he truly thinks in a different way. his teachers are pleased with him during class discussions because his brings a different view of whatever they are discussing to the table that the rest of the kids don't think about. he overlooks the obvious answers and digs deeper. he truly is a different thinker.

for my baby shower, my sister asked him to draw me a picture that could be hung in the baby's room. he opened up a tiny notebook that my mom's work sells and drew 4 pictures. each picture was a pea pod and they were put in a frame and i now have 4 peas in a pod hanging up in tyler's room. of course peas in a pod is a very appropriate thing for a babies room. would you have thought to draw that?

he loves to invent things. his classroom has tank with crabs and other assorted things from the bay in it. his teacher was talking one day about having difficulty feeding the crabs. zach took a piece of wire and bent one end of it and attached the food to it (like bait on a fishing hook) and then bent the other end to hang over the side of the tank so that you could leave it there and didn't have to hang on to it. duh. simple and easy. totally zach. 

there are several students at his school who have much more "typical" autism. he knows the word. he knows he has it. but he doesn't get what it means. like i mentioned a lot of zachs emotions are displayed through anger whether it's hurt, rejection, feeling scared, lonely, or tired. apparently he got in some kind of mini argument with another kid at school who has some kind of difficulty and this kid got angry. zach thinks that because the kid was angry, he is autistic. 

this morning i got this email from my mom. the subject was titled "remind you of someone you know?"

This is the text from the original Apple ad.

 "Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create.
They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

of course. it's zach! i asked her about it and she said that it was one of apple computer's first ad campaigns in the 90's. she said she googled "think different" and came across this. why on earth was my mom googling the words "think different"? 

then i got this email from her.

I had a great talk with school  this morning. I think we're going to "graduate" Zach from being autistic, which in some respects he never has been. But he is starting to identify with it, so we thought we'd have a ceremony on the last day of school in December, let him rip up his autism "certificate," (we'll make one), and give him a new "diagnosis" of, I don't know, "Different Thinker," or "Outside the Box Thinker," or something along those lines. He is so concrete, he might just buy it. And in fact, it's true. He is wired for accomplishing much greater things than his classmates, but his road will be rockier because of it.
We're trying to give him a new identity to help him have a more positive attitude toward his differences.
Kind of like the Wizard giving the Tin Woodman a heart, or the Scarecrow a brain, we will give him a new "Certificate" that reinforces the good things he's already doing.
I'm actually pretty excited about it. It has certainly made my day better at least. 

so i dont know where i am going with this. but i've been thinking. how can we uses zach's different way of thinking to his benefit? let's not let the fact that he can't read or write well get in his way. that math problems are not the thing he excels at. let's celebrate the fact that he has brilliant ideas that are different then yours and mine. out of the box. original. 

with each new day comes a new surprise with zach. we work hard to get him what he needs. he works twice as hard to try and fit in and be normal. maybe being normal isn't all it's cracked up to be. maybe if he is different, he can make a change in the world that you or i would have never thought to do. 

zach and i at the mdi marathon. oct 2010
i'll leave you with this video that sam sent to me today.


  1. ((hugs)) Wow. I see so much of my nephew, Nathan in this post. I love your Mom's idea and I am going to share this with my SIL~

    One thing about Nathan is he is SOOO loving yet his little heart is so fragile. When Lola was younger, she hit him and it just sent him into a tail spin for weeks. He thought that she hated him. :( We could not get through to him that Lola did not hit him out of anger or dislike, it was because she was a baby and did not know NOT to hit.
    Nathan may be different but if every little kid had THAT MUCH LOVE to give, the world would be a happier place :)

  2. I love this. From your relationship with your bro, to the way your family supports and loves zach so very much, it's inspirational and beautiful. Thinking outside the box is hard to do but it seems your lil' bro excels at what so many of us wish we did more often. Cheers to your brother!

  3. Hi Sarah! Thanks for posting this! I don't know anyone with autism personally but have been learning more about it through you & Sam. Your brother's ingenuity is amazing and so is your support & love for him. Congrats to Zach on his "graduation!" and good luck with your Train 4 Autism efforts! :)


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