Reason #333 that Dragonfly Forest is the best: They let me design a free overnight autism camp program for them outside of Philadelphia! This video is me (slightly awkwardly) talking about the program. You can read more about Dragonfly Forest, and why I designed it the way I did here.
I met Zachary about 6 years ago, when his mom called me to tutor him in writing. Tutoring worked out well, so his mom and I designed a homeschooling program, and Zac and I worked together at libraries all over town for a few years. Then, we got sick of hanging out with each other all day, and decided to find him some fresh tutors, who he worked with a few years. Nowadays, we are friends, and we hang out about once a week, talk about his writing, and anything else that interests us. Recently, Zac let me interview him about his life.
I am so proud of Zac’s story, and the adult that he is growing up to be. Honestly, Zac works harder at his entire day than a lot people do at their job. It is not easy for him to stay organized, communicate what he needs to say, and to get what he wants in general.
My favorite part about our educational journey together has been learning about Zac’s sense of humor. In the beginning, we didn’t joke, and I didn’t know anything about his internal life, but after about a year, he started voicing observations and opinions which revealed his perceptive mind, and his wonderful mix of potty humor and slightly dry sarcasm. Since I am somewhat sarcastic myself (my friends are rolling their eyes right now), this new medium for interacting really improved our friendship.
This interview was even more fun than I expected it be because it started Zac and I down memory lane for a week or two. Since Zac is not a fan of surprising probing questions, I emailed him a list of stuff I was going to ask him about a week ahead of time. Then we met and talked about his responses.
We had a great conversation about all his collections over the years such as string, car parts, toy planes, and, of course, pens. Zac had, according to him, “enough pens to last a lifetime..well… that was back in 1999…maybe they would last a lifetime now that we have iphones and nobody even uses pens anymore…”! We chuckled over our trip to Washington DC, which was the setting for one of the few times I lost my temper with him (he wouldn’t stop munching potato chips and crinkling the bag at 2am in the dark!)
We also had an interesting conversation about some habits that Zac said he’s glad he doesn’t do anymore, like twisting his hair, and playing with a mole on his neck. When he told me this, I asked him why he was glad, and he shrugged and said he thought he looked like a weirdo. We both love that word, so I grinned, but pursued the topic:
Sylvia: Why do you think you did that stuff more in the past?
Zac: I don’t know…Because I was anxious….and it was just a habit.
Sylvia: When did you decide that you looked like a weirdo when you did that stuff?
Zac: I don’t know
Sylvia: …Well I don’t care if you do it. I mean, I twist my hair and wiggle my feet. It seems like everyone does something like that when they are zoning out, or anxious.
Zac: Yeah, I noticed that. I mean, what’s the big deal?
Sylvia: Well, how did you stop twisting your hair and doing the mole thing?
Zac: I don’t know…I guess I’m just not anxious all the time anymore. And when I am anxious, like at camp (Zac was a counselor in training at Dragonfly Forest) I don’t allow myself to do it.
Sylvia: Well everyone does little habits when they are anxious, it’s kind of dumb that some are considered acceptable, and some are not.
Zac is 19 years old, and I have known him for about 6 years. I was his homeschool teacher, and we spent many hours learning from/frustrating each other. Zac has autism. Our video interview is scheduled for early September–check back and see it!