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Young author returns to classroom with message of understanding

Posted August 22, 2011
Updated August 23, 2011

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— In five years, Samantha McLeod's version of "normal" has expanded beyond imagination – from frustrated fourth grader to published author to visiting expert in elementary school classrooms.

McLeod was 9 years old when she turned to her journal to deal with the sometimes embarrassing behaviors of her young brother, who has autism.

She wrote about the kids who stared or shook their heads at her brother Tyler. She recorded their silly actions and wondered why some behaviors are considered OK and others are not. "No one is normal. Everyone is a freak,” she determined.

Her honest and humorous account of autism from a sibling's point of view caught the eye of Turner Creek Elementary School Principal Jan Hargrove, who encouraged McLeod to turn her writing into a book.

At 13, she was a published author, whose "Normal" was adopted by elementary schools to help teach about disabilities and differences. 

She followed it up with a second book, "My Brother is Not Special," and a third, "Good Day, Bad Day." 

Now 16, McLeod has grown into an advocate for understanding others, and she regularly shares her message in elementary classrooms across Wake County.

Author returns to classroom with message of understanding Author returns to classroom with message of understanding

"I just hope they'll keep that idea for the rest of their life, and as they're older, they'll be more compassionate toward people like my brother," she said.

In a recent return visit to Turner Creek, she encouraged fourth graders to express themselves in writing like she did.

"You should always write, even if you don't intend them to become a book. You should never be discouraged just because one person, or even 50 people, don't like it," she said.

It would seem that the message is sinking in.

"I learned no matter what, you should be caring and respectful to everybody," said student Katelyn Boyd.

McLeod, a junior at Panther Creek High School, said she hopes to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and study medicine.

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  • thewayitis Aug 22, 2011

    Well, for all the naysayers, they fixed the article. They've changed her current age to 16; previously, it was listed as 18. No big deal -- a typo plain and simple. If I had written the story, I would want to know, too, so that I could correct it.

  • Mrs.DarylDixon Aug 22, 2011

    "Why is she 18 and a junior? I hope that is a typo. That would put her near 20 when she graduates."
    thewayitis

    i dont know why shes already 18 as a junior, but that would still only make her 19 when she graduates.... lol

  • Baba Booey Aug 22, 2011

    There was nothing wrong with what "thewayitis" posted.

    This is a comment board, and is supposed to be for exactly that purpose. Maybe someone at WRAL read it, and fixed the mistake on the story.

    Don't be so quick to condemn someone for their opinion, sometimes some good may come from it.

  • Wendellcatlover Aug 22, 2011

    Some children, and adults for that matter, are just mean. It doesn't matter whether you're physically/mentally disabled, overweight, or wear glasses or braces. There's always that 1 person who's out there to make fun of you and be ugly to you. It's time we took a lesson from this young girl about how we can ALL be more compassionate towards others. Good for her - I think that if she can change 1 person's attitude about others, then the book is a success!

  • beas Aug 22, 2011

    thewayitis--even if she is 18 and a junior, what difference does that make. Maybe you should read her book to learn some compassion and not be so judgemental.

  • packalum09 Aug 22, 2011

    thewayitis, I thought the same thing, and just because I did, doesn't mean that that's all I got out of the article. It's a "feel good" story, yes, but that doesn't mean that all of our comments regarding it must be positive and encouraging.

  • springtrailfarm Aug 22, 2011

    It is so painful to see how children with disabilities are treated especially when you are a family member. Tyler is lucky to have Samantha. Disabled children and adults need more advocates like Samantha. Happy her message is "sinking" in.

  • bitterworld Aug 22, 2011

    Well said cjones65!

  • voice your opinion Aug 22, 2011

    thewayitis...it might be fact or a typo that she's 18 and a Junior but just because you noticed it doesn't mean it needs to be pointed out. As a previous editor, I hope you encouraged your writers to use compasion in telling a story. If not, shame on you. Just because it can be said, doesn't mean it needs to be said.

  • mcleodld Aug 22, 2011

    IT IS A TYPO! Samantha McLeod is 16 years old NOT 18. Hope that clears it up.

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