Cary, N.C. — A book written by a middle school student is getting attention for its look at autism through a child's eyes.
Samantha McLeod, of Cary, wrote "Normal" based on her experience trying to change her younger brother Tyler, who has autism, into a normal child.
But first, she had to figure out what normal meant.
Samantha began writing when she was 9 years old. She said her brother's outbursts were embarrassing, and she began putting her feelings down on paper.
"When they would go to the store, Tyler would make loud silly noises, and people would stare at him,” Samantha spoke while reading from her book.
Samantha kept writing about how she wanted her brother to be normal. She saw so-called normal children, without autism, hanging their heads out of bus windows and talking in weird languages for fun. Those humorous accounts soon caught the eye of Samantha's former principal, Jan Hargrove.
"I said, 'Sam, you really need to publish this,'” Hargrove said.
It took four years to put Samantha and Tyler's story into print. The 13-year-old author also illustrated her book. So far, more than 300 copies have sold.
“We have used it in classrooms to show children it is OK to be different,” Hargrove said.
Samantha said she learned that there is no such thing as normal.
"No one is normal. Everyone is a freak,” she said.
You can buy Samantha's book "Normal," at Lulu.com. It won the 2008 P.A.L.s Autism Choice Award.
Samantha is currently working on a second book, "My brother is not special." It is also a story she wrote when she was younger.