Just Different

Logan Brown was never quite like all the other kids. But that never held him back.

"I have so many quirks. I'm just generally weird."

Makes sense.

Freshman Logan Brown is already over 6 feet tall and has a head full of dreadlocks.

"They're messy but fabulous."

He likes to wear black, usually in the form of a shirt from his favorite metal band.

"Metal and rock have no mold to fit into. It’s an open way to express whatever you feel."

He always has two spoons in his pocket: his favorite on-the-go percussion instrument.

"I saw somebody playing spoons and thought it was interesting. So I Googled it. Watched a video on it. And I taught myself how to play spoons."

That’s how other people see Logan Brown.

But I see my little brother.

He's the boy who used to get mad at me when I wouldn't play LEGOs with him. The boy who spent hours creating the perfect "Thomas the Tank Engine" railroad track. The boy who has come farther than we ever imagined he would.

"Around fifth grade, Mom and Dad asked me to come into their room. They told me that when I was really little, I had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. They explained what it was and stuff. I was little and didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t think all that much of it."

Asperger's is near the "high functioning" end of the autism spectrum. For Logan, it created difficulties with social situations. He'd rub his hands all the time. He had to have a schedule. He couldn't hold eye contact. He had to work to understand facial expressions and body language. He was obsessive about his LEGOs and video games.

But what I remember the most is his temper.

"I got offended really easily. I would take everything personally."

Then it would all go downhill.

"First, I’d try to stay calm. And then I wouldn’t."

That’s when he would lose control.

I could always tell when he was about to blow. Flared nostrils. Flushed cheeks. Heavy breathing through his teeth. Fists shaking at his sides. Then it would progress to tantrums. He would throw fists and kick everywhere. He'd hurl whatever was closest to him across the room. He'd scream. Our parents would try to calm him down, but it was usually in vain."

"There wasn’t much going through my head. It's hard to describe."

He struggled to find the right words.

"I just couldn’t think straight."

Our family had a difficult time coping. But it was even harder for him.

"I never had many friends through elementary school. Everybody just assumed I was that kid with anger issues who would always get mad."

We worked with him. He went to therapy, where he practiced interacting with other kids his age. Our parents figured out the best ways to motivate him.

"They were understanding. They get that I can't really help what I do sometimes."

They focused on positive reinforcement. I remember the token towers they used - if he did something good, he would get a token. When he filled up the tower, he would get a toy from the bag of prizes they hid on the top shelf of our coat closet.

"Reward systems were good for me. Negative reinforcement never did much; I would just get more angry. But with positive reinforcement, I would feel like there was a reason to be good."

There wasn't a specific moment that marked his transition. But by the time he hit middle school, he could function as easily as his peers. Today, there is virtually no sign of a disorder.

"I still get angry easily, but it's more like 'normal people' angry."

No more flared nostrils. No more screaming. When he gets a short fuse now, he retires to his room with a drum set and a punching bag.

"If I’m angry, I drum to death metal. It's therapeutic. You have to relax to drum well - you can't be all tense. And you forget what you were angry about."

To a passerby he comes across as a normal teenager. But that doesn't mean he’s just like everyone else.

"I'm still different from other people. It's a fact. But I can function just as well as others. I just do it differently. I’m not any worse or better - just different."

He wants to use those differences for good.

"I've always wanted to help people who are in the same kind of situation that I've been in. I want to be an example of how to get through it. I feel like if I did something really cool with my life, then people could see that someone like me can make it."

He wants to be a professional drummer in a band. Or maybe an author. Or a chef.

"If anyone is going through something similar, I tell them to just keep going. It's gonna be really hard, and there will always be things you struggle with. But it can’t be bad forever."

He smiled.

"Life will get better."

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About Cassidy Emenger

I'm Cassidy, a writer specializing in digital marketing & creative journalism. If you like my work, drop me a message. I live for collaboration.

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