Population One, crowd of hundreds

Tyler McNamer speaks to a crowd at Kopachuck Middle School about his book, life with autism

Staff writerJune 11, 2014 

Tyler McNamer signs copies of his book after an assembly at Kopachuck Middle School. McNamer led a writer’s workshop after his speech.

KAREN MILLER/GATEWAY PHOTO

He stepped up to the microphone amidst a roar of the middle school crowd. When he got ready to speak, everyone was silent.

“My name is Tyler McNamer,” he said. “And to be quite honest, you all scare me.”

McNamer came to Kopachuck Middle School last Thursday to talk about his book “Population One” and to share about “awesome-ism.”

“Awesome-ism” is McNamer’s term for autism. A recent graduate of Bainbridge Island High School, the 19-year-old author wrote the book in his senior year of high school.

Kopachuck librarian Hoa Weale said the book’s focus on kindness and doing good fit with the motto at Kopachuck this year: W.E.B. — Where Everyone Belongs.

That’s why Weale invited McNamer for an assembly, book signing and author’s workshop.

Weale said that not only is McNamer’s message of kindness relevant to the school’s mission this year, he also carries weight as an age group peer.

“He has helped himself and now is helping others through his book, which is especially relevant for middle and high school kids as peer interactions become so important to them,” Weale said.

Talking to the students, McNamer sympathized with what it’s like to be young. He knows firsthand that acts of kindness can be tough to give as well as received.

McNamer used an example in the extreme to get his point across: Being bitten in a Zombie apocalypse.

“Do you say, ‘Ah no this is a flesh wound, I think it will heal over time?’ ” he asked.

“No! You accept the help because you’re going to turn into a Zombie!”

McNamer speaks and writes in order to draw awareness to life with autism.

“Autism is a very mysterious diagnosis,” he said. “Sometimes even a person with autism doesn’t really know what’s going on.”

He spoke about how some with autism are silent, inwardly afraid they might say something wrong. McNamer challenged that.

“I have autism — awesome-ism — and I am speaking in front of a live audience,” he said. “And I think that’s pretty cool.”

He admitted that when he speaks he sometimes repeats phrases like “that’s pretty good,” but the audience didn’t seem to notice, and if they did, it didn’t matter.

The message hit home with students: McNamer received a standing ovation.

And that’s pretty good.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 karen.miller@gateline.com Twitter: @Gateway_Karen

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