Preconceived Notions

Preconceived notions.  We all have them about something.  We form opinions without adequate knowledge.  The funny thing about life is something always comes along to shatter whatever preconceived notions we may have.

I discovered this on my last trip. It was a long flight so I took advantage of the in-flight entertainment.  One program caught my eye – “The Autistic Gardner” – a British documentary television series hosted by Alan Gardner, a gardner who has Asperger syndrome.  Alan works with a team of young gardeners who also have autistic disorders to transform overgrown and neglected yards into magnificent gardens.

At the time I had a limited understanding of people with autism.  What little I knew lead me to believe people with autism are generally unable to lead productive lives.  This program totally changed any preconceived notions I may have had.  Watching the team develop and implement the new garden design gave me insight into how autistic people process information.  The end result was a creative space that incorporated features I would never have imagined – a sleeping giant, a wildlife hotel, and a sculpture from a tree stump.  Alan has a mission – to prove to the world that autistic people are “not mad… we just see things in a different way.”  I applaud Alan and hope he and his team continue to create beautiful gardens while changing our understanding of autistic people.  Alan certainly changed mine.

I think people have preconceived notions about what marathoners look like.  There appears to be a belief that only people who are tall and slender are marathoners.  Anyone else need not apply.  But marathoners come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities.  They are tall, short, thin, heavy.  They have two legs, one leg, no legs.

One of the marathoners participating in the Portland Marathon this year was about as far from that preconceived notion of marathoners as you can get.  Adam Gorlitsky has been paralyzed since 2006.  Using a robotic exoskeleton machine, Adam was able to complete the last 6.2 miles of the race.  It is like science fiction brought to life or as Adam describes it, “Iron Man meets Avatar”.

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-9-07-11-pmAdam has started a non-profit, I Got Legs, whose mission is to “bridge the gap between what it means to be disabled and abled body.”  With the Portland Marathon he kicked off the “1 Million Steps to a Cure” campaign.  Adam has participated in several races including the Marine Corps Marathon, logging 54,316 steps towards his 1 Million goal.  Talk about shattering preconceived notions of what paralyzed people can do!

Both Alan and Adam challenge us to think beyond our preconceived notions to see possibilities.  I think that is pretty exciting.  Are there any preconceived notions that you would like to see shattered?

Want to learn more about the Autistic Gardner?  Visit their website:

Check out the I Got Legs web site to learn more about Adam’s story. 

Here is a video of Adam in his first race.  Just amazing!