2e Children Saving the World: A Conversation with Nine-Year-Old Climate Activist, Zayne Cowie

Zayne Cowie is a 9-year-old climate activist and the author of Goodbye, Earth. Zayne has been striking at New York City Hall every Friday since December 7, 2018, to demand real climate action and has been working hard to raise awareness about climate change.

He was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Zayne has been featured in the New York Times for his amazing work. Today I’m honored to share a delightful conversation we had this past spring during one of his climate strikes at City Hall.

I hope you find Zayne’s powerful insights to be useful for you and your twice-exceptional (2e)/neurodiverse child.

Day:

First off, thank you for everything you are doing. I’m happy to share your story with other children so your actions can inspire them.

Tell me, what was your reaction when you first learn about the climate crisis?

Zayne:

I felt really, really scared.

Day:

I know many parents who are nervous about telling their young children about climate change because of the fear of making them more anxious or scared. How can parents talk about climate change with young children?

Zayne:

I think that it is just a stage. There is no way to say, “Hey, by the way, climate change is real, and if our politicians don’t do anything, we are all going to be extinct soon.” There is really no nice way to say that. When my mom told me about it, I just basically wanted to curl up into a ball and just cry. It was really, really scary.

Day:

I hear you. I had a similar reaction. How did you deal with that? How did you get out of that ball?

Zayne:

Well, it was more like a bubble of scaredom! I realized that most of the bubble was scaredom, but there was one feeling that was overpowering the scaredom: anger!

Both in unison:

Anger!!

Zayne:

Yes, I was mad at everyone who was not doing anything about it. So the anger made me want to do something about it myself.

Day:

I know many children who are sad and depressed about the climate crisis. What advice would you have for their parents?

Zayne:

The easy way to get them out of that is to say this to them: “I have something to tell you about climate change, some of the politicians are selling out your future to make lots and lots of money.” I would say to the parents that it is only a stage.

Day:

What a great observation. It’s so good to know this because many parents are very worried about this.

Zayne:

Yes, and eventually the kid will realize that they are just angry, really, really angry and hopefully do something about it. The feelings of sadness would pass.

Day:

I agree that those feelings pass when we take action.

Zayne:

It’s like all things. If you are really, really angry, it would pass.

Day:

I think that is so true, every emotion passes. Eventually, if we let it be, it would pass.

Zayne:

Yeah. It would disappear.

Day:

What is something that you would tell other kids who would like to strike, but are afraid that they may get in trouble at school?

Zayne:

I would say that basically, they are getting a choice. There is no right or wrong answer. The choice is to A) strike for climate and have a future or B) go to school and study for a future which would be no more. By the way, I think that was part of one of Greta (Thunberg)’s quotes. It’s true. They are not the exact words, but it’s close.

Day:

I love Greta. How did you first learn about her?

Zayne:

My mom read me an article about her.

Day:

I like what you said about kids having two choices. How did you make that choice for yourself?

Zayne:

When I learned about Greta. I told my mom that I wanted to do just that.

Day:

Greta is super intelligent. I know many children who are very intelligent and…

Zayne:

You mean 2e?

Day:

Do you know what 2e means?

Zayne:

Yes, it means twice-exceptional. It means sometimes you have a good skill that covers up your bad skill, or you have a bad skill that covers up your good skill.

Day:

That’s a great way to put it! How did you learn about twice-exceptionality?

Zayne:

My mom says I am twice-exceptional because right now, I think I have three different initials behind my name: A.D.H.D, Asperger’s, and ADOS.

Day:

Yes, I’m familiar with those letters. I have A.D.H.D in front of my name as well.

Zayne:

I thought it was behind.

Day:

Well, it’s wherever you want them to go. They are just letters, right?

Zayne:

(laughs)… yes, my name could be Z.A.Y A.D.H.D!

Day:

I love that you know what 2e means. Not a lot of people know about it. Some children who are very intelligent, sometimes feel that they are not so smart because…

Zayne:

because they have something that they are not good at and then they think they are bad, and people always comment, “you are so bad at that” and that makes them feel like they are not good at anything. So, it is a missed opportunity for these kids.

Day:

Yes, I agree! So, what advice would you have for these children who are very intelligent, but they feel they are not so smart.

Zayne:

I would say, if you think you are smart, you probably are smart.

Day:

What would be your advice for children who would like to develop their talents and understand what they are passionate about?

Zayne:

I would say, you should keep looking until you find that one thing that you are good at and if you like that and you have the skills, then go for it.

Day:

So, what is next for you? What are your plans with climate change? Are you going to continue with the strike during the hot summer days?

Zayne:

My plans for climate change are to completely obliterate it. And to do that, I think I will probably keep striking.

Day:

Well Zayne, thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it is going to be very helpful and inspiring for other children. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Zayne:

You are welcome.

Follow Zayne on his Instagram to learn more about his amazing work.

To join Zayne and other youth fighting for climate action, visit #strikewithus and join us on Sept 20, 2019. Millions of young leaders and adults will strike all over the world to demand a right to a future!

About Day

Day Sanchez is a bilingual school psychologist, education specialist, and social and emotional intelligence coach and facilitator. She has over eight years of experience working with gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) children in public, charter, and private schools in California, Florida, and New Jersey. Her approach draws on social and emotional learning, positive psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive behavioral techniques. In 2017, Day left the public education system to help 2e families advocate for their children’s rights. Shortly after that, she founded 2e Minds to provide guidance, support, and resources for neurodiverse/2e children and their families.

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