Zev Glassenberg is set to be the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to compete on the CBS reality show The Amazing Race.
The show, which is in its 15th season, will follow Glassenberg, 26, pictured left, and his teammate Justin Kanew, 30, as they race against 11 other teams on a journey through eight countries in just 21 days. The winning team receives a $1 million prize.
Ahead of the show’s premiere September 27, Glassenberg spoke with Disability Scoop.
Disability Scoop: How did you decide to apply for The Amazing Race?
Zev Glassenberg: I’d been wanting to apply for the last seven seasons or so and then I finally asked my future teammate (his friend, Justin Kanew). I said, alright I’m going to set this up and we’re going to go and do it and we’re going to get on the race and that’s what we did. It was a dream of mine to go on the show and I did it. It’s one of my favorite shows and I thought it would be a really, really cool experience.
Disability Scoop: What about the show appealed to you?
Zev Glassenberg: It’s basically a scavenger hunt around the world and I like to do scavenger hunts, so why not do one around the world?
Disability Scoop: Had you ever done anything like this before?
Zev Glassenberg: No.
Disability Scoop: Your teammate Justin, was he in on this from the get-go too?
Zev Glassenberg: This was my thing. This is what I wanted to do. I needed a partner and he’s the one I chose. He had never seen the show.
Disability Scoop: What’s your relationship like with Justin?
Zev Glassenberg: He’s one of my very, very good friends. We met at a sports camp in Massachusetts in 2003 where we taught football together. We’re pretty much alike. He’s a little bit older than I am but we both have the same common interests – sports and hanging out and just having a good time.
Disability Scoop: When were you diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome?
Zev Glassenberg: I’ve had it since I was 11. It really doesn’t mean much to my life. It’s just something I do and I guess I live with it. I don’t really spend too much of my life on that — it’s just something that’s there.
Disability Scoop: For a lot of people with Asperger’s the social aspects of being on a show like The Amazing Race would be difficult. Was that ever a concern for you?
Zev Glassenberg: It was a little overwhelming because I knew I’d be going to different places and traveling the world, but I knew I’d have my friend there with me.
Disability Scoop: Is there anything about having Asperger’s that would make you more or less likely to succeed in a competition like The Amazing Race?
Zev Glassenberg: No, I thought we had as good a shot as anybody to win the race. I just wanted to go and be myself and do my thing.
Disability Scoop: Before you were chosen to be on The Amazing Race, what was your life like?
Zev Glassenberg: I live with an older couple and their daughter (in Sherman Oaks, Calif.) and I had a job. But I got let go in January. I didn’t really look for a job too much because I knew I was going to be picked for the race. I hired a trainer. I knew I needed to be in good shape to run the race. I just wanted to have more stamina and get a little stronger.
Disability Scoop: What did your family and friends say when they found out you were going to be on the show?
Zev Glassenberg: They were really, really excited. Well, I knew I was going to get on the show when I applied because I wanted to go and be on the show. So when you put those things out there and they had never had a contestant like me, I knew I had a good chance to be on it. So I was feeling confident.
Disability Scoop: Did you talk about the fact that you have Asperger’s on your application?
Zev Glassenberg: Yes, that was one of the main things we talked about. We just said, I have Asperger’s and I guess they looked into it and thought it would be a good thing to have somebody who has Asperger’s on the show. I brought something different. Basically I was the special kid this season because last year there was Luke (who is deaf) and this year there’s me.