Cheri Florence is a renowned brain specialist who was told by doctors that her son Whitney was autistic and encouraged her to institutionalize him. He was considered a deaf-mute and did not speak the first six years of his life. A specialist in communication, she felt treatments that would create new neuronal pathways in his brain could help her son and refused to give up on him. Her efforts were successful—her son is now a happy and healthy 18-year-old with an I.Q. of 150—and are recounted in a ghost-written book called A Boy Beyond Reach. She says:
I knew that Whitney met the criteria for a lot of the labels such as autism or developmental disability,” she says. “But I didn’t want to think that way because the outcome was hopeless. I wanted to rewire his brain, which had never been done before.”
Part of her learn-as-you-go approach was to stop listening to the radio and watching TV, and tune into herself—and into her son. She used her mother’s intuition to get inside Whitney’s brain and figure out what he needed. Through careful and protracted observation, she discovered that her son had planning, memory and problem-solving skills. She also found that his vocal chords worked when he laughed one day while watching a funny Disney film. She felt his brain worked visually—whereas most of us rely on words and sound—and focused on his powerful visual sense to create a program that taught him how to think sequentially (without language) and develop social awareness. His siblings helped train him using visual games, music, acting and dance.
Florance’s persistence over the years that her son’s brain could be rewired led to a divorce and professional conflict, but in the end changed the way people think about brain development and what is possible for children diagnosed with autism. read more about this fascinating story