When I first met Dr. Laurence Becker in 2009, we both were writing columns for the Autism at Home series. He was a wonderful writer and I could see that he was very gifted. I couldn’t imagine how he was able bring life to many people that the world would have never known without his intervention.
Dr Becker soon became Laurence to me and he and his wife Rosanne are now like family. I have been treated like a queen in their beautiful home in Austin and I have been so honored to see his incredible art gallery.
He never ceases to amaze me as he continues to touch so many lives with so many things that he does. I hope he touches your life with his answers to my questions below.
1. When and how did you first become aware of autism?
I first saw the word “autism” when, in 1978, my daughter gave me a book that a little girl in Bucks Harbor, Maine gave to her. My daughter said, “Daddy, I think you would like to read this book.” It was SON RISE by Barry Kaufmann. That was one month before I went over to Scotland to meet Richard Wawro, who had been described to me as severely retarded with an IQ of 30 and the mind of a 6 year old. Five minutes after I met Richard I was convinced that he was very bright and was autistic and not retarded.
2. How would you describe autism?
There are many aspects of autism, many behavioral characteristics, and physical aspects. Often communication and social skills are missing. Speech may be missing. Self injurious behavior may be present. Sensory over-sensitivity may be present. Lack of eye contact may also be present.
3. Would you wish for a ‘cure’ if one was possible?
This very issue is forcefully presented in THE SPEED OF DARK by Elizabeth Moon. Deaf parents often face this question for their children. What does “cure” mean? Certainly if a child cannot speak, one would want that child to be able to speak. If the child could not sleep beyond a couple of hours per night, a parent would want the child to sleep 6-8 hours. Higher level persons with autism might not need or want to move beyond where they are.
4. In what ways has autism helped you to realize gifts (yours and / or another’s)?
I am always amazed by artists or musicians who have autism. I am amazed by the variety of the styles and materials that artists use witness to the amazing range of possibility within human beings for creativity.
5. What has been the most challenging to you with regards to autism?
I am constantly reminded to remain open to the possibility of surprise and wonder in other human beings.
6. How did working with Autistic Savant artists change the direction of your life?
I had said that I knew that I did not want to work with the handicapped or the mentally handicapped (not that someone shouldn’t work with them—it just wasn’t me). I wanted to work with the gifted. I’ve ended up working with the handicapped/gifted for over 35 years. I was a teacher; now I am an aqueduct (not the water or the source of the water, but the instrument through which the water flows). I provide film and book resources for parents, grandparents, teachers, and doctors.
7. What are you the most proud of accomplishing?
I was led to produce and international, award-winning documentary film that won 3 international and 4 national awards and has been shown continuously since the world premiere in 1983. I have also brought to the United States – for the first time – 3 of the world’s most amazing autistic savant artists: Richard Wawro, from Scotland, in 1977; Christophe Pillault from France, in 1998; and Ping Lian, from Malaysia in 2005.
8. What is the #1 tool you would like to give to people who have autism or who are helping others with autism?
I have put together a list of Books and Films on Autism and Education that contains some of the most helpful and amazing books and films that I have come across in my years of working with autism.
I have also written an article “Autism and Nutrition” which was published in THE OFFICIAL AUTISM 101 MANUAL. Another major resource is The Film Course I put together called Seeing Beneath and Beyond.
There are also a year-long series of articles published in the Autism At Home Series titled WHAT’S OLD, WHAT’S NEW: BOOKS AND FILMS WORTH KNOWING.
9. What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from working with people who have autism?
To look beneath the surface to see the gifts and creativity that may be hiding there. I was given a small square piece of plastic with what appears to be dots on it. I was told that it contained a wonderful anthology of significant literature. But I could not make it out—it just looks like a bunch of dots. In fact, I was told that it contained over 1200 pages and over 700,000 words. If I believe that it is, in fact, an anthology of literature, I will seek to find the “key” to allow me to read it. If I do not believe it, I may use the piece of plastic for something other than what it was intended to be.
For instance, I might clean my finger nails with it. Children who cannot speak may be like the piece of plastic. If I believe that, within each human being, is creativity and intelligence, I will seek to find the key to unlock that creativity and intelligence. If I do not believe it, I may very well misuse that human being and waste the wealth that may be just below the surface.
10. What are you working on now and what would you like others to know more about?
A new, to me, artist with autism came into my life in April, 2012. His name is Grant Manier. He is a 17 year old from Houston, Texas. He is unlike any other of the wonderful artists I have ever known about or worked with.
He uses recycled pieces of paper or the paper stripped from puzzle pieces to make his amazing pictures. His pictures often have thousands of individual pieces of paper. He calls himself an Eco-Artist. His work may be found at www.GrantsEcoArt.com. A large exhibition is planned with Grant’s and several other artists work in Houston this spring, 2013.
Learn more about Dr. Laurence Becker here:
Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. Ill-willed comments of any kind are not allowed here. Please be kind. The law of attraction is always at work: that which you sow, so shall you grow. Thank you and have an incredibly blessed day!
Proud to be the mom of two incredibly awesome boys! One just happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Both teach me how to be grateful for life every day.
By Rhonda Spellman, Founder of The Creative Cranium Concept®
Creator of The HINT Game®, The Write Story® and more for children!
Award winning author of The Journey Home from Autism
Reaching, Teaching and Inspiring Those with Special Abilities