By Colby Itkowitz May 19
This Non-Verbal Jewish Teen Wrote a Breathtaking Letter Explaining Autism
For the first 14 and a half years of Gordy’s life, Evan and Dara Baylinson had no reason to think their son could comprehend anything they said: He had never spoken, and he couldn’t really emote. They worried aloud about his future, not filtering what they said, because they didn’t think he understood.
But Gordy, it now appears, was absorbing everything.
“My brain, which is much like yours, knows what it wants and how to make that clear,” he wrote in a letter he sent this month to a police officer. “My body, which is much like a drunken, almost six-foot toddler, resists.”
He typed each letter one at a time with his right index finger. No one coached him, edited his words or told him what to say, according to his parents and therapist. After two one-hour sessions, he had written a nearly 400-word note. [See full letter below.]
“This letter is not a cry for pity, pity is not what I’m looking for,” he wrote. “I love myself just the way I am, drunken toddler body and all. This letter is, however, a cry for attention, recognition and acceptance.”
Unbeknownst to his parents for so many years, their son was a beautiful writer with a lot to say.
Gordy’s autism spectrum disorder was diagnosed when he was 17 months old. Gordy, now 16, doesn’t speak, but his mind is a treasure trove of knowledge and opinions about the world that he has picked up from listening.
But it wasn’t until February 2015 that his parents found that out.
It was then that one of Gordy’s many therapists, Meghann Parkinson, started teaching him the Rapid Prompting Method, a relatively new communication technique developed for people with severe autism. She asked him questions and he answered by pointing to letters on an alphabet board. In a little more than a year, Gordy has advanced to a QWERTY keyboard, his words appearing in large font on an iPad screen propped in front of him as he types.
The technique is very controversial, with some experts convinced that therapists are leading the autistic children who employ it. But others say it’s possible that in a minority of cases people like Gordy can learn to communicate independently using the technique and can benefit from it.