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Man shares story about growing up w/ autism

April 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Growing up through your teenage years is hard enough, but for those with autism, those challenges are multiplied. But one young man showed me how he turned those obstacles into opportunities, and has a lot to share about growing up with autism. The acting, singing, and music in a unique musical are all thought up on the fly.

"'Zombience' is a zombie improv musical. The audience throws out the story setting and the cast relies on their 22-year-old musical director Dave Beukers to stir their creativity."

"He knows where we are and can feel where we are on stage," said Jayne Entwhistle, a performer. "He zones right in and plays exactly what's needed."

"This is the only situation I have ever seen where the music is all improvised from beginning to end," said Alison Mork, a performer.

Dave has autism. He plays five instruments and can compose anything you throw at him. He went on to score a couple of movies.

Dave was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old. Like many kids with this disorder he liked routine and to stick to certain patterns. At the age of 13 he had a break through.

"From that moment on it was just fun," said Dave. "I pegged that as sort of a turning point for me. I realized that it doesn't have to be your way all the time. Sometimes it is fun to go with the flow."

He was making a film with friends and was determined to make it a certain way, but when his friends forced him to be spontaneous he broke out of his box for good. Dave says music can also do that for kids with autism.

"I feel that music is a really good way to introduce intuition overly to an overly analytical mind," said Dave.

"I know a lot of people who have autistic children out there, and I hope that they are inspired to see that they can do the most extraordinary things," said Henry Watkins, a performer.

Dave is helping to organize the annual Autism Speaks Walk this Saturday. He says early intervention helped him and he knows supporting research and education will help others.

"I think it is important for me to be a part of Autism Speaks because I want every kid to have the opportunities that I've had," said Dave.

The Walk Now for Autism is this Saturday, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Registration is at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:00 a.m.


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