Blind, Retarded, Autistic, Genius!by Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, MEd, MS, FAAN | January 29, 2006
It’s not unusual that a new CD by a composer is released. What is unusual is that the artist is a blind, mentally retarded, and autistic 15 year old girl. Scientists believe there are only about 20 people like Brittany Maier, a true musical savant, in the world. But in spite of her numerous handicaps, she is able to create unbelievable beauty.
“We found out that Brittany was blind when she was three months old,” says Tammy Maier, Brittany’s mom. “We started realizing that there were other mental handicaps. And through a series of tests they diagnosed her autistic eventually they also found out that she was mentally retarded too.”
Brittany was born prematurely, she weighed only a pound and a half at birth, they believe that her blindness was due to a condition called retinopathy of prematurity.
Autism in general is considered to be a disease carried on genes, and there is a major push now to identify the genes involved and target those genes with treatments, in other words, replacing the faulty genes with correct genes.
“One day we went to pick her up from school and Brittany who had taught herself how to play twinkle twinkle little star had wowed her teachers and they said Mr. and Mrs. Maier you have to come and see this. She was playing the Ave Maria and what better message could G-d send us that he wanted her to have this gift. At that point we took her home and she played well over a hundred songs that we could name and this was just over night from there another thousand songs in the year.”
Brittany now has more than 20,000 songs in her memory.
Andrew Adesman, a developmental specialist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, says, “It’s not very well understood there does seem to be an increased incidents of musical savants among individuals who are blind. Musical savants it seems to be evident in children who have a problem in the midline of the brain and there seems to be a relationship between optic never damage or underdevelopment and musical giftedness.”
Brittany plays the piano for eight to ten hours a day on weekends. She has composed a collection of her own arrangements which are now available on her new CD entitled “20/20”.
“It’s estimated about 10% of children with autism may have one or more splinter skills, or area of strength. In Brittany’s case it’s more at a sort of prodigy level of strength so it’s really not a commonplace event at all,” says Dr. Adesman.
“God has been good to her and I think he’s going to continue to be good to her i think he wanted to send a message saying don’t forget I’m here,” says Tammy.
Empowered Doctor, Autistic Pianist.
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