Asperger Syndrome – Piano Prodigy


Image by The Post and Courier: Brad Nettles/Staff

10 Year old child prodigy – Caleb Borick

     Living in the Charleston, S.C. area, I am absolutely delighted with the number of uplifting and inspiring human interest stories that come from this locale.  When I picked up the paper on this beautiful Sunday morning and eventually got to the Arts & Travel section,  I was immediately drawn to a story entitled Piano Prodigy.  This article was written by Creg Cwik, a special writer to The Post and Courier, the mainline Charleston, s. c. newspaper.  Creg Cwik is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University, and, in the humble opinion of this writer, is indeed a gifted writer who apparently has an ear for that which is precious and beautiful.  I suspect we are all have an interest in these child prodigy stories, but this one had a twist that made it even more interesting. See,  Caleb Borick, the child in this story is a 10 year old piano prodigy who has Aspergers Syndrome, and, according to his mother, he wants the world to know!  As I read deeper into the article, I was both inspired and impressed at the wisdom of his two wonderful parents. It seems that his mom, Susan Borick, met her husband Carl in church, and that church has always been an integral part of their life.  The article went on to quote Caleb’s mom as saying, “When Caleb was little, he loved classical music. Since before he could speak, we’d be driving along and he would be in the back seat bobbing his head along, and, if I put on rock, he would cry.”

Cwik points out that Caleb’s favorite composer is Mozart and although he doesn’t care for French Impressionism, he may dabble in Ravel soon. (Note: Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental effects. Along with Claude Debussy, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with impressionist music. What blows my mind is this child’s ability to listen to the work of these various artists, and then to sit down at the piano and reproduce!) One of the places in Charleston that Caleb performs is the Tea Room at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. This is where some of Charleston’s finest old families worship, and Cwik’s description reminds me of something out of an old southern novel; perhaps a southern version of a scene out of Fitzgerald’s  The Great Gatsby:  He writes, “The mostly senior members of the audience are sporting florid sun dresses or seersucker suits and joyfully picking through a display of rich varicolored desserts atop floral tablecloths.  Enter Caleb Borick. He slips stealthily behind the piano, dropping his red backpack on the floor. He’s garbed exclusively in black, from his shoes to his tie. His hair’s a sandy brown with a bowl cut and his wire frames cling to his face. Without saying a word, he starts pounding out Bach’s Prelude and fugue in F-sharp minor.”` – Wow! Is that beautiful, or what?

This report should have special appeal to those parents having an autistic child because Asperger Syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger disorder (AD), is indeed an autism spectrum disorder. This syndrome is named after  the Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who, in 1944, studied and described children in his practice that had certain nonverbal communication skills and limited empathy with their peers in other areas. In the article, Cwik mentioned that Caleb’s mother wrote the following in an email: “He spends four hours each day, Monday through Friday, working with an awesome group of therapists who help him with his social life skills that come naturally to the rest of us. The Asperger’s works to his advantage in many respects. He has an unbelievable amount of focus and determination not commonly seen in a 10-year old.”

This is indeed amazing! The ability to concentrate and not be distracted by his surroundings is undoubtedly a contribution to his genius. In doing a few google searches, I was amazed that so many persons with this Autism Spectrum disorder have done so much to distinguish themselves!  The list includes musicians, authors (novelists and poets), mathematicians, economists , ball players and scientists!  These are easy to find, and I could name you dozens, but the point here is that this condition is a blessing in so many ways to so many! All of us in this life must deal with whatever strengths or weaknesses we may have inherited. It appears that the child in this story, little Caleb Borick, has done well. Not to go un-mentioned is the fact that he had two loving parents that helped, encouraged and saw to it that he had the resources to maximize his gift.  Just reading this story has blessed my life, and I hope it has blessed yours as well.

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