According to his mom, "Henry has Asperger syndrome, which is known as 'high-functioning' autism. Kids with Asperger tend to be gifted or highly intelligent in specific areas." In Henry's case, he has a photographic memory for all things about reptiles and dinosaurs. He often retreats from other children, but has actually made friends at The Miracle Project. However, he still finds it hard to take the bright lights and loud sounds of his dad's concerts - his father is Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash. In the months since 'Autism: The Musical' began to garner festival awards and critical praise, Henry has taken on a multitude of new interests and challenges. His mom provides an update:
Henry very much took to the actor's way of life. He was really into performing and acting. Now he's in sixth grade. I think this is probably going to be his last shot at public school this year. The work is getting a little intense, and he needs more time to process. The instruction in the classroom goes a little too fast for him. So, we're looking for new programs right now. The Miracle Project opened him up socially a lot more. At one point, at the beginning of the school year, he was making new friends at this new school, and there was this kid, Socrates, who was wearing a hoodie every day because he was embarrassed about his haircut. And Henry told him, "You know what Socrates, short hair or long hair - we'll like you no matter what." And I really feel like he learned that from the Miracle Project, being kind to each other and understanding peoples' differences. I think it opened him to being more of an empathetic person.
Developing new interests
He's kind of shifted from the dinosaurs to being more inquisitive about aliens and Area 51 and flying saucers. [Henry speaking in background] Ok, he wants me to tell you why he believes in aliens. He says that one night, when he was five or six years old, he was having anxiety, so he looked out his window and saw a flying saucer - [Henry again in background] Oh, I'm sorry - he saw "the alien mother ship." It wasn't circle-shaped [more from Henry] ... it was shaped like three beehives put together. That's when he became interested in other life forms. He now wants to be a scientist who studies aliens. And he wants to join the Army, that's become a big fascination. He's very upset about the war. He is very much against the war, but he wants to join the military. He talks about that ... a lot.
Looking toward the future
We started doing a program with him called Relationship Development Intervention, and we're having great results. It goes back and addresses developmental milestones that probably were missed in infancy and early childhood. Things like reading other people's gestures and facial expressions, autistic children have a deficit there. When they were infants, they weren't looking to other people for stimulation - "auto" means self, so it was all self-stimulation. So they miss how to read cues from people. So, we're going back to address those things, and it's been very successful. The school we're looking at is an RDI school that's scheduled to open in the fall, but we don't really know if it's going to happen or not. We're really hoping, though, because it would be a learning environment where he'd really have an opportunity to learn. Right now, a lot of information is sort of flying past him because it's too much to fast. And in a regular school setting, the lights can be too bright or there's too much activity in the classroom, and that doesn't work for these kids. They pull back from it, which can actually create setbacks. We would love to see him go to college - UCLA has a program for autistic youths. We would love to see him do that and continue his learning.
He's gotten a yellow belt in karate, which he picked up very fast. He's also started sculpting with this plastic-based clay. I got it for him and told him you could make things and bake them, and he wasn't interested at first. It sat around for a few weeks, and then I came downstairs one day, and he had created all these little creatures and dinosaurs and Godzilla-like things. He whips them out in like five minutes. He doesn't like to bake them because then they aren't as flexible, and he likes to move the tails and wings and heads around so he can do action stuff. They keep just morphing into other things. That was a talent we didn't know he had.