«I do tell people that in some ways the doctors were right about sending me to an institution. It just turned out to be an institution of higher education.» Stephen Shore, October 10, 2016
I first met Stephen Shore several years ago at an IMFAR meeting of which he is a regular attendant. In that occasion I was joined in conversation by my good friend Steve Edelson (Director of the Autism Research Institute) who is a doppelganger for Shore. Both Edelson and Shore bear an easy demeanor and have similar facial features, height, and profuse beard. (Note: Don’t tell anybody but I believe that sensory issues may have prevented both from shaving) Given the similarities in their physical attributes Shore said that he only wore his baseball cap so that people could distinguish him from Edelson. This was meant as a joke. Overall Shore has an excellent sense of humor and seems to be always smiling. He is also very good at imitating people both in terms of mannerism and intonation (another bust to the mirror neurons hypothesis of autism). More so, Stephen has the ability to transmit his positive attitude to those around him. I have noticed this at international meetings (including Siberia, Russia) where people flock to him as they would to a movie star.
Stephen was born on September 27, 1961 in Newton, Massachusetts. He was the last of three children. I imagine that I could give a lot of personal details about him as Stephen seems to have a photographic memory. I will spare the readers mentioning the name of the obstetrician/gynecologist who delivered him as well as those of every teacher that dealt with him all the way to college. Of more interest is the fact that one of his brothers was mildly intellectually challenged and that Stephen had a language delay but good motor development. Early on he was fascinated by objects he could spin and exhibited sensory issues, e.g., he avoided haircuts as well as his father scratchy mustache. I only interject this as this has been a common complaint among many of my patients but otherwise does not seem to be a recognized symptom in the medical literature. He must have been a handful as a baby requiring constant supervision from his mother. While still on a crib the otherwise quiet baby started exhibiting troublesome behaviors like head banging. Later on when he gained language, the same was repetitive in nature, i.e., echolalia. Medical examination at 2 years of age suggested “atypical development” and autistic tendencies. In DSM-IV terminology he could have had a Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified. Once faced with the diagnosis of autism, the family spoke about it at home as anything else, without a stigma.
Stephen has been a lucky individual. He was born to the right loving family. His father and mother tried giving him every possible advantage and his grandparents bestowed a lot of love on him. I think that I share with Stephen the same proposal of making Grandparents Day a National Holiday. Stephen is also lucky in having received medical attention and educational benefits from one of the best systems in our nation. Still, he faced terrible bullying at school which he did not seem to report to anybody believing the behavior was normal.
During college he started dating and finally met his wife Yi Liu in graduate school. Stephen believes that people of other cultures may find it easier to accept the quirks of individuals with Asperger’s. This is an expression that I have heard from many other autistic individuals.
Over the years Stephen has used the love he inherited from his mother for music to help teach autistic individuals. To hear him explain his lessons is to want to learn music. He presently plays many musical instruments. He has generalized his love to help disabled children by becoming their advocate. Stephen presently lectures all around the world promoting the message of building upon the strengths of each particular individual, not only in children but also in adults. In each presentation he relates personal experiences from his life and students he has met or treated. After completing his doctorate degree on the subject Stephen became a professor of Special Education at Adelphi University. More details about his life can be found in his autobiographical account: Beyond the Wall.
Curious Stephen Shore Facts:
1) He was born blond and now his hair is pitch black.
2) He is a rock climbing aficionado.
3) Stephen received 10 years of psychotherapy and found the same to be useful. He believes that talk therapy may be effective for higher functioning autistic individuals.This perspective is controversial among autistic individuals.
4) He is the perennial student, acquiring multiple majors as well as graduate degrees. At present he is proficient in information technology, business, accounting, pedagogy and music education. Nobody knows what will come next.
5) Because of his wife, Stephen has learned enough Chinese to hold an elementary conversation. His pronunciation/accent appears to be good enough to be lauded by native speakers.
6) Don’t start talking to him about bicycles as the conversation may not end.
7) Stephen has a powerful social media presence that he uses regularly to keep up with his many friends.
8) He has a web site: http://www.autismasperger.net