Parenting

Speechless

Aimee Liu

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Portrait of a Child with Einstein Syndrome

Credit: Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

I first learned about Einstein Syndrome while researching all the possible reasons for speech delay among young children. One of the characters in my novel, Glorious Boy, was mute and had been ever since he appeared in the dream that inspired the story, but the dream didn’t explain why the boy didn’t talk. When I read Thomas Sowell’s book The Einstein Syndrome, however, I knew at once that this developmental pattern was the reason I’d been looking for.

Subsequently, I discovered the work of Dr. Stephen Camarata, who specializes in Einstein Syndrome, and I realized that a member of my own family fit the same description: a child whose mind is so preoccupied with the physics of sound, light, motion, and nature that social interaction and communication are muted. A child who doesn’t speak their first word until age two, or three, or four.

Kids with Einstein Syndrome today are often misdiagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Their delayed speech is only one of the challenges. They also tend to be late in toilet training and prone to tantrums. It may be that their minds are busy on more important matters. Albert Einstein, after all, was such a child. So were the physicists Edward Teller and Richard Feynman. So were master pianists Clara Schumann and Arthur Rubinstein. And Julia Robinson, the first female president of the American Mathematical Association. Not all children with this syndrome turn out to be geniuses, but many grow up to be extremely curious and interesting people.

What If…

Today, information about Einstein Syndrome is available to reassure the parents of these challenging children. But what, I wondered, would parents of such a child have thought in the 1930s? And what if the family had no access even to the speech specialists of that era? These were the circumstances of my characters, Claire and Shep Durant, and their little boy, Ty.

Credit: Viktor Jakovlev on Unsplash

The Durants live in a colonial outpost on a remote island in British India. Here is Claire’s first warning that her nine-month-old might be different from other babies:

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Aimee Liu

Author, Asian-American novels (Glorious Boy), nonfiction on eating disorders (Gaining), writing, wellness. Published @Hachette. MFA & more@ aimeeliu.net