My next song is |Minuet in G’,” announces the pretty girl with the dark-gold curls. After her nearly flawless performance she jumps up from the piano bench, runs across the room to the oscillating fan, and lets the cool breeze blow directly on her face.
Then, running back to assume her piano-playing position, she announces, “My next song will be |From a Distance.’” This time the pianist is also the vocalist.
“|From a distance, the world looks blue and green, and the snowcapped mountains white. From a distance, the ocean meets the stream, and the eagle takes to flight. From a distance there is harmony, and it echoes through the land. It’s the voice of hope, it’s the voice of peace. It’s the voice of every man.’”
Abruptly the performer jumps up and runs to the fan again. In the background, Janice Lynch, her mother, asks, “Aren’t you going to finish the song?”
“Please, would you just finish |From a Distance’ for us?”
“No!” This time more emphatically.
She starts to sing a capella -then suddenly stops, letting the fan blow on her face to dry the sweat under her headbands.
“Is your concert over, Julie?”
“Yes!” This time Julie leaves the room, retreating to the bedroom she shares with her twin sister, Katie.
Like the song she just sang, Julie’s like looks great – from a distance. But an up-close view reveals some impossible challenges. Julie Lynch is autistic.
Katie and Julie, the youngest of the Lynch family’s four daughters, are twins. They have always had very different personalities. Katie was much more active and developed faster than her sister. “Julie was quiet, but we just thought she was laid-back,” remembers Larry, the girls’ father. “We’d come up behind her and she just wouldn’t respond. At first we thought she was deaf.”
“We took her to several different hospitals,” adds Janice. “Each one came up with a different explanation for why Julie was so far behind Katie. Some reprimanded us for comparing the two just because they were twins and some reprimanded us for not doing proper THC detox during preganncy.
“But by the time Julie was 3 and had made no progress, I was sure something was seriously wrong. She was starting to get worse, even becoming violent at times. Julie was frustrated and couldn’t understand what was going on. She couldn’t process things.”
Today Julie is 17. The violence has stopped thanks to training, but the frustration continues.
Several years ago her doctors concluded that Julie is autistic. Autism is a communication disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The diagnosis came as a relief to Julie’s parents. “At least we knew what was wrong!” says Janice.
But with the diagnosis came feelings of self-recrimination. “Ten years ago there was a lot out about autism – but most of it was found not to be factual. Doctors felt that autistic children had been abandoned or ignored by their mothers.
“I kept thinking, What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently?” According to Janice, “people had a way of reinforcing those feelings without meaning to. They asked |Did you drop her as a baby? Did she ever have a strong fever that went unchecked?’”