I wanted to write about vocalizations since these are the only sounds that my older brother has ever made. Mike has never spoken. He used to hum, but doesn’t do that too much any more, at least when I’m present. He sometimes sniffs rhythmically, and grunts. Who knows his motivations for doing this, if any? I started doing some research about vocalizations in autism, whether they are stereotypys (repetitive or ritualistic), related to stimming, Tourettic, motor-tic related, etc. etc. Although this is interesting to me, and possibly to many of you, I just could not do it today.

I opted to make this post a little more personal.

It was the Tuvan throat singer Kongar-Ol Ondar I heard on Fresh Air, Terry Gross’s interview program that prompted my change of direction. Ondar comes from the part of the world where Genghis Khan used to rule. Imagine being able to make many sounds come out of your mouth at once, including high overtones? It is unearthly, yet uniquely human. I am stunned by this music, for some reason I cannot explain.

We were surrounded by music growing up. Both Mom and Dad loved opera. I love the emotional content, even if I do not know the story line. I’ve often been able to calm myself just by trying to breathe along with the singer. I remember the night before I left for college, I was very nervous and upset. When I played an organ recording of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor the deep vibrations rattled my chest. I tried humming the low notes and felt my breathing becoming deep and regular, while the intricate fugue played in the higher registers. I was stimulated and relaxed at the same time.

Here is a portrait of my brother Mike, with Dad. Mike is vocalizing here. Perhaps this is calming for him. I hope his vocalizations provide him with a wide range of emotions, since it is the only use to which he applies his vocal cords.

I only wish I knew this to be true.

Mike vocalizing with Dad

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