By Lisa Ackerman
There are many days I miss Dr. Bernard Rimland. This week is no exception.
He is a true pioneer for families living with autism. If you are not familiar with dear Bernie, please read his tribute (1.) He was a great man.
In my office is a treasure sent to me from Steve Edelson not long after Bernie died in 2006. When I call it a treasure it is. This is a picture of Bernie’s last speech at the 10th anniversary of the DAN conference.
Here is the text (please note there are two words I could not read his handwriting. Even with those mistakes you will see a great man and his lifes work.)
Welcome to our 10th Anniversary DAN Conference!
All DAN conferences are special occasions as you can tell by the excitement, the enthusiasm and the optimism they generate. But this conference is extra special for several reasons.
One reason is that 2005 marks the 10th Anniversary of that DAN! Meeting (actually a think-tank rather than a full conference) at a hotel at the Dallas airport where we convinced a handpicked group of 30 people—26 research scientists and physicians and four non-scientist non physician parents to formulate an agenda to Defeat Autism Now! Two attendees were from Europe, Karl Reichelt (Norway) and Paul Shattuck (UK). The rest were from the U.S. We insisted on an exclamation point (!) after the Now! Because we wanted to make sure that we meant “Now!” and not “someday” which is all that the rest of the world hoped for.
One of the invitees Dr. Sudhir Gupta had already recovered an autistic child, Cindy Goldenberg’s son with Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). Cindy had wonderful before and after videotapes of her son, so there was no doubt that he had been autistic and was now well. That whilted our opportunities- recovery was not an impossibility as the medical established world had us believe.
A major outcome of our 1995 DAN! Meeting was a Consensus Report, authored by my esteemed colleagues Sid Baker and John Pangborn. That 38 Page “Clinical Options Manual” (unfortunately misnamed “Protocol”- it is not a protocol) has gone through 7 revisions, the 2002 version encompassing 244 pages.
This conference is especially special for another reason; beyond its being DANS! 10th birthday; This is the first meeting after our historic October 2004 conference in Los Angeles at which, for the first time in history, a group of recovered autistic children were introduced to an audience in 10 years as a direct consequence of our first DAN! Meeting in 1995. The one autistic child successfully treated by Dr Gupta has grown too many hundreds and the number of recoveries is increasing every day. Soon it will be 10’s of thousands and before too long, autism will be history. I can’t wait!
Let’s Get Going!
His letter is inspiring. He had been hard at work in the autism field since his son was diagnosed in 1958. He started both the Autism Research Institute and Autism Society of America in 1965. I met him in 2000 and his energy and drive to make a difference for the autism community NEVER wavered.
He was so wise, so hopeful and such a bright light.
I look at this letter and know it is more important than ever to continue forward. That’s what Bernie would do. But God I miss him.
I had the great fortune to speak with him – one of my first contacts I made on our autism journey. I had no idea at the time when I called him at his home on a Sunday morning. It was the first time I spoke the words “my son has autism” and I began to cry. He continues to inspire – a true angel.
Thank you for sharing this Lisa. Bernie was an amazing individual and we all owe him a huge debt. Altgough I never had the opportunity to meet him, ARI was one of the first places I searched for information when my son was diagnosed 10 years ago. I really miss the DAN! conferences (even though the TACA West coast looked amazing). Thank you Lisa for dedicating so much of your life to helping those touched by autism. Your work has also been so incredibly inspiring to me during this journey.