Night of Too Many Stars provides accurate look at truth about autism
by Justin McGill, General Manager -- jmcgill@cadizrecord.com
Oct 24, 2012 | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It generally takes something very special to generate a genuine emotional response from me. And there’s only a handful of things that leave me vulnerable to such displays.

Among them, and not necessarily in this order: sports, music, kids and autism – all things that have impacted my life in one way or another throughout my life.

Two weeks ago, the St. Louis Cardinals’ ninth-inning Game 5 comeback against the Washington Nationals had me leaping in my living room.

But my love for sports should come as no surprise to those who know me, or even to those who don’t but see my name all over the Sports section of this newspaper each week.

The other three on that list above might come as a surprise to some.

I come from a musical family. Not professional, but naturally proficient, in my own admittedly biased opinion.

It’s difficult for me to walk past a baby without trying to spend at least a few seconds trying to earn a smile. And, again not to brag, I am more often than not successful in that challenge.

But autism is something relatively new to my life, as is my 7-year-old son Brody, who has received developmental and educational assistance since he was 3.

I’ve written before about how blessed my family is to have Brody. Most everything he does amazes me in one way or another.

In that same piece, I also wrote about how broad the autism spectrum is – so broad that many people would not recognize that Brody is actually on it. He exhibits very few of the stereotypical traits of an autistic child.

We learned very quickly that such stereotypes are just that and are generally unhelpful. Since then, we’ve found ways to help Brody learn and grow.

Sunday, I saw a girl on television who I can hardly think about without smiling and getting a little misty.

Comedy Central has now broadcast four iterations of its biennial Night of Too Many Stars event to benefit those with autism. It was originally organized by Robert Smigel, a comedian you may remember from Saturday Night Live or Conan O’Brien’s late night shows.

Smigel’s family was struggling to find a school with the ability to properly educate his autistic son, so he called on some of his comedy friends to organize the first Night of Too Many Stars and has kept the event alive.

The event was taped last weekend at the Beacon Theater in New York and featured what I can safely assume is the only performance of Katy Perry’s “Firework” that I’d care to see again.

The program introduced the audience to Jodi DiPiazza, an 11-year-old girl with autism. Early in her life, Jodi’s autism manifested with violent outbursts any time her routine was upset. When her family discovered Jodi’s affinity for music, they’d discovered her key. Now, she’s a student at Mannes College of Music Prep School in New York.

Jodi played piano and sang with Perry on the program, and host Jon Stewart said it was the best representation of why this benefit event exists. The performance can be viewed online, and I highly suggest you take a few moments to view it. You can also read more about Jodi on her web site, jodigirl.com.

My hope is that society continues to learn more of the real truth of autism, and events like Night of Too Many Stars are a big step in that direction.

Justin McGill is executive editor of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at jmcgill@cadizrecord.com.
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