Dr. Laurence Becker

With Eyes Wide Open: Savant Artist with Autism

About the Speaker

Laurence A. Becker received his Ph.D. in Creative Learning Environments in 1980, from the Union Institute & University. His BA with honors in Plan II and MA are from the University of Texas-Austin. His first four-year teaching position was at Schreiner Institute. Prior to his Ph.D., he had served for ten years as Chairman of the English Department at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas. During his years at St. Stephen’s, he had founded and directed for six years the Texas Student Film Festival, at the time one of the largest and most successful student film festivals in the United States. He then was an Artist-in-Schools in Filmmaking in rural Maine for four years while he worked with the Washington County Handicapped Children’s Program as a film and video consultant. In addition, he worked with Bill Coperthwaite at the Yurt Foundation, an educational foundation that collects folk wisdom from throughout the world. In 1980, he co-authored with Dr. Frederick B. Tuttle, Jr. two books published by the National Education Association on gifted education. In 1983, he produced and hosted the world premiere of the international, award-winning documentary film, WITH EYES WIDE OPEN: Richard Wawro, Savant Artist with Autism. The film received 3 International and 4 National awards.

Since 1985, he has served on fifteen Ph.D. committees as a peer and adjunct professor with The Union Institute & University in such areas as creativity, art therapy, psychology, the humanities, and education. He also served on several Union Institute & University committees including the Admissions Committee where he evaluated over 300 applications. Since 1976, he has worked with several of the world’s great savant artists with autism. Currently, in addition to sharing the work of Richard Wawro, of Edinburgh, Scotland, Dr. Becker works with the art of Christophe Pillault, of France, Ping Lian, of Malaysia/Australia, Kimberly Dixon of Texas, and Erik Warren of Kansas.

In April 2012, Grant Manier, a young savant artist with autism from Houston, entered Dr. Becker’s life. In 2017 Seth Chwast suddenly appeared in his life. In 2018, Dr. Becker produced his second documentary film, FIERCE LOVE and ART, featuring 7 savant artists, savant musician Tony DeBlois, author/minister Ron Sandison, all with autism, and their parents, who used art to bring their children home “from solitary confinement on Autism Island” and to nurture their intelligence, creativity, and wisdom to share with the world. Dr. Becker also has worked with Marshall Ball, a prodigy writer from the United States. He wrote the Foreword for Marshall’s book, KISS OF GOD, The Wisdom of a Silent Child, which was published in 1999 by HCI (Health Communications, Inc.). The initial publication was 50,000 copies, and within the first three months, the book sold over 200,000 copies. Marshall was twelve years old at the time!

In October 2000, at the University of Texas-Austin, Dr. Becker directed an International Gathering of Savants, which featured Tony DeBlois, a savant musician, and the art of five internationally known savants. An exhibition, “Six Savants Artists and a Prodigy” was held throughout February 2016 in Lakeway, TX. FIERCE LOVE and ART premiered in Austin in 2018. In 2019, he presented segments of his new film at the MOZART & THE MIND Conference in San Diego. A re-edit of the film featuring Dr. Temple Grandin, narrator, is now available. Dr. Darold A. Treffert, the world’s leading authority on savants, makes comments throughout the film.

Dr. Becker travels widely as a workshop leader and consultant. In September 2001, he was the keynote speaker at the Texas State Autism Conference. He has served on the boards of The Austin Waldorf School, Very Special Arts, Texas, and American YouthWorks and on the advisory board of Down Home Ranch, a residential center for Down syndrome children and adults in Elgin, Texas. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Inside Outside School near Austin, and Strokes of Genius in NYC. His article, “Autism and Nutrition” was included in the 2006 THE OFFICIAL AUTISM 101 MANUAL, by Autism Today. “Gifts Along the Whole Spectrum: The Portrayal of Disability in Film” was the featured article in July 2006, KALEIDOSCOPE Magazine on Arts and Disability. For an entire year, 2009, he, along with fourteen other authors, wrote an article each month for the Autism at Home Series. His topic was “WHAT’S OLD, WHAT’S NEW: BOOKS AND FILMS WORTH KNOWING.” He shares widely a list of books and films on autism and education. He recently reviewed BEATING AUTISM: How Alternative Medicine Cured My Child by Anne M. Evans. His work with savants is included in ISLANDS OF GENIUS, by Dr. Darold A.Treffert and in THE PRODIGY’S COUSIN, Joanne Ruthsatz and Kimberly Stephens.

For most of his life he has been an active tournament tennis player and coach. For the past several years he has focused more of his energies and time on the study of the nutritional needs of persons with autism. In 2009, after having both hips replaced at the same time, he began riding in charity bicycle rides, the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, the Autism Ride, the Rosedale Ride, and the Atlas Ride. He also works with athletes to achieve high performance through the use of Shaklee health and wellness products. He and his wife have been using Shaklee since 1974. He and Rosanne, his wife of 59 years, are the parents of three grown and multitalented children. Their eldest daughter, an actress, worked for thirteen years on Wall Street in NYC before returning back to Austin. Their second daughter, a long time middle school music teacher and classical vocalist with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, taught Music Education at Northwestern University but moved to Portland, ME. She is working with HISTORY IT, providing digital archives for schools, churches, libraries, and athletic organizations. Their son is a Lt. Col in the United States Marine Corps. Ashley Kate, a first and only grandchild, arrived 7/26/2006.

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