To learn, you have to be able to listen
– Alfred Tomatis
The last seven and a half decades have seen an explosion in understanding how we develop as human beings and how we relate to each other and the world. It has seen us use leading edge developmental neuro-physiology1 to effectively treat children (and adults) with special needs—often with dramatic results.
Through a series of articles I will introduce you to the people behind this revolution.
Our time frame begins with the 1943 publication2 of Dr Leo Kanner’s seminal work on pediatric autism. Though a series of essays we will explore the wonders of being alive and human and having the greatest organ in the universe (thus far known): the human brain. You will meet some of these incredibly perceptive pioneers who have changed the way we understand human development.
These are a few of them:
- Dr Leo Kanner
- Dr Alfred Tomatis
- Dr Jean Aryes
- Mary Kawar, MS OTR
- Patricia Wilbarger, MEd, OTR
- Dr Stanley Greenspan
- Dr Norman Doidge
- Teresa May-Benson, ScD, OTR/L
- Sheila Frick, OTR/L
Each of these remarkable individuals provided novel insight into how we develop and function as human beings—and most if not all provided tools to transform their philosophical understanding into effective therapies.
Before we begin the biographies I want to introduce two ultimately interrelated topics. (1) The wonders and reach of the human brain. (2) Gödel’s Proof.
The human brain is special. Its capacity to understand and control the world through machines and technology is unbounded. Human beings have created effective models of the microscopic world, the entire universe, and the beginning of time. Our intelligence has allowed us to control the forces of nature through fire, chemical reactions, and nuclear energy, and we now stand on the verge of controlling matter/anti-matter reactions. Physical and virtual libraries are filled with books on our ability to organize society, manufacturer things, build cities, grow food, and travel through space. As we’ll see through the works of the pioneers, the brain has the singular if not unique ability to learn, grow, adapt, reorganize, and change itself—through our entire lifetime.
Gödel showed us something even more.
Published in 1931 when he was 25, Godel’s Proof3 is one of the most remarkable discoveries in all of mathematics. Ironically, it is not well known even among many mathematicians.
While Godel’s mathematics is formidable, his results are straightforward and intuitive: Roughly speaking, most of the truths that can be known by human beings cannot be known, discovered, or proven by any of today’s computers (even quantum computers) or by any artificial intelligence (AI) based on current computer architectures and programming.4 Not only can human beings know more truths than computers, they can know infinitely more. This result affirms, supports, and validates my belief in the incredible potential and capability of the human brain—the greatest organ in the universe.
Now let’s go meet the people.
Empathy comes from being empathized with
– Stanley Greenspan
— Richard Feingold, Co-founder
- The meaning of developmental neuro-physiology will reveal itself in the course of these articles. I will not attempt to define it.
- Kanner, L. (1943) ‘Autistic disturbances of Affective Contact’, Nervous Child 2: 217-250.
- Kurt Gödel, 1931, “On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems, I,” Monatshefte für Mathematik und Physik, v. 38 n. 1, pp. 173-198.
- While it’s hard to imagine the type of computer to which Gödel’s Proof doesn’t apply, I must allow for its possibility.