San Jose man with autism shows remarkable gift on the piano

A San Jose mother whose son was diagnosed with autism made it her life's work to help other families with special needs children.

The nonprofit Friends of Children with Special Needs in Fremont is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Su Fen Wu says her son is an example of someone who has limited communication skills but has the limitless capacity to bring joy.

Chi Ling Wu is an award winning pianist. He's 26-years-old.
Some might say he's a musical genius. He showed a special ability at an early age to learn to play a composition by hearing.

The autistic artist is limited in his speech and communicated with KTVU with the help of his mother.

He says he likes to play music to the tune of nine instruments; piano, cello, violin, Chinese dulcimer (a string instrument), drums, saxophone, marimba, saxophone and accordion.

Still, this has been a journey with high and low notes that started when Chi Ling was diagnosed with autism when he was two.

"It was like a big rock hit your head," says Su Fen, "That was like the end of the world for us at that time."
But Su Fen says she found an inner strength.

She refused to hide her son. Instead, she nurtured Chi Ling's natural gravitation towards the piano.
"Hiding is not the solution because they're going to grow up. They're going to be out in the community," says Su Fen.

She co-founded Friends of Children with Special Needs in 1996 in Fremont. She says she wanted to help other families.

Su Fen says her son epitomizes the potential of each individual, autism notwithstanding.

"He can contribute something to the community. That's the goal I give him. He can do something for people who need it," says Su Fen.

Chi Ling volunteers by playing at hospitals and senior centers.

On this day, he performed at Sarah Care in Campbell.

A staff member tells KTVU Chi Ling's music reawakens the spirit in these seniors who are suffering dementia.

86-year-old Jennie, who watched the young man play, says his music made her want to get up and dance.
"Yes, it really does. Makes you kind of feel like it...yeah. But I haven't danced in a long time."
Su fen says her son will never be able to live independently but that should not be a deterrent to living life to its fullest.

What's her message to other parents with special needs children? "Do the best you can. Find their strength. It doesn't have to be talent," says Su Fen.

The proud mother tells KTVU Chi Ling has won many music competitions, including a silver medal in a piano competition by people with disabilities in Vienna last year.

Su Fen says the victory she cherishes is that her son is happy.