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article imageSinger overcomes disabilities to become American Idol sensation

By Carol Forsloff     Apr 28, 2011 in Arts
A new singing sensation, James Durbin, is helping bring awareness of two disabilities that can bring great hardship to individuals and families, as this young man who was embraced on American Idol with thunderous applause, may end up winning the gold.
Last night’s performance was stunning, according to the viewers, as multiple downloads of the video on YouTube reveal. Durbin’s rendition of Will You Love Me Tomorrow had that “chicken skin” sensation from fans, as one could see the appreciation in their faces as Durbin finished his song. Later comments reinforced that “chicken skin” attitude towards the Durbin performance, which is even more poignant given the obstacles he has overcome in order to stand before audiences and sing as he did last night.
Durbin has both Tourette’s and Aspergers syndromes. Only one of these problem areas can be a barrier in achievement. Asperger’s is in the spectrum of the condition known as autism, with those having it considered to be among the high functioning. Individuals diagnosed with it often have below average abilities with social interaction, attention and speech. Those with Tourette’s syndrome can, without provocation, begin to swear or shout. Facial tics can contort the face and interfere with socialization and communication. The behavior exhibited by many individuals can appear so aberrant, that it is difficult for victims to have a normal social and personal life. Yet, as experts tell us, with proper education and understanding, such individuals can achieve well, and as is seen by Durbin’s advancement and others who have also made outstanding contributions in their own lives.
Art and music are two of the areas cited by experts where individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome can achieve. Comedians, actors, inventors and musicians are among the talented individuals with this disorder, although those with strong achievement span a wide range of occupations. Those famous people diagnosed, or speculated to have or have had, Aspergers include Robin Williams, Bill Gates, Dan Ackroyd, James Taylor and Al Gore. There are many others.
Already Durbin is being compared to Adam Lambert because of his versatility and dynamic presentation. His biography reveals a life that could be perceived as particularly tragic, but one that has been used as inspiration and motivation for Durbin’s zest to achieve. His father, also a musician, died of a drug overdose when Durbin was just nine years old. On American Idol Durbin said, “People say that I get my musical talent from my dad. Well, I’ll never know.”
It was shortly after his father died, Durbin learned he has both Aspergers syndrome and Tourettes. He is described as high functioning, exhibiting mild symptoms of these conditions. Facial and vocal tics are less observable and more manageable according to reports. These conditions, however, are said not to have interfered with Durbin’s musical achievements. He has starred in productions of Singing in the Rain, Beauty and the Beast, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof and finds some type of therapy in his work. Music, a girlfriend Heidi, and a son from that girlfriend are credited with helping him turn his life around.
The young family has continued to struggle, as Durbin said during conversations with the media, “We’re living in a place right now with the cheapest rent. I don’t have a job and we’re doing what we can to get by. There’s been times when we can’t even afford to get diapers.”
If the audience reception is any evidence, young Durbin may soon find his musical abilities, and his life story, may lead to actually winning the ultimate prize at American Idol and then going on to become a first-rate star, as some fans are already saying is possible.
More about James Durbin, American idol, Aspergers, Autism, Tourettes syndrome
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