When Christopher Xu turned 2, his mother’s worst fears were confirmed. The other babies at her son’s birthday party babbled, gestured and used simple words as they played and interacted with their parents and each other. But Christopher was different.
“He was locked in his own world,” Sophia Sun recalls. “No eye contact. No pointing. No laughing at cartoons or looking at me when I talk to him.”
In fact, Sun says, she and her husband, Yingchun Xu, both Chinese-born computer engineers who earned their graduate degrees in Vancouver, British Columbia, had never known anyone with this kind of remote, inaccessible child.
The couple were living with their older daughters, Iris and Laura, in a Chicago suburb when Christopher was born. Both girls were interactive, affectionate babies, but Christopher paid little attention to his mother, his family or his surroundings. As a toddler he spent most of his time lining up his favorite toys in order or spinning himself in circles — over and over again. When the Xu family went to an air show, his mother pointed to the planes roaring overhead, saying, “Christopher, look at that! Look up!” but the little boy just spun around and around, oblivious to the noise or the world surrounding him.
Now Christopher is 11, and he will soon graduate from the fifth grade at Madison’s John Muir Elementary to head off to middle school. Thanks to the love and persistence of his family, powerful early training, insightful teachers and accepting classmates, his story has changed dramatically, and his remarkable abilities are increasingly apparent.