Mark Rimland: An inspiration to us all
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From Executive Director Steve Edelson, Ph.D.

July 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Bernard Rimland’s book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior. With the publication of this revolutionary book, Dr. Rimland single-handedly transformed the field of autism research and treatment.

Mark at his deskSoon after he realized that his son Mark had autism, Dr. Rimland began scouring the research literature to figure out how best to help him. He reviewed the literature in great detail, and soon realized that the entire professional community supported a psychodynamic cause of autism without any scientific evidence. In his book, Dr. Rimland convincingly demonstrated that the published evidence was consistent with an organic, physiological cause.

Note: Jessica Kingsley Publishers will be reprinting a 50th anniversary edition of Dr. Rimland’s seminal book this year. Besides the original text, the book will include updates from many of the top experts in the field.

When I travel around the country to attend conferences and meetings, many parents and professionals ask me about Dr. Rimland’s son Mark. How old he is, what he does, where he lives, and so on. I feel fortunate to know Mark very well. I met him when I was 19 years of age, and he was 21. Over the years, we have developed a very close friendship. We usually go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings, and we try to get together at least one or two more times during the week.

Mark is now 58 years old, and lives with his mother and brother in Kensington, a small district in San Diego. Similar to his father, Mark loves to converse with people, has a great sense of humor, and has many friends in the neighborhood. Mark does not drive a car, but he can take the city bus. He often strolls around his neighborhood to greet people and to get a little sunshine. He likes to visit a local coffee shop in the evenings, and spends time visiting with friends and drinking herbal tea. People in the community often comment that Mark is the unofficial “Mayor of Kensington.” 

One of Mark’s closest friends is Gregory Page,  a popular singer-songwriter in San Diego who also has a strong following in other countries, including Australia and the Netherlands. Internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter Jason Mraz and Jim Croce’s son A.J. have produced many of Gregory’s albums. Gregory has used Mark’s artwork on two of his album covers, and he wrote the cover track about Mark for one of his albums titled “All Make Believe.”

Mark has a calendar memory, and he sometimes entertains people by telling them what day of the week they were born once they tell him their birth date. He also has an incredible memory for events in his life, often describing minute details and the exact date. He loves listening to music, including songs by the Beatles and the Doors, and enjoys reading books.

Mark is an established artist, and his works sell for hundreds or sometimes even thousands of dollars; he started painting at the age of 21. Mark even remembers the date when he started painting—September 15, 1977—since this was a memorable moment in his life.

In 1998, Mark teamed up with his sister, Helen Landalf, who is a professional writer and editor and has published several fiction books for teenagers, to create a very special book titled The Secret Night World of Cats. Mark painted the images, mostly of cats, and Helen wrote the story. The Autism Research Institute sells copies of the book as well as many of Mark’s images as prints and note cards. Visit www.MarkRimland.com to view/print an order form and to watch a video of Mark describing many of his paintings for the book.

During the week, Mark attends the St. Madeleine Sophie Center, a training center for adults with developmental disabilities. The center is located in El Cajon, California, about 15 miles east of San Diego. In 1977, Dr. Rimland and his wife were among the founding families of the center, which began with 22 students and now serves more than 400 adults with developmental disabilities. Mark often comments that he probably has the best eye contact at the center.

St. Madeleine Sophie Center also runs an off-site art gallery for adults with developmental disabilities. Mark spends three to four days a week working on various art projects including mosaics, watercolors, acrylic paintings, and much more. The gallery, named Sophie’s Gallery, uses one of Mark’s images as its logo. The public is welcome to visit the gallery to purchase the students’ artworks and crafts (109 Rea Ave., El Cajon).

Besides working at Sophie’s Gallery on weekdays, Mark is the resident artist of Kensington Gallery. Kensington Gallery is associated with ARI, and a portion of the sales are earmarked for autism research. The gallery is located next door, and shows include artists with and without disabilities. Mark usually spends a few hours on Saturday afternoons at the gallery, where he enjoys visiting with people as well as painting. To learn more about the gallery, visit www.KensingtonGallery.org.

Dr. Rimland often attributed Mark’s good nature and general happiness to three factors: supplementation with vitamin B6 along with other vitamins and minerals; behavior modification techniques; and a supportive community.

Mark was an inspiration to his father, who dedicated nearly 50 years of his life to autism research. And today, he is an inspiration to us all—his family, the ARI staff, his teachers and peers at St. Madeleine Sophie Center, the people of Kensington, and the autism family worldwide.