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Mendoza, Thristan

Category: Ill or disabled

Thristan Mendoza (born 1989) is a Filipino autistic savant and marimba prodigy. Nicknamed "Tum-Tum" Mendoza, he was born in 1989 in Quezon City, Philippines. He was diagnosed with autism at age 2½ With inborn perfect pitch, he learned to play the marimba at age 5. He also proved to be good at mathematics, and whilst at the O.B. Montessori Centre excelled in the Japanese Kumon method of mathematics.

Even very early in his life he had proved to be a bit special. Since he could already read and write, Tum-Tum was enrolled at the Philippine Montessori centre at age 2 1/2. However because he was not mingling with the other children but would only play by himself, with no eye contact, and also showed significant hyperactivity, the school suggested a psychological assessment and a diagnosis of autism was made. His mother has said:

"The signs suddenly fell into place. He hated video lights and any form of the shade of red. He could not tolerate the sound of electric drills and food grinders. A loner, he needed a lot of prodding before he would play or interact with others. He did not like looking at the mirror, saying he was too shy to do so. He uttered certain words again and again."

Also noted was a fascination with spinning objects such as electric fans and bicycle wheels.

Tum Tum “shows best abilities on tasks that do not rely on verbal elaboration of concepts or percepts. Social skills are the main deficit.

The same year as he was diagnosed with autism, Tum Tum made his first musical appearance playing three different musical instruments — drums, cymbals and temple block — all at the same time. He later performed as a lead musician with the metalophone as his instrument during a World Youth Day celebration. He then took up the marimba and, after only four months, was a special guest artist of the Philippine Madrigal Singers in a concert on the main stage of the Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. By age 10 he was a veteran of 120 shows with instrumentalist/composers, percussion virtuosos and harpists from around the world.

"When I first heard Tum Tum Mendoza play his marimba, time stood still. All my thoughts stopped and he just absorbed my attention completely. I marveled at how this child, whose parents were told not to expect anything from him, has now accomplished much more than any of us have."

Using his remarkable musical talent, Tum-Tum, with the effort, support and encouragement of his dedicated, and grateful family, has done much to raise awareness about autism in the Philippines, and now internationally, donating countless hours to fund raising activities for the Autism Society of the Philippines and other organizations for the handicapped. Proceeds from the release of his first CD/cassette album are being donated to a special educational fund of the Autism Society of the Philippines for the benefit of indigent families who cannot afford educational intervention and other therapies for their special children. 

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