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When Owen Suskind was 3 years old, he suddenly “vanished,” according to his mother, Cornelia. The vivacious little boy she knew had retreated into a shell of silence from which he refused to emerge, and doctors diagnosed him with autism.

It was 1996 and little was known about the disorder at that time, such as how it could afflict one child while a sibling (in Owen’s case it was his older brother, Walter) remained completely unaffected. Owen’s parents were devastated; no matter how much they tried to express their love for him, they came to learn that their feelings — however sincere — were not going to reach him.

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