TOOELE — Despite the faulty wiring in his brain, Kodi Lee is a genius.
Even at age 11, when his story was first publicized, he blew people away with his music.
Now, despite deficits with autism, Kodi has advanced to Stansbury High School and soon may be on his way to a specialized college of music.
For this teenager from Tooele, there are no books, no teaching. All comes naturally from a part of his brain that dishes out reams of music.
Even in elementary school, he was ahead of his time.
Though autistic, hyperactive, legally blind, emotionally reactive and academically challenged, Kodi, as a musical savant, is now in high school. Sitting at a baby grand piano, he savors his ever increasing abilities with music. With colleagues on stage and with the help of student aides, he even dances now.
In rehearsing for school musical reviews, drama teacher Glen Carpenter said, “I gave him the music and a copy of the CD. He had the piano track down two days later.”
“I envy him a lot — to see that it comes naturally to him is really amazing,” said student Tim Swensen.
Carpenter agrees. “He’s not afraid to try anything. You watch the other side of his brain click in and you forget he has any kind of difficulty,” he said.
With Kodi, Carpenter says teachers have to think outside the box. “You have to approach his educational needs completely different than you would any other student.”
Makelle Baker, another student, said Kodi works hard. "He doesn’t let disabilities get in the way with something he loves.”
Anything musical, anything with rhythm — if you toss it Kodi’s way he’ll pick it up. For example, Kodi tap dances — something his parents thought they would never see. Though blind, he feels the movement in his feet.
“My husband and I are shocked. He’s picking up the moves right away,” said Kodi’s mom, Tina. “It’s incredible. He really does connect everything to music.”
Ann Marie Michaels helps Kodi in drama and dance and she has her own description. “I was stunned in musical theater and in tap dance how quickly he picks things up.”
In the school gym, a coach helps Kodi work on coordination and balance. Hopping, moving forward and backward, side stepping, stepping and touching the floor, even shooting hoops — though he can’t see, he listens and feels everything as a rhythm.
While he still has difficulty communicating socially, he recently gave an assigned report in class. Reading from his own writing in Braille, he comfortably spoke in complete sentences in front of students.
“I think the key to cracking Kodi is to train his genius because if we train his genius who knows how much farther he’s going to go in socialization and communication,” his mother said.
"It might take him a little longer," fellow student Spencer Lawson said, "but he’s exactly the same as the rest of the kids. He can do everything we can do.”
For Kodi, music remains his stage and it’s this genius that may bridge the gap soon to a college that specializes in music. According to his mother, “he needs to go to a college where teachers have the ability to challenge him. He’s ready for that.”