Devin Louis Miller Kicking In on Autism Research

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At the urging of lead drummer Devin Louis Miller, a portion of the proceeds from sales of Seattle rockers The Van Dammes’ first CD, “Missing in Action,” will be donated to several autism-related charities.

I just want to help. This is really my first chance to donate to the cause.

Lead drummer Devin Louis Miller and his Seattle-based rock band, The Van Dammes, are hoping their first self-produced CD is a big hit – in more ways than one – when it lands on the Internet’s virtual shelves next month.

Inspired by his young brother Timmy, who was diagnosed at age 5 with autism, Miller convinced his band-mates to donate half of the profits from their first CD, “Missing In Action,” to numerous autism research institutes. Timmy, now 10, is “doing very well, thanks to the tremendous work of doctors and scientists working on disorders across the autism spectrum,” noted the big brother, who wants to make sure others diagnosed with similar disorders get the same excellent treatment – and eventually, a cure will be found.

“It was pretty clear almost from the time he was born that he was a developing slowly, in terms of speaking and other normal behaviors, and nobody was really shocked when they told my parents it was autism,” Devin Louis Miller said. “Everyone was sad about it, but like I said, not really surprised.”

The surprising part, he added, was how much the doctors who took Timmy’s case understood about pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) and how much they were able to help him once the diagnosis was confirmed.

“It was amazing,” the musician said. “Once they determined that it was autism, they were really able to understand Timmy and help him. And just as importantly, they were able to explain things to my parents and help them deal with the situation.”

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication, social interaction and behavior. It afflicts roughly one out of every 150 children, though it is also known to develop in adults, and tends to affect five boys to every one girl. It is classified as a PDD, a category often described interchangeably with the broad range of Autism Spectrum Disorders, which range from mild to severe autism to abnormalities in social interactions with otherwise normal intelligence, known as Asperger’s syndrome.

Recognizing the difference between mild autism, severe autism and other PDDs is critical to developing the proper treatment strategy. Although there is no known “cure” for the disease, some patients diagnosed and treated at an early age have been known to “outgrow” the condition, making it even more important that Timmy’s condition was detected when he was relatively young.

The boy has progressed so well, according to his big brother, that he’s on target to attend a mainstream middle school for eighth grade next fall. “Timmy’s an amazing kid and he’s made great progress,” Devin Louis Miller said. “There’s no doubt that the excellent care he’s received over the past four-and-a-half-years has done wonders.”

That’s precisely what the drummer had in mind when he convinced his fellow Van Dammes to donate some of the profits from “Missing In Action” to several autism-focused charities, including the San Diego, Calif.-based Autism Research Institute and Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group with offices in New York City, Princeton, NJ, and Los Angeles, Calif.

“I just want to help,” Devin Louis Miller noted. “This is really my first chance to donate to the cause. There are a lot of other kids out there like Timmy and they need a fighting chance.”

“We were happy to do it,” said David Barros, an aspiring actor/director and the band’s bass player. “We all know Timmy and love him, and we know how important a cause this is. I don’t know how much money ‘Missing In Action’ will make, but I do know that every little bit we can donate will make a difference.”

Like the band’s name, “Missing In Action” is a reference to Belgian-born martial artist and actor Jean-Claude Van Damme (whose first Hollywood role was in the 1984 Chuck Norris action flick “Missing in Action”). Barros described the 10-song CD as “a mixture of real 90s-based grunge and post-punk revival … like emo, only not so much of a pop sound.” Members of The Van Dammes include Devin Louis Miller, drums; David Barros, bass; Gerald McRea, lead guitar and vocals; Drew Larson, keyboard; and Martha Lundeen, guitar and vocals.

“It’s a great CD,” Devin Louis Miller said. “We’re really proud of it. I just hope that however many copies we manage to sell, we can do some good for Autism Speaks and the other autism charities. It’s an important cause and these organizations do a lot of great work. My little brother is proof of that.”

About Devin Louis Miller
Devin Louis Miller is a writer, actor and musician living in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. A 2008 graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in music education, he is a substitute teacher for Seattle Public Schools and the lead drummer for the independent rock and roll band The Van Dammes, whose first self-produced CD, “Missing In Action,” is scheduled to debut in February 2012.

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