Autistic teen with hypersensitive hearing awarded for rescuing neighbor

Kasey Brislane, 13, says her heightened sense of hearing enabled her to notice her neighbor's cries for help


Anna Kim
Pioneer Press Newspapers, Suburban Chicago, Ill.

HARWOOD HEIGHTS, Ill. — Kasey Brislane, 13, can hear what others can’t. To the Harwood Heights girl, the world is loud, sometimes too loud, but her hypersensitive hearing is credited with saving the life of her neighbor last winter. She’ll be receiving an award Aug. 30 for her heroism that night.

Brislane’s neighbor, Susi Schubert, 68, was walking outside their apartment building on a dark, freezing January evening when she slipped on black ice and fell, sliding underneath a parked car as she tried to regain balance. She became trapped, her face underneath the tailpipe, her arm broken and legs twisted, all on top of ice.

A 13-year-old girl with autism credits her hypersensitive hearing with helping her save her neighbor. (Photo/Anemone123, Pixabay)
A 13-year-old girl with autism credits her hypersensitive hearing with helping her save her neighbor. (Photo/Anemone123, Pixabay)

“I’m screaming for anybody, just anybody, help me,” Schubert said. “Kasey heard me and she came running out.”

Brislane said she was watching TV at the time, and started to notice the faint sound of someone yelling for help. She ran outside when she realized one of her neighbors was in trouble, and found Schubert underneath the car.

When the paramedics arrived, Schubert was so cold they couldn’t give her medication through an IV until she warmed up, Schubert said.

“Kasey wouldn’t leave my side. That little girl, I’m telling you, she’s my guardian angel,” Schubert said. “She saved me, she really did, or I’d have probably still been out there until I froze. Nobody heard me except Kasey.”

Brislane and Schubert have lived next door to each other for about eight years, Schubert said. After the accident, other neighbors brought Schubert cookies and checked in on her, all saying they didn’t hear anything the night it happened.

“Kasey has the ears of a cat or a dog, she can hear things better than what we can,” Schubert said. “She’s just got that innate.”

Brislane said she can hear the buzzing of fluorescent light bulbs. As a baby, she cried when someone flushed the toilet, her mom said. Vacuuming had to be done when Brislane was out of the house. Big groups of kids are sometimes hard to be around, Brislane said, as they talk over each other, scream and yell.

“If there was a volume button, most people would hear at, I don’t know, 40. I probably hear at like 55, 60, around there,” Brislane said.

It hasn’t always made things easy.

“I always used to have trouble with it, because I would plug my ears a lot during school and the kids would say, ‘Why are you plugging your ears? It’s not that loud,’ and then kind of make fun of me for it,” Brislane said. “I didn’t know why. I thought everybody heard the same level that I did.”

Last year, Brislane was diagnosed with autism and started to receive occupational therapy, sometimes wearing noise-canceling headphones so the volume of the world is bearable. Lisa Brislane, her mother, said her daughter was embarrassed by the diagnosis at first, but has gradually come to accept it.

“I’ve always taken my hypersensitive hearing as a bad thing or something wrong with me,” Kasey Brislane said. “It’s nice to know that if I didn’t have that, someone could have died. I saved someone’s life because I heard her ...”

Brislane is a Girl Scout Cadette, and her actions earned her the Medal of Honor, a national award given to Girl Scouts who save another’s life.

“I just think Kasey is one of the sweetest girls, nicest girls. She’s got a heart of gold,” Schubert said. “I think that child would give you the shirt off her back. She’s an amazing child, she really is.”

Brislane said she’s nervous and excited to receive the award. She wants to share her story so that people understand that autism affects people in different ways.

“I finally feel like I did something that people are going to remember when I die. People are going to say, that was the girl that saved someone’s life because of her autism,” Brislane said. “I want people to know that autism is more than just ‘Rain Man.‘”

The award ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 5650 N. Canfield Avenue in Norwood Park Township.

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©2020 Pioneer Press Newspapers (Suburban Chicago, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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