Daily Archives: March 30, 2006

A Zometool analogy


The following is a simple Zometool structure. The way Zometools connect to each other, there’s only one way that they fit together well. The rods each have a different shape at the end, and the balls at the ends have holes for that shape in a geometric pattern that allows you to build large structures out of them. Provided that you start correctly. The following structure is put together correctly. Note the length of the red rod.

The following is what it looks like if you try to put the wrong length of red rod in. The yellow rod is trying to connect to the red rod in the middle of it, instead of at one of the ends.

However, it is possible to force-fit that longer red rod, in a way that even looks stable at first glance. All you have to do is bend the yellow rod a bit out of place.

Here is the beginnings of a structure built on the foundation with the wrong length of red rod.

That location of the red rod at the bottom requires modifications to the structure all around. Zometools aren’t built to be force-fit.

More and more of the structure has to be forced into place in order to make certain connections, because the original connections were not the right ones.

As you can see if you look closely, the structure begins to come apart in places and is harder to put together.

The following illustrates a blue rod that won’t quite fit into the ball.

And the structure falls apart.

Here’s that initial red rod again in that structure.

Here, again, is what it should look like. The red rod should be shorter. This is a sturdier thing to build a structure on top of.

After putting enough pieces of the structure into place, you can physically feel with your hands that the structure is trying to fit everything else the way it is supposed to be. The tension leads the end of the rod to exactly the right hole on the ball.

And you end up with a structure like this, that in some ways looks more precarious but has a better foundation so it stays together better:

Now think of the way autistic people learn. Much of the time, people try to force-fit us, like that red rod, because it seems more intuitive to them. And they don’t see anything wrong with it. But further down the line, that causes all kinds of instability and collapse. But if you go with how we are actually built, and how we actually learn, you can get a structure that may look different than you intended, sometimes different than what you were taught “growth” looks like, but is sturdier, and serves our own functions better.

Or as Donna Williams puts it:

Though others may have had some say
in building up their book of rules,
I had mine given without want,
I couldn’t build one, had no tools.My book has not, my name upon it.
It feels unlike mine in hand.
If not that I relied upon it,
I’d let it fall like grains of sand.(from Not Just Anything)