On “contradictions” and so-called prodigies and so-called savants and prejudice and being a freak on display.

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This is… more personal, and more emotional (at least to me, I have no clue if it comes across in the writing) than a lot of my posts. Just so you’re warned.

Julian of Amorpha replied to my last entry, talking about how people also try to discredit the writing of children, too, saying “A child could not have done this.”Which reminded me of a very annoying fact of my life, that I’d never fully connected together with this before. As a child, I could do things that children weren’t supposed to be able to do, too. Or some adults.

Not that I knew it, it’s even noted in my records somewhere along the line that I showed utter lack of awareness that I could do things other kids couldn’t. I was more aware, if anything, of all the things other children could do that I could not seem to do. But other people were very aware of it. And I didn’t much enjoy the ways they showed that awareness. (Being officially labeled an “idiot savant” is the least of it.)

I have a friend who was the women’s chess champion in her state at the age of fifteen. She refuses to play chess even at the age of fifty. I understand why.

I know this may sound weird for a blogger, but I hate being on display. Or rather, I hate certain things that being on display tends to entail. I don’t mind the actual fact of exposing my ideas for other people to see. I don’t mind the fact of communicating. I do mind… having to explain over and over again that yes, people like me can do the things we do. That it’s not particularly unusual among people with my brain configuration, etc.

Being a non-speaking autistic adult writer has a lot of utter nastiness in common with being a child prodigy. It’s sometimes worse in person, because on the Internet all you have is my word for the fact that I can’t do such-and-such and look like such-and-such. In person, people see a massive contrast between how I look and how I write, so massive that sometimes they block one or the other out to just not have to think about it. Or, to consider me amazing, without even knowing me, and not because I’ve done something well, but because I’ve done something well for a retard. It’s sort of like doing something well for a child. I almost prefer being attacked, to being praised and having no clue if I’m being praised for doing something well or praised for simply not being what someone expected me to be.

I know, of course, that there are ways I could avoid all this. I could avoid showing certain abilities in public. Sometimes I do. There are things I can do, and never do do, at least not in front of anyone, because I don’t want to deal with the fallout of the contrast between people’s expectations and what I am. No, they’re not things that would make me “more independent” or anything like that. They’re just weird little talents that I’d rather not deal with people’s reactions to. I’ve said before that I’d do them, if I could just not be me while I was doing them, and therefore not have to let anyone know that the rest of me is in total opposition to the sort of person they’d expect to do those things.

But I can’t always avoid it. I went to a sports event for people with developmental disabilities, and I did as crappily at most things as I expected, and then I picked up a badminton racket. And I’d never played badminton before in my life, but I kept beating the non-disabled staff (and they rapidly stopped trying to go easy on me), it was like all the links from perception to action came together in badminton. And it was a lot of fun. But then I was thinking “Oh great, I hope nobody makes a big deal out of this, I want to just have fun.” And it is fun. I enjoy the feeling of totally merging with sensation and movement like that. But I don’t want the “Wow you’re amazing for a disabled person” crap, nor do I really want a lot of recognition for it, I want to enjoy myself, or do my job, or whatever it is I’m doing at that point.

I also know that the way I’ve chosen to lead my life often leaves me with little choice but to sometimes bump up against those contradictions, and bump up against them hard. If I do advocacy in person, which I do, I’m going to bump into it right there. I sometimes use the contradictions in people’s heads to whatever advantage I can, in fact, in getting a point across. It’s necessary given the message I’m trying to send, and the medium I have to send it through. But there’s a downside, and the downside is not something I often talk about.

I’ve given speeches. Decent speeches, as far as I can tell. And then been so wound up afterwards that I’ve spun around in circles, meowed at the top of my lungs, flailed, banged my head, paced randomly, body-slammed walls, lost all connection to what the world meant except patterns of light and shadow (that my body then chased all over the place), screamed, and peed on myself (not necessarily in that order or all at once). With full awareness that many people were watching and would use my “weirdness” later on to amplify the supposed amazingness of the speeches.

In those situations, it seems like performing, even though it isn’t. Because people’s reactions are to the imagined contradictions, and people’s reactions are at times strong and overwhelming. I wish I had a transporter to disappear after speaking engagements sometimes. Not because of stage fright, which I don’t really have much of, but because of the “Holy crap it’s a walking talking typing autistic person” response. I’m sure even autistics who don’t show up in quite as glaring contrast to people’s assumptions, know exactly what I mean when I talk about that response, because at times it’s inevitable in being openly autistic and doing public speaking.

Well they offer you money, but money don’t mean much to you
And they feed you with flattery, to get you to show them the things that you do

And you’d like to say, “Leave me alone, would you all get away!”
And you wish you were safely at home
And you wish that somebody would stand up and say
“He’s a boy, a boy who can’t talk, just a boy, a boy who can’t talk”

— Tony Carey, “Pink World”, also a good explanation why there are certain things I won’t display publicly anymore (flattery, if anyone wonders, tastes like saccharine-coated poison to me)

I wouldn’t mind so much, I think, if this were a world in which there were not the ableist assumptions that lead to the backhanded compliment of “Wow you’re so amazing… for an autistic.” If everyone knew that there is no contradiction at all in being autistic, and writing good speeches, and, uh, doing all those other things I do. If everyone knew, even, that lives like mine existed, lives in which abilities that were there or seemed to be there before are not here anymore, or that abilities fluctuated seemingly at random, and in which I’m okay with that. A lot of things.

And yes, I’m very aware that in this particular day and age, if I put myself on display, I’m asking for it. But I wish there were some other way, and sometimes I wish that society would change just a little bit faster. What I like most is being in the company of people who are not surprised or overly emotionally awestruck by the apparent contradictions — contradictions that exist entirely in people’s heads — in what I can and can’t do, past and present. There’s a button that says “I am not a puzzle, I am a person.” I wish there was “My abilities are not paradoxes, the only contradiction you see is based in your own assumptions, not in me.” Or something.

My choice to reveal my areas of difficulty online is a conscious one. I am aware that in the present day, this has all the consequences I describe above and many more. I know people who choose not to discuss their areas of difficulty, so they will not have to encounter this kind of thing. Online, they can pass, because anyone with a certain level of writing skill is assumed to have a whole lot of other skills, even if they don’t. I have discussed this with some of them, who will talk in private about things like this, but never in public.

And that’s why I do it, I guess. Because I hope that at some point, some kid like me won’t have to grow up with what I grew up with, or face this world in adulthood that shouts “retard” at them one minute and hails them as a “genius” the next, and flip-flops back and forth faster than a ping-pong match. I hope that at some point, my particular kind of skill pattern won’t be considered weird. And people like me won’t have to deal with a choice between unpleasant hiding and unpleasant kinds of exposure and attention. Where we won’t have to be walking freak shows.

I am hoping that if I am an example of someone like this that people can get used to, then it will be easier for others later on. But every time I see my name used as an example of “this ability combined with that deficit,” I’m ambivalent, it’s uncomfortable. And yet I use others’ names in the same way, others who have voluntarily become examples. This is where I separate emotions from political acts: I know that however bad this feels to me, I’ve still chosen to do it, and these are the consequences.

As much as I dislike aspects of doing this, I would dislike it even more if someone tried to paint me as a fragile being who needed to be shielded from all public discussion. I would find it incredibly manipulative of myself, if I talked about how bad this made me feel, in order to avoid the consequences of what I’ve done. I can’t stand it when other people do things like that, make public political statements and then claim to be too fragile to have to deal with the consequences. So please don’t take what I’m saying as that, it isn’t.

I may react with horribly unpleasant levels of emotion to a topic, but I do not ever want to use that reaction to influence people’s responses in a manipulative way. In fact one time someone insisted that my emotional reaction meant that they had to avoid saying things that upset me, and that I was conveying to them that they should not talk about those things. I argued with that person. I told them that if I didn’t want them to talk about those things, I would tell them, I would not just display a strong emotional reaction as a hint. I told them that I may react strongly but in no way did I want that to make them feel like they’re obligated not to disagree with me.

I don’t like it when others do that kind of thing (“Here’s my opinion, and you shouldn’t contradict it or I’ll get very distraught/ill/etc, but you still have to listen to my opinion, and if you do contradict it I’ll not only be distraught/ill/etc but I’ll go to other people and tell them what a monster you are while claiming to be an infallibly nice person myself, my niceness being the reason that I’m so fragile and you’re so mean, etc”) and I don’t want to do it to anyone. My reactions exist, and I don’t always hide them (although I do believe in the “there’s a time and a place” thing), but they are my reactions, not signals to you to shut up. I know that there are real consequences for saying the things I say, and not always enjoying them doesn’t mean not accepting them in the “unpleasant but inevitable” category.

But I do want to get across that there’s a definite cost in this kind of situation. And not a trivial one.

I hope that this has made sense. This has been one of those posts where there are all kinds of depths and details to what I am thinking, but my writing only shows a pale cursory reflection/summary of those. There is so much more to this subject to cover, but it’s too emotional for me to jump into very far right now. I once, a long time ago, wrote a post on something related to this, and deleted it, never posted it. But, as I said in reply to someone earlier, I’m sometimes more honest than I want to be. And I do think there is a use in mentioning these things, even if only half-formed bits of my thoughts manage to get out. But I do, seriously, hope it makes sense, and hope that the parts of it that go beyond my personal situation are recognizable.

I have a few good friends, some human and some non-human, who don’t regard anything I do as a contradiction or cause for syrupy praise or astonishment. I love them for it. For them, I don’t have to perform, I don’t have to hide, and I don’t have to put up with a choice between the two or the appearance of one or the other. And I’m guessing the same is true in reverse.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

20 responses »

  1. I hope that by all your advocacy that people will start to understand the varieties in human wiring (to quote the neurodiversity.com website).

    I hope that it’s better some day for the people younger than you… that they don’t have to deal with “you are a retard and worthless’ or “you are a retard who can do cute tricks isn’t that amazing?” My ASD kid tends to get overestimations of what xe can do (example: drive a car) and I get accused of “holding xyr back.” (sigh)

  2. That reminds me SO much of Tommy – the Pinball Wizard that people wrote about.

    It’s well to speak about your difficulties – they are the real stuff of your life. Not that your talents aren’t real too, of course. But the difficulties put the talents in context – or show how OUT of context they may be.

  3. I get the overestimations, too. Especially online, obviously. (You’ve seen some of those.)

    But offline, it happens when the half that people block out is my appearance. In situations where I know perfectly well, based on the person’s actions, that they’d treat anyone else who looked like me as totally incompetent unless the person typed as fast as I do or something.

    Other times people block out the fact that I’m communicating and decide that either (a) I’m not really the one doing the physical act of communicating, or (b) whatever I’m saying is probably not true because someone who looks like me couldn’t possibly think clearly or something, or… uh… see prior post for tons of other ways.

    And a good chunk of the time, people switch back and forth, to both extremes, fast enough to give me mental whiplash.

  4. Yes, I always saw both “Tommy” and “Pink World” as being about the exploitation of “savants”. (“Pink World” that’s only a subplot, though. But I like “Pink World” better than “Tommy” for a whole slew of reasons, despite the fact that very few other people I know can stand Tony Carey at all. And for that matter despite the fact that “Pink World” uses the “mute kid with psychic powers” cliché, among many others. I still like it.)

  5. When people say “Oh, you did that soooo well!” and I’m thinking “pfft. whatever, why do you say that like you think I couldn’t do more than that or I can do a lot more than that, why are your expectations set so low for me?”. Along with it goes the condescending “baby tone” that seems automatic social response learned and passed around and played everywhere.

  6. IOW, _patronizing_. I’m pretty sick of being patronized and then handed BS assignments that don’t actually contribute like “the big people” do. I’m then seen as just “charity” and no one wants to give me any opportunity and I’m stuck pretty much being autodidactic for everything and the only place I get realized for who I am is online. Thanks for expressing this. It’s been a while for me expressing this because I keep blocking that pain mentally.

  7. Thank you for introducing me to a great radical new musician.

    I am listening to Carey on ITunes now (samples only, so I don’t get the full benefit of his genius).

    Pink World is a concept album, right?

    Thank you for expressing your pain Lord Alfred Henry. At least it is out there.

    What do you think of Bedtime Story, the 1996-released Carey album?

    And what else is in the story of Pink World?

    Thank you for expressing about your speeches and what happens afterwards. I get the Curious Incident gig at my former school every year because 1) I love literature and can write well about it, 2) I’m an inspiration to the students and 3) I’m autistic too, so I might understand Christopher because of 1) because I’m really very different from him but not in essentials. The way we live our lives and the reasons for them are different. I do my panicking before and after I may seem outwardly fine. But at the World Autism Congress it was different. I did feel the invasion of my private life there and I didn’t like it so I did react. I know you’ve talked about speechy things before and I could relate to that.

    As for people who do the “Don’t contradict me or I’ll get sick” they probably make me sick and quite involuntarily.

    It’s an interesting question I have just here, and it is just about empathy.

    Would people making the choices you make feel the same way as you do? Or would the feelings come from the choices? What is the feedback loop here? That’s what I’m trying to understand.

    But empathy is about understanding different and unknown feelings, I think.

    As for children not growing up with things like this, I can recommend the blog to the children I know and see. And we can discuss the issues and share our experiences. I would also do this with the children at heart. I’m sure even the coldest meanest politician is a child at heart really.

    (Or is that another patronising stereotype which I should avoid where possible?)

  8. Yes, Pink World is a concept album.

    The primary narrator is a guy who drinks bad water behind a factory, starts seeing visions and predicting the end of the world, and so forth. Then midway through the first half, Artie is introduced. He’s a kid who can’t talk but who can do some really strange (psychic) things with his mind, and therefore the government has him in some kind of institution where they are trying to train him to work for them. But he runs off. And starts a cult. Nuclear war breaks out. The cult is “protected” by Artie, and nobody ages, but it rapidly get into a nasty 1984-like scenario. But in the end, Artie disappears again (possibly realized this cult thing was a bad move?), takes away the barrier that was “protecting” the cult, and they end up having to fend for themselves.

    There’s another Planet P (the name Tony Carey works under on certain stuff) album that is mostly from the point of view of an astronaut who was in space while all this was going on.

    And then there’s a very recent Planet P album that’s not sci-fi at all, but historical, and it’s called “1931”. He’s apparently going to follow it up with one set in the McCarthy era and then one in modern times, or something like that.

    I just finally got “1931”, and am very much liking the final song, which starts out (in spoken word, before the music starts), “If you’re watching it, you’re part of it. If you’re close enough to see it, you’re in it. There’s no line drawn dividing the two. And if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going… do you? And things that might’ve happened back in the dark recesses of history can’t happen again… can they?”

    Which… uh… yeah, if you grasp the significance of the blog title, you know why I’d agree with the “We’d better  learn from history before we repeat it” sentiment.

  9. There’s a button that says “I am not a puzzle, I am a person.” I wish there was “My abilities are not paradoxes, the only contradiction you see is based in your own assumptions, not in me.” Or something.

    Or “The (oxy)moron you think you see exists only in your head.”

  10. My co-workers are not, for the most part, considered “paradoxes” because they can drive and use the phone but not draw highly accurate diagrams or work on the same thing for an entire day without getting bored. However, I am considered a “bundle of contradictions” (this phrase has actually been used to describe me) because my skill set is in some ways “opposite” that of those around me. What I would like to see is a society in which people can work on what they like, and what they are good at, and have this be considered “normal” and not some sort of compensation for something else.

  11. The reason I stopped wanting to be seen as a child prodigy (I mostly just wanted to have my real abilities acknowledged) was because of my mother’s reaction every time I did anything ‘special.’ She started finding ways to always take the credit for it somehow, and made sure I never forgot that anything I did was supposed to be due to her. Basically, the reason she wanted me to do something special was so she could ride my coattails, and prove to the world what a good parent she was. (The “here’s my opinion but don’t contradict it or I’ll get ill…” et al is also her to the letter, for what it’s worth.)

    Going back to the earlier topic of writing: regarding the whole “you’re so amazing” thing, it’s like how if a woman writes something, she’s ‘a woman writer,’ not just a writer, and everything she does is interpreted as having something to do with her gender. “This is good (name of genre) writing, for a *woman.*” Because it’s assumed that ‘normal’ women ordinarily write only silly romantic fluff or something, and so what might be considered only average for a male writer in a certain genre is hailed as an amazing achievement coming from a woman. Women are supposed to write things that only other women are interested in reading, “chick lit” and the like, so when a novel by a woman appeals to men and boys, everyone acts like it’s incredible.

    Something I also get very tired of, re ability, is the assumption that everyone who has a certain ability X must naturally have another ability Y, that it follows as some sort of logical consequence, and the incredulous reactions when you try to tell people you can do X but not Y (or can’t do Y well, or can only do it under certain circumstances), and the disbelief. “Well, I’m sure you really can do Y– you just must not want to/don’t believe in yourself.” (The “just doesn’t want to/lacks self-confidence” idea is one that has cropped up repeatedly in others’ assumptions about me, throughout my life.) “It’s unbelievable that someone as good as X at you couldn’t do Y, so I’m going to assume that you’re trying to manipulate me by claiming you can’t do Y and trying to get out of doing the things you need to do.” (This has happened even when I just asked for *help* with doing Y, not to get out of being asked to do it.) Or they keep conveniently “forgetting” that I can’t do or am not good at Y, again and again, and acting surprised or irritated when I ask for help, as if being helped once should have taught me how to do it for all time.

    I don’t blame people for not knowing that it’s possible to have X without Y until told otherwise. I do blame them for deliberately disbelieving or finding ways to ignore it once they’ve been told.

  12. All the writing on this site is helping me. I’ve not been exposed to such viewpoints in all my 48 years. Thanks. I have a three year old boy, diagnosed with “mild” autism, and I admit I ahve a hard time understanding him and his behavior. I also have been feeling sad for him. Everything here is helping. Thanks again.

  13. “Going back to the earlier topic of writing: regarding the whole “you’re so amazing” thing, it’s like how if a woman writes something, she’s ‘a woman writer,’ not just a writer, and everything she does is interpreted as having something to do with her gender. “This is good (name of genre) writing, for a *woman.*” Because it’s assumed that ‘normal’ women ordinarily write only silly romantic fluff or something, and so what might be considered only average for a male writer in a certain genre is hailed as an amazing achievement coming from a woman. Women are supposed to write things that only other women are interested in reading, “chick lit” and the like, so when a novel by a woman appeals to men and boys, everyone acts like it’s incredible.”

    Although I think you can say the same sort of thing without being discriminatory. For example, when a 6 year old solves a grade 6 level math problem, that kid is good at math *for a six year old*. An adult doing the same thing would not be an indication of high math ability, the way it is for a six year old.
    But often a group is stereotyped as less able than they are, or having less variation in ability, or both. When I think of really good authors (in my opinion) I think of Emily Rodda, Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce. All three of them are very different authors, all three are authors I consider good. And two of them are women. And I can think of things in each author’s writing I don’t like. That just means I don’t consider them perfect, not that I don’t consider them good.

  14. Hey, I am a mom of a newly diagnosed (almost 3 year old) child with autism. He’s been diagnosed with autism (PDD-NOS) and SID. He is self-injurious and aggressive. I know you don’t like hearing this but I truly don’t mean it in a negative way. I’m learning about this disorder and I’m lost to be honest. You, along with a few others I’ve read about recently, have opened my eyes to a side of this I didn’t realize. Yes, it does shock, surprise and totally elate me to see that you are non-verbal and autistic and can communicate your thoughts are clearly as you have here. It gives me so much hope for my son that I can’t even explain. Call me ignorant, that’s probably accurate because I’ve never been autistic and the only thing I see is someone that hits himself, laughs occassionally, tries to communicate but has a difficult time and often tunes the whole world out (or so it appeared). I find great comfort in reading about you thinking that maybe my son is just like you… that he is hyperaware of everything, that even if he can’t say “hey mom, I know you’re wanting me to do such and such but ….. blah blah blah” that he at least hears me and desires to communicate. I see the “negative” communication, the hitting and biting and it hurts me that I can’t help him to where he doesnt do that to himself and others. I blame myself a lot for that behavior, that if I could just figure out his needs then maybe he wouldnt hurt himself. I certainly dont mean to offend you. I’m not saying that I think it’s impressive that the “retard” can type or write… I would NEVER think that. I, well, I honestly don’t even know how to explain what I’m thinking myself. I’m very bad about getting my feelings into words. I know my son is intelligent (on a 3 yr old level) and maybe that will never progress but I’m going to give him every opportunity in the world to see just how far he can go. Anyway, thank you for sharing. I would love to email with you if you have any suggestions on how I can help me son on ANY level. I love him so much and I don’t want to fix him… God put him on this earth the way he is, just as he did us all. Cayden has a mission in life and he’s very capable of fulfilling that exactly the way he is- I just want to help him live more comfortably and not as stressed as he appears to be. Thanks for your time in reading this.

    Sincerely,
    Dena

  15. I think that having a disability is a gift because you are able to see humanity in a truthful light rather than being fooled by it for most of your life, if you do not have one.

    I have a cousin whose child is autistic yet he is a genius. I will never call him an idiot savant..because he is not an idiot. He is hyper sensative to the negativity of the human condition and the environment it creates. That is all.

    Just my opinion.

  16. “Or, to consider me amazing, without even knowing me, and not because I’ve done something well, but because I’ve done something well for a retard. It’s sort of like doing something well for a child. I almost prefer being attacked, to being praised and having no clue if I’m being praised for doing something well or praised for simply not being what someone expected me to be.”

    Boy, Does THAT sound familiar!
    I’m not autistic (at least I’ve never been diagnosed that way.) My “Problem” was that I was born 3 months prematurely. Due to “retinopathy of prematurity”, I am fairly severely visually-impaired. Problem with this is, I also taught myself to read when I was three, and was testing out at “adult levels” in reading/comprehension by the time I entered first grade.
    I can also play damn near any musical instrument I come across — I just understand music and recording equipment and stuff in a way that tends to freak people out. My problem is that every time I did something well (like the music, for example, or writing articulately, or reading “above my grade level” or etc.), it could NEVER just be about how I did something well — it was always about how I was a “miracle baby” and/or “beat the odds”, etc…

    Likewise, whenever I did something clumsily and/or didn’t pick up on it as fast as they thought I “should”, I was either just being lazy/milking my visual impairment, or just fundamentally incapable of learning it because I was “special.”

    So it’s not just autistic people who deal with that shit.

  17. I have a relative who has 2 savant skills, lived through an infamous historical event, and is from another country from the one she lives in. She knows that if she mentioned any one of those things (the race part being unavoidable) she becomes known as “that amazing foreigner with X, Y, and/or Z abilities,” — and all further learning about who she is stops. So she never mentions those things about herself, and so virtually noone knows.

    She’s NT (or non-autistic, anyway), BTW. Looking non-American and speaking with an accent even seems enough to get the “idiot” part of that idiot-savant dynamic going in people’s heads.

  18. Hey, Amanda:
    This is my first comment to your blog, so bear with me if I sound stupid. :)

    Trust me, this thing you’re talking about here doesn’t just happen with autistic people. I’m not autistic as far as I know (at least, have never been diagnosed as such). However, I AM fairly severely visually-impaired (20/200 if that helps). I was also born 3 months prematurely.

    Unfortunately, (as is pretty typical) my family and school didn’t know what to do — how to handle my situation. According to my mom, I jumped completely over the “single word” stage of language-aquisition, directly to complete sentences. None of this “me want moo” to ask for milk, from ME. That happened again when I learned to read — jumped from “learning my ABC’s” to reading at an eleventh-grade level within about three months….it was actually quite peculiar, according to everybody around me. (Maybe I’m “hyperlexic” I dunno.)

    Anyway, this caused my academic performance to be really “lopsided” in school: I would basically top out language/comprehension/general knowledge tests, but (and this is important to note, here) performed AT GRADE LEVEL in mathetmatics when I was in First Grade.

    Now, normally, you’d think that “average” performance wouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. Coupled with my “exceptional” ability in language/reading AND my severe visual-impairment, the “Powers that Be” came to the conclusion that I must be “learning disabled” in mathetmatics. (See, according to them, it HAD to be a “learning disability”, because if it wasn’t, I would have performed at the ‘exceptional’ level both in math AND in reading. Doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me, even now.)

    So my whole educational experience consisted of being in “gifted” programs because of the reading, being in “remedial” (mis)education for the math, and getting really half-assed mobility training and stuff like that for the visual impairment. So, understandably, even though I am a furious autodidact (I self-teach myself agressively every chance I get), there’s still a lot of residual bitterness and a general “lopsidedness” to my knowledge-base. Thanks, public “education!”

    Anyway, my main point has to do with another “exceptional” skill that I’ve always exhibited:

    When I was a kid, my “fine motor skills” (as they classified it on my IEP) were rather poor. They taught me to type before they taught me handwriting, and even now, I type at about 125 WPM, and my handwriting sucks. Oddly enough, they were also “suprised” by the fact that I’ve always been extremely quick at picking up musical instruments. If it’s a stringed-instrument, I can pretty well learn the rudiments of it inside of a week. Guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, some limited tinkering with violin, etc…won contests and all that. Been in a music group that I founded back in 1991, and had radio/tv airplay, etc.

    But my point is: people STILL become peculiar over the fact that I read (and retain) better than most “speed-readers”, or that I can figure out musical instruments really easily, or similar, but have really bad handwriting. I dunno what it is….why they expect that my particular “skill-set” (which is always changing anyway), would neccesarily resemble that of a so-called “normal” person.

    My Mom used to be particularly bad about this: when I began to become skilled at the music thing, and started to do gigs/get intetviewed about it (back wien I was, like, twelve or so), she’d always have to bring up the supposed paradox of my “poor motor skills” and/or that I was a “miracle baby”. It could NEVER be about “He did something really well” with her — it was always “he does really well for an (insert-catagory-here) person.

    So, in the circles I traverse, I’ve always been somewhat of a “token.”

  19. I completely understand, My son just turn 5 he has an ASD. I hear all the time “Wow he can read.” People are stunned when I look at them and say yes he does read but at a 6th grade level. I get tired of the people saying “Well what are you going to do when he starts school?” I certainly am not going to let the school system ruin a very good mind.

    Because a mind is a terible thing to waste..

    And by the way he loves to read your blog……

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