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PRODIGY SUPPORT

From Wayan's journal 1994/7/21

Just read about Michael Kearney, a severely gifted 10-year-old, IQ somewhere over 200, who just got his BA in anthropology. Extremely reminiscent of me, but his difference showed even earlier and he was treated very differently; parents let him feed his hunger for learning instead of trying to keep him with kids much younger mentally; they supported him skipping many grades, insisted on tutoring and got private tutors when the school system balked, got a social psychologist for his academic advisor. High school diploma at 6, 4-year college at 10. He sounds far better adjusted and less anxious--able to be silly. Though he's using that already to avoid answering questions that he doesn't want to. Feel uncomfortable as I read through the account of his babyhood, discovering I don't want him to be smarter than I was, resenting the attention and support he's getting... that I didn't get.

I feel sadness and shame that I haven't been able to contribute anything despite a one in a million IQ. (A dark little voice says "Nothing that the normal humans appreciate, you mean.")

Also I think I'm lazy. Fought with my three and four and five year old fingers to write legibly. Typing was torture and piano has been slow going; while I'm ambidextrous and well coordinated, these tasks using finger signals symbolically, and distinguishing right and left, never become automatic. I still handwrite by consciously forming each letter. I can play very complex rhythms for an amateur, or switch from a standard keyboard to Dvorak, or from piano to a radically altered synth setup. It's because the tasks are still new, still conscious. I still have to spell or sound out each syllable or the right letters or sounds come out scrambled--all fingers firing at onec. I've used my intelligence to fill in for the absence of habitual skills.

And that's as true of my friendships as it it of my handwriting.

Yet the learning and UNlearning I need, in social and psychological tasks, won't come as effortlessly as reading or speech did. They're essentially physical tasks, retraining the body not to react a certain way--more like writing than reading. If it can be learned at all. What if it's as hard-wired as my IQ?

For example, I can't recognize faces readily, even of people I know well. I use voice, posture, and context to recognize people, and make constant errors, hurting friends' feelings, bewildering acquaintances, talking to strangers... A classic sign of mild autism or Asperger syndrome. Are deficits like these a matter of laziness, can effort overcome them?

How about it? If average kids just study hard, will they graduate high school at 6?

Not to overdo it, but I do feel discouraged today. I'm essentially a different species, stuck in a human world. And I feel envious of Michael Kearney for being able, at least so far, to pass. Or at last fit in.


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