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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where the Least Amongst Us is Great

I met a little boy with dyspraxia last night. He was handsome. He had eyes that shone with a mischievous intelligence, and he had such an endearing way of picking up your hand and pat it gently to get your attention. Once he had your attention, he would offer up an interesting trinket or another, and then look deep into your eyes in silence. His whole modus operandi reminds me of what one sees in movies when a man successfully gets an unknown woman's attention in a bar... and it is, I imagine, what people write into books entitled "How To Get That Date". I am not sure what my response would be if a grown man used that on me in a bar, for that has never happened. But this little 5 year old impressed me immediately with his warmth and generosity.

The parents explained that dyspraxia is a condition wherein the child's brain communicates poorly with his muscles. His muscles do not quite do what the brain tells them to do. The effects of this condition reveal themselves in garbled speech as the child's vocal muscles fail to perform as required; in frequent falls, as the child takes one misstep after another. The visual-spatial intelligence of the child is so poor that he miscalculates distances, misco-ordinates motion and would not know to run away if he saw something heavy about to fall on him. In other words, he is markedly poorer in physical intelligence than most of us.

But in children like that lie the seeds of greatness so outstanding that their names live on long after they die. Einstein, Stephen Hawkins and even Bill Gates were all special needs children. I think that it's because such children and their parents are forced to cope, to compensate and to find ways to evolve and succeed in a world full of normal and mediocre people like us. Theirs is a handicap that is invisible to all and misunderstood by most. The world does not have mechanisms to help them cope. There are no equivalents of the wheelchair ramps for those who are psychologically handicapped.

To cope, such children hone whatever they can and over time, these other abilities are trained to levels of performance that are in a class of their own. Unable to speak and connect, but with volumes to say and a hunger for human connection, this child has learnt to say so much with his eyes alone. He has learnt to read posture, discern another's emotional disposition and he has learnt how much one can accomplish with a pat on the hand. That is far more than I know how to do at my age.

I know another 4 year old who has Asperger's Syndrome. This is a condition wherein the child has less than normal capability in interpreting facial expressions. A normal baby can discern an angry face from a happy face. Children and adults with Asperger's Syndrome have problems doing that. They need to be taught the sums of human expression. They need to be taught the addition and subtraction of human interaction. These children are given books with faces, and they have to memorise each face. These children are given storyboards that model for them the processes as basic as inviting another child to play with them. However, the little 4 year old is a math whiz. Whilst most of us learn and remember numbers, and need practice in the mathematical processes of subtraction and addition, this tiny one is a natural. He seems to somehow have been born with a gift for manipulating mathematical concepts. And his capacity for conceptual analysis far surpasses any child his age. In his head, he can depict maps and drainage systems and he can tell you where to turn and how to go from one place in the urban city to another that's a 30 minute drive away. Most of us at 4 are still at the touch and feel. This boy has a mini GPS in his head. I can imagine this boy grown up into a University Professor who singlehandedly spearheads a revolution in the scientific domain he chose. Bill Gates is one with Asperger's Syndrome.

The world looks upon these 2 children pityingly but we should really be looking at them enviously for they are born with such gifts that leave the rest of slow and dull humanity plodding far behind like peasants running after a race horse. These children can go into intellectual endeavours that are beyond the capability of most others no matter how hard we try.

Whom we should pity, are the mothers. For such children are challenging to bring up, and the process is full of heartache and pain. When God chooses a woman to bring up a genius, he anoints a saint.

1 comment:

Blur Ting said...

Very well written. Your perspective is indeed admirable. Everyone is blessed in one way or another, sadly many people like to stereotype.