Genius Fish (a bit of a rant) #aspergers #autism

I just found this Typo thingy on Facebook, shared by Jenae. I've read it before - it's very true and something often forgotten. Today it made me really think about people with autism, and how this quote totally applies.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid" - Albert Einstein

I was chatting to another mum a couple of months ago and we were talking a little bit about parenting. At one point, I said that my eldest two are on the Autism Spectrum, so things aren't always typical. She replied with "Mine is the opposite, he's gifted and needs extra stimulation".

Now, I didn't say anything much about that at the time, but I confess I was kind of annoyed inside* at the response. Since when was autism the opposite of smart? I mean, severe autism can come with an intellectual disability, that's true, but even then it is unfair to perceive people as stupid. Each person still has strengths beyond what is expected, and often offer connection or responses to people and situations that are far more genuine that you get from many 'normal' people.

In the case of Aspergers, though, and also high-functioning Autism (so, Sienna and Ash) they do not lack intelligence at all. It is actually typical of people with Aspergers, that they are actually incredibly intelligent - above average - but their intelligence has a narrower range than other people. Generally the lack is in social intelligence and interpersonal skills, due to pragmatic language difficulties, but their area of intelligence gives them a different kind of edge.

With my two, the professionals couldn't actually composite an IQ score for either of them due to the disparity in the results. This vast difference between their strengths and weaknesses is actually one of the diagnostic points that came up for both of them, though in slightly different ways. Ash, for instance, was around the 20-something-th percentile for verbal language at age 5, but was at the 88th percentile for visual processing index. So he can present as needing extra help and being a lot slower to learn than his peers, and has difficulty (for his age) understanding verbal language, but he actually has much higher than average intelligence in a visually specific learning style. He figures things out visually at a higher level.

The psychologists and paediatrician noted that this was quite a dramatic difference, in Ash's case, due to his language problems. But Sienna had the same issue, just not as extreme. The difference between her strongest score and her weakest one was too big for an average IQ to be concluded. I can't remember what it's called, but there is a sort of allowance of difference - say, 20 points - that is allowed for the results to be able to be compiled. Anything further apart from that means that an average isn't accurate enough.

I find the way their brains work so interesting, though it is hard to keep it in mind in the every day. I've told you 3 times to get your socks, for instance, isn't fair if you haven't made sure that Ash has heard and understood each of those times. I often get frustrated that they ask me questions but don't listen to the answers, but the truth is that as long as their eyes are open it is difficult for them to focus on listening to something when there is so much they are taking in visually. Then you say, look at me, to make sure they listen but that can also be too confronting, it's too much pressure to have that solid eye contact. But sometimes it's ok. So you've just gotta wing it, do a lot of biting your tongue and pay a lot of attention!

LOL my rant turned into some sort of education / everyday life mish mash!

The truth is, I believe that Einstein's words apply to ALL people, high IQ, low IQ, no specific IQ at all, just all sorts. We all have some way of being a genius. For some people you need to dig deeper. And for others you just need to look at things a little differently. And that's fine with me.

*I just want to clarify that I wasn't really that annoyed at the person who said this, just momentarily, but that is why I kept it inside. I wasn't annoyed at the person, I was annoyed at the misconceptions which are so common, they were just represented by that statement at that time.


AJ said...

Beautifully written, Danielle.

Kate M said...

great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. My daughter has Aspergers and seems quite similar to your children.


sylvia said...

i love that quote. i found a poster with it one a few months ago and pinned it, maybe i'll order it after all...

in my opinion, all this IQ testing is so overrated anyway. it has never been common in germany to have one's or one's kids' IQ tested, so i never found out mine or that of any of my family or friends... and i think that's a good thing!

Danielle Quarmby said...

It's really uncommon to do IQ testing in Australia, too, it's not something that people generally just get done for no reason. I've never done one.

However, it's one of the first tests child psychologists do when potentially diagnosing or excluding an autism spectrum disorder or other development delays. Interestingly, not for the final number (usually) as much as for the components of the test, and the chance to observe the child while administering the test. It's quite fascinating :)

Tatum said...

fantastic post Dan xx