A question of limitation

Disability Scoop logoIn a story reminiscent of the Rain Man, a 12-year old with Asperger’s in the US is putting everyone to shame and blowing through Graduate-level physics classes with ease. I caught this story on Disability Scoop yesterday, who explain the boy has an IQ of 170, which is about 160 points higher than me (give or take 10 points). Not only is he kicking ass and taking names in the class room, apparently he’s developed a new theory that could put him in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize. No big deal, what 12 year-old isn’t in the running for one of those?

Perhaps most interesting about the original article, posting on the Indy Star’s website, is that, aside from some brief moments of talent voyeurism and othering, the article is largely focused on the “possibilities” of this boy’s future and not his “limitation,” despite the fact that he is “disabled.” I wonder what the story would have read like if he was also in a wheelchair?

Perhaps that is a bit cynical, but this article did remind me of an interesting conversation I had last summer with members of the Thames Valley District School Board. I was asked to come in and deliver a keynote presentation during a session entitled “Children with Exceptionalities,” which was explained as being a training opportunity for future principals to learn how to manage and integrate students with disabilities. What was really shocking to me during this conversation was that, to the TVDSB, people of both below and above average intelligence are considered “exceptionalities” and, as such, are provided with additional supports and service. I had never considered that a kid could be too smart, but it’s an interesting repositioning of disability to focus on people who have “different” needs rather than “bad” ones. Perhaps if this shift is happening right now at the school board level, then it will only be another generation before people begin radically redefining “disability” to include everyone, making it the norm and not the exceptionality.

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.

2 replies on “A question of limitation”

They have had extra support for “gifted” students for a long time now. When I was in high school that consisted mostly of camping trips to let gifted kids socialize with other gifted kids under the rationale that they would likely have social issues and putting them together with 3 dozen other awkward kids in isolation would help.

The other thing it meant was that you could do an “independent study” project which required 100+hours and netted you an extra half-credit. I might not have ben the smartest kid, but even I could see that extra work for an unusable payoff wasn’t the smartest activity to undertake.

Fun camping trips though. 🙂

I was turned down for the gifted program. I thought it was because I forgot to bring the teacher a gift…more evidence I didn’t belong there.

The real difference is that before the gifted program was run in a silo, separate from “special needs,” but now they’ve lumped them all under one umbrella entitled “Exceptionalities,” which is kinda cool.

You would be a gifted student, Nik 😛