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Mistaking Creativity for Logic

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Posted on : 1:28 PM | By : Nic | In :

I found an absolutely fascinating article today about a brilliant autistic savant who is a mathematical and language genius. I guess that's the definition of a savant - someone who has a special genius, but what is so amazing about Daniel Tammet is that he can talk about it quite well. He has an official website, and has written a book, but I also found this very long video about him, which you could alternatively just go to and download since it is 47 minutes long:



What struck me, beside the obvious fact that he is impressive intellectually, is that the methods he uses to complete very logical calculations are incredibly creative. He visualizes every number with a texture: 'If it is a "lumpy" number, then immediately my mind will relate it to other numbers which are lumpy - the lumpiness will tell me there is a relationship, there is a common divisor, or a pattern between the digits.' He is not thinking in linear terms, but with all of his senses in an extraordinarily intuitive, non-thinking kind of way.

He is more on the Asperger's end of the spectrum, and chalks up his sociability to growing up in a family with 9 children, which I also found interesting. He probably wasn't allowed to become isolated and completely obsessive because he had 8 siblings to hassle him into being sociable. It was quite telling to hear his mother, in the documentary, describe his first 2 years as just constant crying and needing the repetition. It's almost like two opposites - a child who craves order and logic but thinks of everything in terms of colors and textures and feelings. It totally changes our understanding of autism completely - what we once thought were robotic people, operating like machines and overwhelmed by everything, are actually insanely sensitive and consumed with the world around them, feeling every aspect of it more than the average person. Well, we knew that, but I think the theory is that the brain overloads and starts blocking things out.

If I were to apply this to Annie, when she starts bouncing off the walls in a hyperactive crazy kind of way she is probably responding creatively to the world around her. It may also explain why she seems to need order and routine in her life, but doesn't really understand the logic of a situation. You can explain to her all day why opening a door to a stranger is a bad idea, but because she feels like she wants to open it and she feels safe, it doesn't make sense to her. She respects authority, but it doesn't make sense to her to respect it at home because she is going almost entirely on how she feels... and at home she feels free to be herself. I am speculating here... but the reason she likes order and control is probably because she is entirely ruled by her senses and emotions and feelings.

Speaking of order, we're three days into public school and so far it is going extremely well. She has gained a new feeling of independence that made her say, "I feel big. It feels very good." She has made a couple of friends and is much happier at home, although I expect some rebellion in the near future if she has a day that she just doesn't feel like going, lol. But all in all, it is a good experience so far.

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