Saturday, February 21, 2009
What is Genius?
Recently I wandered in on a discussion about dealing with Aspergers, Autism, and similar differences. Some friends were bemoaning the inability of others to understand that something like Autism or Aspergers, a different aspect on the Autism spectrum, isn't simply wished away or fixed with discipline. In fact, people with Aspergers and Autism-- really, with any difference that isolates them from the crowd-- are likely to be harmed by such responses rather than helped.
I don't use the word "disability" for a reason. Most of us look at people like, for instance, Stephen Speilberg, and think "genius," not "disabled." There's a really good reason for that. People who enter the world through a different lens than you or I aren't wrong, damaged, or broken simply because they are "other." In fact the great minds throughout history were often differently abled. There's a wonderful article HERE about amazing historical figures who struggled with difference.
I have two children with Autism and two adults with Aspergers in my life. The children are, thankfully, coming of age in a time when some of the walls are breaking down, or at least diminishing somewhat. But the two adults are quiet, cautious, and secretive about their syndrome. Aspergers still gets a marginalizing response from many because of ignorance and stubbornness. Yet they would be surprised to know that both are professionals, successful, and considered brilliant. I would use the word "genius" without hesitation. I understand and respect their desire to keep their Aspergers secret.
It makes me angry that they feel that need, though. A dazzling and incredible medical professional and an artist who has made a wonderful living both commercially and independently, both should be able to celebrate the very differences that make them so astonishingly gifted.
I wish we could begin to dismiss the notion of "disability" and think, in stead, about being "differently abled."
When did genius become a "disability?" Because really, what makes these wonderful people in my life special is their incredible ability to look at things in a way that I can't, or at least can't without being guided there. It makes me wonder if, when we long for solutions to things like disease, environmental catastrophe, social issues, and more... have we missed out on thousands of solutions through the years because we shunned the genius who might have provided them?