The unreasonable man

From McGee’s Musings is this personal story of someone else who, on learning more about Asperger’s Syndrome (in this case, from an article in the New York Times [free registration required]), saw a bit of it in himself. He also references an article in Wired magazine from a while back, called The Geek Syndrome, that focuses on the magazine’s target audience: members of the technical professions.

As high-tech has taken the fore-front in business and the world today, geek has become somewhat chic. The techno-nerd’s geekiness is somewhat endearing, and the ability of these “geniuses” to focus so intently on what they are doing inspires a bit of awe on the part of non-nerds. Of course, just as often this focus causes a bit of discomfort and confusion, especially if you don’t know the nerd, because it is so different from what is socially acceptable.

And if you are not a techno-nerd, if you are just a nerd, then you are for the most part simply a social outcast. The Fresh Air story I mentioned in the last post has an excellent example.

A boy with Asperger’s Syndrome is focused on snakes. He knows about everything there is to know about snakes, and can bring snakes into just about any story or subject. If he can’t make it about snakes, he doesn’t care about it. As it turned out, as a cumulative school project this boy had to prepare a report about the Battle of Gettysburg. The purpose of the project was to teach research and presentation skills. You guessed it – no snakes, the boy didn’t care and wasn’t doing anything on the project.

Until, that is, the adults in the bunch came up with the idea, “What if we let him do his report on The Snakes at the Battle of Gettysburg?” To make a long story short, this got the boy’s attention and he dove right in. To do the project, he had to learn as much or more about the battle and the geography, etc., as any other kid. His project was so good, and so unique, that he was asked to present his project to the entire school. Everyone wanted to hear the presentation about the snakes at the Battle of Gettysburg, and everyone thought it was great.

The kicker here is this: Before this presentation, everyone avoided this boy because all he wanted to talk about was snakes.

I recognize that humans are a social bunch, but it is unfortunate – for both the “typical” and “non-typical” populations – that anything that is different is so shunned, before even being given a chance.

A closing quote from George Bernard Shaw:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

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