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Ingenious Minds

Recently, I turned the TV on and found a show called Ingenious Minds on the Science Channel.  I only watched a few episodes but the shows appear to each tell a story about a special needs individual with savant-like capabilities.  A brilliant engineer who discovered he had Asperger's later in life, an autistic boy who's known as the "pinball wizard" for his massive proficiency in arcade games.  It was an inspiring show that truly showed the remarkable character of people with special needs.

I am often taken aback when I see a profile of a special needs person who exhibits remarkable abilities.  My own child has Asperger's and, as many children with that condition, had a remarkable memory from an early age.  Maybe not Rain Man quality but significant nonetheless.  But to watch stories of these other children is to be simply blown away by their prodigious talents.  It is staggering to think that a person who cannot give you change for a dollar can remember, in minute detail, the news events of every single day dating back decades, if not centuries.

The mysteries of the human mind are confounding.  What is it in the pathways and circuitry of the brain that can allow such disparate talents and weaknesses? It reminds you of how much we still have to learn notwithstanding the magnificent strides science has taken in the recent past.

I assume that some day, somebody will unlock the code and conditions such as autism will be rendered extinct, just as polio is now a disease of a different time.  One of the profiles on Ingenious Minds discussed how neuro-stimulation seemed to "cure" an Asperger's-inflicted man of many of his social awkwardness.

What advances will come tomorrow?  What discoveries are yet to occur?  It will be quite  a day when "special needs children" can be rendered merely "special" by the scientific achievements happening all around us, even today.

David Sperling


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