Friday, March 03, 2006

Putting my Thinking Cap on...

I was hyperlexic. Only recently have I discovered that the word “hyperlexic” is being used as a diagnosis on the spectral line of autism, because I had always understood “hyperlexic” to simply mean reading at a very early age. According to my mom, I wasn’t much of a talker as a toddler, but I used to sit on her lap during church and she would point to each word in the hymnal as the congregation sang, until one day she realized I was singing along. To be honest, I never remember NOT reading.

In Kindergarten, at the small private school I attended, our teacher would divide us into groups during our reading time. There were approximately four of us in my group and all of us were reading. A wonderful woman who was retired and volunteered a couple hours a day in our classroom facilitated our group. I remember quite well, that before we began reading, she would instruct us to put on our “thinking caps”, upon which we would each put an imaginary cap upon our heads. To this day, I refer to my imaginary “thinking cap”. As many of us do, I wear many hats in my life, but there are some things, conversations, posts, NPR programs that require me to put on my “thinking cap”. I don’t wear it all the time, but always come out more enlightened and fulfilled when I do…

I am certain that nearly all of the twelve readers who read this also read Kristina Chew’s site (and if you don’t I suggest you do so RIGHT NOW), so everyone reading this post is certainly aware of how she interweaves the unedited touching and raw moments of her life with her little best friend, with mythology, Latin and Greek, and ABA all the while completely free of judgment, self-rieghtousness, and most importantly DISCRIMINATION. Her blog is one of the most inclusive blogs I have read. As a former five year Latin student, an ABA consultant (who does not appreciate references to Skinner and Tabula Rasa), a mythology lover, who pours over the works of Joseph Campbell and an individual who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, I find Kristina’s writings, touching, thought-provoking, breath-taking, heart-breaking and heart-warming all at the same time. Her latest posts on the poetry in autism are simply stunning. They have got me thinking about how much autism is indeed like poetry… beautiful, stunning, amusing, egnimatic, capricious, paradoxical, confusing and prophetic, all at once. Some people don’t even try to bother to understand poetry, while others think they understand the meaning, based on superficial one time reading. But for the most part, poetry…real poetry has so many levels and complexities that go far beyond that…Autism has many analogies, but I am not surprised that Kristina’s analogy resonates the strongest with me.

I know I need to put on my thinking cap whenever I go to visit Kristina, but if I ever forget to do so, I always leave Kristina’s place with my thinking (and feeling) cap fitted quite snugly on top of my head…I am quite certain that she has plenty of experience putting “thinking caps” on her own as well as other people's heads.


Blogger Eileen said...

I completely agree with you Squaregirl. I too always make sure my "thinking cap" is put on snug when visiting Kritina (every morning) because I know that there are so many lessons I have to learn from her experience and writing. Some of those lessons are hidden within the writing and I am quite certain that my limited knowledge in mythology and Latin has caused me to miss some very important lessons, but luckily Kristina is a great teacher who I continue to learn from.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I was hyperlexic as well. At the time that was considered a Good Thing(TM). My mom tells how when I was in first grade, a report card had come with really low grades. She went to talk to the teacher, who explained that I didn't participate in class, had no friends, was not paying attention and didn't do the work. Then my mom proceeded to make me read the last page of the reading book they used at the time. As I could read at a 4th grade level or so, the teacher agreed that I must simply be bored. That was that and I managed. Today I'd probably be labeled HFA or Asperger. I don't mind those labels now, and I in fact use them, but I'm curious how I would've turned out had I had those labels as a child.

4:53 AM  
Blogger Minka said...

Greta post today and yes, I have already stumbled on Kristina´s blog. I myself have an autistic brother and an autistic brother by choice :)
MY mom will love this blog when I point it out to her. She´s been away for a while, but is coming back tomorrow!

8:04 AM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

I'm overwhelmed!

As a coda to the notion of the "thinking cap," I had to chuckle when a gymnastic teacher (when Charlie was in a gymnastics class with me as his aide) asked everyone to "turn on their ears." And modeled doing so by "twisting" her ears.......

Teachers always learn the most from their students.

10:03 AM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

Eileen, Kristina is a wonderful teacher isn't she? Wouldn't it be wonderful to be one of her non-virtual students?

Joseph, I was also bored, but people usually saw this as something else. I did recieve that label, but fortunately my mom was creative, respectful and a wonderful teacher. She taught (and was very well loved and respected) at the private school I attended, so I am certain that I recieved special treatment and respect from the other teachers because of that (I know it's somewhat discriminatory, but thank goodness, as who knows how I wold have turned out otherwise).

Monika, Everyone in our autism community (or family) should read Kristina...We would all be more enlightened!

Kristina, Yes, we too would physically put our arms over our heads to put on our caps...sometimes when I'm being silly I go through the physical motions as well. I'm grateful that I've had so many students, as they have been my best teachers!

7:37 PM  
Blogger QueenBitch said...

SG...can't wait to check out Kristina's site. Not much longer and I'll have my own connection.

Nephew was definately hyperlexic, as an Aspie. Freaks out his teachers, to this day! heehee

8:47 AM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

Welcome back QeenBee...can't wait til your back on line. I love it whenteacher's freak only shows how much they have to learn. Kristina's posts are stunning...her latest post had me reaching for the tissue.

1:00 PM  
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