Thursday, April 4, 2013

Celebrating Vision

While writing my thesis I came across an interview with Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is also the Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge. This guy really knows his stuff.

He characterizes autism as, “a condition that leads to strength.”

In the documentary Loving Lamposts (available on dvd and on Netflix) he states

Autism is a condition where some of the most basic aspects [that we take for granted] about being human, like communicating with other, and empathy many not come naturally and yet other aspects of being human like being able to see patterns and do science may be developing faster than usual. So children with autism seem to be telling us something very important about how the human brain develops. And in understanding autism we might be understanding something about humanity.

In other words, we aren’t less human because of what we can’t do – we are extra human.

Practically speaking, Noah has a lot of abilities that seem, well extra. The first I’d like to turn my attention to is his visual sense. All visual processing issues aside, Noah can see things I can’t. For instance, his eyes register the blinking frequency of a dying fluorescent bulb several days before I can. He has always been able not only detect patterns visually, but masterfully train his gaze on a mass of objects picking out an individual piece I can’t detect. I always thought I was a wiz at the “Where’s-Waldo-style” search and find books, but Noah puts me to shame. Finding the needle in the haystack is no problem for him. He has a true eagle eye.

Noah misses very little. Ever aware of his surroundings, his extra vision can really be an asset. It is taking time to learn to harness this ability into a strength we can use to better the world, but I have no doubt that he will.

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