Kim Peek, "the real rain man"

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Sheila, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    I was watching a piece on Peek on the Discovery Channel and just had to look for more info. If you haven't seen it and get a chance to, it's absolutely amazing.

    There's such a contrast between his gifts and his delays..... If I understood correctly, it's only recently that he's made progress with social skills. His sense of humor is developing also.

    His memory is astonishing, yet practical application of the knowledge seems limited. His motor skills are very delayed; so much so that his 80 yr old dad has to help him shave and dress daily.

  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    From what I've seen of Peek and others like him, it seems the more narrow the window on their world, the more intricate and amazing their special skill can become. Conversely, the more they develop towards 'normality' the more they seem to lose the more spectacular manifestations of their savant abilities.

    difficult child 3 was prodigious as a baby; he was attracted to letters and numbers and seemed to care for little else. He did not respond to his own name, it was as if names did not exist. Similarly, he did not seem to understand language. He understood sound and could mimic it remarkably accurately, but with no understanding, no frame of reference.

    He was reading single digit numbers - not sure how old, maybe 1? Two digit numbers very soon after. I do remember him standing in front of the microwave oven reading the numbers backwards as they counted down to zero. He would also count up whenever he saw numbers moving. Not sure when - some time between 12 & 18 months. He could also count when away from the sight of numbers, but would be triggered by seeing a number such as a speed limit sign, or the numbers on a car.

    Reading whole words came soon after. Most of the words were from shop signs (hence upper case). But he was typing his alphabet before he was 2. A few days after his second birthday he was typing upper case (keyboard) to match a lower case letter on the computer screen. We have this on videotape. By then he had been reading whole words.

    As he learned to read a word, he learned to use it because I would write it down for him with a picture and also show him the real item. I worked with him to teach him - by now we suspected some form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). He had his hearing checked as normal and was also reading music and playing the piano. He'd been doing this since before 2 years old.

    I'm not sure if it was before his fourth birthday or his fifth, but I was preparing for a Christmas church service and was in the garden with my pocket New Testament when a visitor disturbed me. As we chatted, difficult child 3 picked up my Bible and read it aloud, word perfect. He did not understand what he was reading. I do know he had not bad understanding (basics, anyway) by 5, so I think he must have been not quite 4.

    But as difficult child 3 has grown older, he has slowly changed from being freakishly talented in this, to only seeming gifted. Instead of learning new things he has had less to learn in terms of grammar, spelling and phonics and now must also encompass open and hidden meaning; social context; irony; humour; satire. And he is doing this. In mathematics, he now has to handle algebra, complex equations (as well as why they're used and how they work) and computer programming language. Music - the same speech stammer that makes his speech sometimes seem repetitive or slow also affects his playing, until he keeps repeating a phrase so much the work has lost all meaning. He is adept at music theory, but in practice has reached his limits.

    Computer games - he's a genius, but in this world what does it count for? It DOES give him confidence, but he's still diversifying and consolidating skills that his peers 'got' years ago, and as he tries to learn more abstract things, his peers are catching up to his previously prodigious levels in grammar and numeracy.

    difficult child 3 is trending towards normality and in the process apparently losing a lot of what made him seem so remarkable.

    I don't begrudge this - he clearly has an amazing intellect which when little, was entirely turned towards letter, numbers and music. Now his attentions and abilities have diversified; and in so doing, have balanced out more.

    difficult child 3's good friend is also autistic - not as severely. He has always been amazing at model-building, but as he gets older and gains more skills in other areas, he plays with his models less and less. The models were a springboard; he will always be skilled in spatial problem solving, but is currently engrossed in discovering what else he can do.

    We see this over and over, in the kids we know through local support groups and classes. It's a fascinating thing.

    Occasionally you'll meet a savant who is also very capable in other areas, but I believe this is rare. Understanding of savant phenomena is still poor - we need a lot more understanding here.

  3. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Some interesting stuff. The more he is studied the more insight we get.
    I always knew my difficult child was neither rt sided dominant nor left sided dominant which just made traditional learning very difficult.
    Peek reads the right page with his right eye while reading the left page with the left eye but retains almost all of it.

    I always thought that if one's look into the outside world is severely compromised then the energies or focus of learning can be laser beamed into specific areas of the brain. Sort of the difference between emptying a gallon bucket by dumping it or pouring it out through a funnel. Much more exact and forceful.
  4. ShakespeareMamaX

    ShakespeareMamaX New Member

    Wow! That was awesome! I wish I had the memory he does. I can't even remember when my next doctor's appointment is!
  5. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    It sad to think what will happen to him once his father passes. I couldn't help but think that through the entire article. He's blossomed so much, but relies on his father for everything. What will happen when his father goes?
  6. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    what is the name of the piece on the discovery channel?
  7. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member

    I watched this last night. You're right - Kim Peek is an absolutely fascinating person. I was especially amazed that he reads left pages of books with his left eye, and right pages of books with his right eye. I can't even imagine how he can understand or remember anything he reads this way!!!

    I think Lothlorien brought up a good point. What will happen to him when his father dies?

    Thanks for posting this. WFEN
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    With anyone like this - concerns for their fate once orphaned are legitimate. Hopefully his father will organise a back-up carer well before crisis demands it.

    It is sad that people like this need one-to-one support, but at least here in Australia, it can happen so surely it can also in the US. BF1's mother had BF1 as sole carer from when he was 5 (she is a partial quadriplegic). When he was older and needing to focus more on schoolwork, she sent him to live with his grandparents (nearby) and organised a live-in carer (funded by government pension) who is now a good friend and constant companion. You can only be paid as a live-in carer if you are over 18, so BF1 never qualified for financial support. I get a form of carer funding for difficult child 3; I stopped qualifying for difficult child 1 when he began spending nights away from home and the amount built up to a certain point.

    Surely you have something like this in the US?

  9. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    I've watched this piece 3 or 4 times now....each time I'm incredibly fascinated by this gentleman & his father.
  10. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Concern about an adult child who can not live on his own is a reality for many of us.
    I have pushed to confront this possible reality since difficult child was 13 and not tying his shoes. To assume that others will care for an adult difficult child who is not functioning independently is unrealistic. If it comes down to easy child needing to care for his own children or an adult difficult child I assume he will take care of his kids. Despite easy child's best intentions, life gets in the way and situations higher on the priority list for easy child may be in play.
    It's my responsibility to insure that appropriate arrangements are made. The plans are written and understood by all involved and that the expectations that difficult child should be treated with dignity.

    I strongly believe family cares for family but that does not mean everyone else in the family can or will do it.

    Marguerite, I am familiar with some of the programs in the UK where there are care takers and homes in the community for those who are less than 100% independent. It doesn't exist in the US. Not to my knowledge anyhow. Mostly because of sheer numbers and the amount of abuse in the system financially. There are group homes but they are not located in decent areas of the city because of zoning and no one wanting "those people" in their neighborhood. Anyone different is considered dangerous. There isn't a lot of acceptance for those who are different or homogenized. Neighborhoods tend to obstruct any sort of group home even if it's for senior citizens based on the fact it will affect property values.
    I am not aware of one on one live in help but truthfully I don't have any experience with this aspect of the government system.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's a pity you don't have it. It isn't perfect for us, either, but simply providing a government allowance to someone who cares for a person with a disability more than a certain number of hours a week - it makes a lot more possible.

    It takes a village to raise a child, they say, and sometimes it also takes a village to care for a disabled adult otherwise living alone. A neighbour of ours is multi-handicapped, no diagnosis other than epilepsy that I know of, but I've thought for years he was a severe Aspie as well. He has the qualities of an Aspie as well as the handicaps. We've known them since we moved here, knew the parents well. His father was a wonderful support to his son as well as the community and it is at least partly for his father that many of us now look out for the son. He spends some time visiting his sister and is in a weekly routine that has him spend a day or two with her. The rest of the time he is in the home where he grew up, where his father built his storage sheds for the family 'collections', now an informal private museum. He's had a live-in (unrelated) carer a few times. The first one turned out to be a crook, he tried to get our friend to sign over the deeds to the house (worth a lot because it looks to the sea). But our friend was smart enough to tell someone who called in the police.
    The next live-in carer was an old man who needed somewhere to live and some purpose in life - he was a goof friend and support, until he developed cancer and had to go into a nursing home.

    All this took place in the years immediately following the father's death, our friend's mother had died several years earlier. His father knew he was dying and did what he could to make provisions.
    Now - I think our friend used those times to develop his own independence skills even further, he now looks after himself much better than he used to. He's been 'organised' to visit here, visit there, go to this meeting or that meeting (plus his sister's arrangements) so he's actually very busy and seems happy.
    He did get teased a bit by the same gang of local thugs that attacked difficult child 3 - a neighbour and friend from church saw this happening and talked to the kids, said that our friend is a bit different but very clever in his own way. But he needs to be looked after and not made fun of; could you kids please come and tell me if he's ever in difficulties, and please help us keep him safe?

    It seems to have worked.

    And in turn, our friend has begun following in his father's footsteps - others in town who are needy in various ways, perhaps ostracised for being difficult or different, I keep hearing how our friend has visited especially when they feel unsafe (such as Halloween) and just by being there, has kept them safe.

    We do need to put a lot of strategies in place before we die, as well as make whatever financial arrangements, custody arrangements etc. Our system is still open to abuse, but it's at least a starting point. It's also a lot better than it used to be - my mother told me of a cousin of hers, they were the same age and good friends. But when her cousin was 15, her parents died. Because the girl had cerebral palsy (called "spastic" in those days and believed to be a form of mental retardation) the girl was incarcerated in a mental asylum. No other word for the place. And the money that had been left by the parents to take care of the girl in comfort - taken by the state to go towards her keep. She could have been kept happy in someone's home, but instead was locked away. My mother never heard from her again, she was not allowed to have contact because she was only a child. This was back in the days when children were not even permitted to visit their parents in hospital. Mum used to tell me how not many people could understand the girl, but she could and they used to talk about all sorts of things together.

    I think that is the scenario we all fear. I gather that in my mother's cousin's case, although the will left plenty of money and the house to the girl, the parents hadn't actually organised a carer for her. Or maybe they had, but the State in those days was draconian, especially if they could gain assets in the process.

    Our friend and neighbour has gained more independence skills in his old age than we ever thought he could. He still potters with his hobbies, he is better at getting his needs met and although he doesn't talk to people much, when he does he is clearly a kind and good person and people respect this in him. But we live in a village. I think it makes a difference. Maybe in the city things wouldn't be so good for him. Here, we often leave our houses and cars unlocked when we go out, we drop in on neighbours without invitation or reason. You can be driving down the road and see a car stopped in the middle of the road, a pedestrian (or another car) beside chatting, window wound down and all the time in the world. We go to the local shop for five minutes and maybe don't get home for an hour because we met people we needed (or wanted) to talk to.
    An environment like that can help raise a difficult child.

  12. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    I haven't seen it. I will have to try to catch it another time.