The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On disability and ability: society's obligation

It is taken as obvious that the mentally disabled should receive assistance in developing the skills and behaviours necessary to allow them to function in society. Yet, it is seen as controversial, in some countries, to make any special provision at the opposite end of the ability spectrum. Is this rational?

What does it mean to be disabled? It means one's abilities are different from the norm, in the sense of being lessened. What does it mean to be gifted? It means one's abilities are different from the norm, in the sense of being heightened.

You will note that the situations have a logical identity and a logical difference. It is the identity to which I wish to draw your initial attention. With both the disabled and the gifted, there is an essential difference from the norm. These people are not typical of humanity in general - and it is their lack of typicality that requires that they be given special attention. The general provision of society for its members is equally inappropriate for both classes of individual: the disabled and the gifted (or the enabled, as one might call them).

There is a view, often stated, though never intelligently held, that the gifted do not need special provision because they are MORE able than others. This view fails to understand the ways in which extreme ability can be a kind of disability, too. The truly gifted child will be set apart by their gifts, from those around them. They are likely to be isolated not only in being mentally different to those around them, but also in terms of being rejected, by them. They are unlikely to fit in. They may have communication difficulties. They may have difficulty in both being understood and in understanding those they meet in the everyday world. Think about my last four sentences. They could have been written about a mentally disabled person - and they would still hold true. The gifted and the disabled both a share a communication gap - they both share a social disability. To be in either state is to be divorced from society - and this is a burden whether it is at the lower or upper ends of the spectrum. The difference, in many societies, is that the burden of the disabled is recognized by all, but that that of the "enabled" or gifted, is recognized only by those who have experienced it for themselves, in most cases.

To both constituents, the gifted and the disabled, a humane society must make a special effort to reach out to and accommodate them and their needs. The key phrase is "humane society". So many voices on the internet seem to be espousing an inhumane, uncaring, cold society - well, I for one, would not vote for such a society.

Both kinds of people need special help in fully integrating into society: the disabled with basic functioning, the gifted with, if you like, "optimal function" - finding the niche that best expresses their abilities and least encumbers them.

A society that ignores either constituent is at the very least inhumane - but it is also something else: it is a society which will fail for obvious logical reasons. A society which does not enable the disabled to function, is one that will be burdened by them; a society which disables the enabled by not allowing them to function at their best - is one that will never enjoy the benefits of such people in their midst.

I will write more on this in future, for otherwise this post would become too long.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:54 AM 


Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape