Monday, March 05, 2007

A Message from a Parent

I have been receiving many wonderful emails over the past weeks and months, including the following extremely touching note which I reproduce below (with permission):

"This is not an inquiry, just a thank you. I am the mother of 2 boys with aspergers. My 5 year old has had a very difficult time learning the concept of numbers. I saw you on the tv, and to tell you the truth, at that time I didn't even remember your name. I did however, remember your connection with colors textures and numbers. Inspired by this, I made my son some flash cards that same day, assigning colors to each number with the corresponding dots one to ten under each. He said, "no mommy,this one is softer, pointing to the 3". I redid the flash cards this time letting him color and decorate them. Almost immediately he began adding them - only as colors! Blue (2) and soft green (3) makes sunny warm yellow (5). To anyone else, this would make no sense. Only then did I realize he knew them all along! I was the one who had to learn how to understand him! Listening to his older brother's heart beat one day he had said, "listen mommy, daniel is blue!" I had been so confused until we played with the flash cards. His brother's heartbeat had 2 pulses! Thank you so much for sharing your story! I plan on reading your book to glean more ideas on how to help my beautiful boys! Again, Thank you, Stacey Clark"


Anonymous said...

Im so fascinated by your book! It is honestly the most interesting I've read in ages, and the most special one as well:) Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

It's so nice to see someone in the Autistic community be able to reach out and touch others.

On almost every post I read, I am amazed a little more at you. You have my respect, big time.

Anonymous said...

Mr Tammet I think you are truly wonderous. I viewed your piece on 60 MINUTES and I could do nothing but gape in slack-jawed wonder. It is almost like your abstract and logical parts of your brain work together to create your numeric images. Have you ever tried to draw Pi?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tammet,
first of all, i would like to say that, you give hope to peoples like us.

im not autistic, and, when i learned about you, i realized more about me, and learned to know happiness.

i don't know what it is, but, i feel as if though, i feel comfort in you.

i especially reading about things such as your views on religion. i feel as if though, we are all connected as one, and we are all trying to help eachother out someway and somehow.

please keep up the good work.

im sure there are more others like me who feel the same.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Tammet,

I just finished your book, as well as recently seeing "Brainman" on television and the "60 minutes" clips online. I am equally amazed in both your math and language abilities, as well as how you have overcome the obstacles to lead a productive and independent life. Youe are a terrific human being, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that our culture tends to think of certain unique developmental traits as "disorders," when the problem is not that the person does not obviously fit into some social role that we have artificially codified, but that we have too little understanding of how to adapt the environment to match how an individual thrives. People who "broke the mold" were regarded as the most valuable community resources in some Native American cultures because of the different ways their minds worked; they were often made spiritual leaders to enlighten and unite people. Strange how this much more socially advanced philosophy was (brutally) replaced by the supposedly-superior Western culture that would have regarded most of those brilliantly different people as needing a cure, rather than as humanity's finest achievements.


Joseph Frantz said...

It is quite special that you can retain your lucidity despite your condition.

My brother has high-functioning hyperlexia . He is currently a sophomore at the University of Washington. He wanted to be some kind of scientist that made a big difference in people's lives, but he did badly in college math and chemistry and switched to becoming a French major. He is taking Russian, French, and Linguistics, but says that he is having an "existential crisis" in that he does not find what he is doing to be very interesting and doesn't look forward to his future in the study of languages.

I know that you must be a busy person, but I'd like to ask, do you have any advice for how people with learning disabilities can find their passion? My brother's intellectual faculties are quite impressive (I have felt quite intimidated at times) but he is having trouble finding a subject that he really loves. How did you find the subject (or subjects) that you love?

theory said...

Hey Daniel,

I saw your documentary a little while back now and I was intrigued.

I have always been fascinated with numbers, words and languages since an early age. I always looked at patterns in things. When I attended primary school I would be more interested in solving maths puzzles than anything else.

I am now 28 but find it ever more fascinating. I also have an interest in the Creator and Christianity which I shunned for most of my life until the age of about 23.

I don't have the abilities you have with solving large maths calculations but nonetheless I can relate to a concept of numbers having certain properties. There are certain numbers I like and others I don't. I find words, numbers, concepts and objects to be strangely connected.

I would have liked to have had a little discussion with you regarding this. But now seeing this blog and the sheer amount of messages you receive, I understand you must be a very busy man.

I still hope this might be possible.

Best Wishes,

Anonymous said...

Dear Daniel,

Happy Pi Day!!!

Anonymous said...

Same reason I just clicked over to your site -

Happy Pi Day!

Anonymous said...

Happy PI day!
!שתזכה לספרה הבאה

Allon :-)

Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading your book. I had seen "Brainman" and that's why I had an interest in "Born on a Blue Day." You really are amazing and I admire you.

My son has a learning disability - Auditory Processing. He really struggles in math, even with extra tutoring. I worry about him being able to pass his junior year in High School. He has also 'come out' to me that he is gay. It doesn't matter to me. That is just who he is and I support him no matter what. Your book gives me hope for him to have a good future.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Happy International Pi Day, Mr. Tammet! :)

Today I finished reading your book. The most inspirational thing I've ever read. Thank you for that and everything you've done and are still doing. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and admire you.

Asaph's Table said...

I too am fascinated with the way you describe (what normies would call) a cross-brained approach to understanding the language of mathematics.
I am a 39-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome. Born and diagnosed as severely autistic, I somehow was let loose from my personal prison at age 4 and immediately began verbalizing and computing basic math...
I find your outlook of numbers having colors, tones and hues quite interesting, as I have always had a similar ability to translate music into but a mathematical algorithm as welll as also being set in colors. For example, Beethoven's 9th symphony, 1st movement features a lot of browns and earthen tones; Mozart's Requiem: Lacrimosa presents a lot of slate blue intermixed with streaks of orange; the Carpenter's "Close To You" is filled with intersperced streaks of pale yellow, soft green and bright red.
By no means would I call myself a savant, but it is encouraging to know that there are others out there who look at the concrete in a much more broad spectrum.
You are an encouragement to me. Thanks for sharing your story!
G.R., Scranton, PA, USA

Anonymous said...

Sylvia From NC said:
I finished your book last Sunday evening. You are a very brave man. I would never be able to lay out my entire life for someone else to look through because I would be afraid that people would judge me. However, it was your honesty and openness that made this book such a joy for me to read.
Before reading the book, I looked at some reviews on the Internet. One reviewer said that while he read the book, your autism stood out to him, and he said that he found you very different from other people. I do not agree with him all the way. The book did display qualities about you that people associate with autism, but I was more struck by the similarities that we shared. Behind the autism and savant abilities, I saw a man who, like all other people, was searching for where he belonged in the world.
I’d like to talk to you about learning languages. I’ve had two years of Spanish and one year of Latin. By taking classes from two different teachers, I’ve learned what helps me to learn best. In Spanish, our books had a dialogue between two people and a list of words to learn before each chapter. The chapters were separated into different sections that taught words associated with different topics such as grocery shopping and birthday parties. I love Spanish, but I absolutely hated these methods. The dialogue was short, crude, and mostly in first person. I do not learn words well by mass memorizing from a list. I need to be able to see them or hear them being applied. Because the chapters were separated into different topics, my vocabulary was limited to those topics. How often do people talk about grocery shopping and birthday parties? The few topics that I learned that I can apply to daily conversations are nearly impossible to talk to most men about (ex. Me gusta tu bolso. ¿Es de J.C. Penny?). There was one thing about the class that I loved. My teacher was a native speaker, and she insisted on speaking in Spanish to us. That was very helpful.
In Latin class, I discovered the methods that I like the best. Before each chapter there was a story. There was a word list bellow the story that gave definitions for new words within the text. The topics of the stories were typically broader than those of the dialogue from the Spanish book, and although they started out as crude, they became more intricate later on. They included some dialogue as well. I translated the writings and got pointers from my teacher. She would ask me questions in Latin, and I would answer. I learned the past tense in the fourth week of the class. I didn’t learn the past tense in Spanish until the second year. I loved the faster pace. I enjoyed translating. Hearing the questions helped me to learn pronunciations. Best of all, because the stories had broader topics, I could (with practice and a time-traveling machine ☺) converse with an ancient Roman.
You mentioned that you did not like learning by looking at cases (Nominative, Vocative, etc.). In Latin, there are many cases and declensions. Feminine/ masculine/ neuter nouns are conjugated differently depending on the declension and case that they are in. This was a lot harder than in Spanish. I found the language easier if I organized the words in my mind by case, gender, and declension
Try reading Italian using your Spanish skills; its fun.
I could sympathize with you when you talked about the children teasing you. I’m just making a generalization based in one situation, but I think that I would rather be teased by a child from the southern United States than by a child from England. My dad scrimps and saves to be able to take our family on vacation to foreign countries once every two years. When I was ten, we visited England. One day (we may have been in Canterbury, but I can’t remember), I was eating lunch and a schoolboy in a red uniform walked up to me and said, “Hello.” I was really shy, so I looked at the floor, turned red, and muttered, “Hi.” Suddenly he started laughing. Soon all of his friends (about five or six boys) joined in and they were all laughing and jeering and pointing at me. I’ve had things thrown at me, I’ve been poked, I’ve even had people shout in my ear (I used to hate loud noises), but never before and never again have I had anyone laugh at me to my face.
Anyway, I loved the book. I might write a review on it. Don’t stop writing!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Tammet,

Thank you so much for your book. I have a 5 year old son diagnosed with high functioning autism. He is a most amazing boy with all of his quirkiness (yesterday we were at the grocery store and he was counting the items on each shelf). Reading your book gave me insight in some of the problems my son has with concentration. He gets very agitated when I am upset or his siblings are being very loud. When we have company over he will spend a short amount of time with them/us then shut himself in a room. He loves the feel of silk and will spend hours rubbing his favorite stuffed animal against his cheek. He tells me often that he loves me but needs to be alone. My husband and I do worry about him in the future. Will he be able to hold a job? Will he be able to have relationships? You give us hope. The thing that is amazing about him is his athleticism. He roller blades, rides a bike and scooter and swims very well.

You are an inspiration. He gets an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) every year. His most recent IEP said and I quote “He shows a great understanding of numbers and math”.

He is a wonderful boy and so many things you talk in your book about rang true to me. I would sometimes get frustrated when he would smell people. Then I realized he is going to have to learn to deal with this. I could talk to you for hours about the autism. But, really all I want to do is THANK YOU for writing your story.

Best wishes,

Christine Morrison

Anonymous said...

My 4 year old son is being tested for autism. I picked up your book along with others for information regarding autism. I admire the fact that you are who you are, and you aren't trying to change that. It helped me accept that my son will not be like everyone else, and that will be ok. I think that you are a great person, and I truly thank you for letting us see what goes on inside your head. So thank you very much..

Anonymous said...

This post provides an answer to a dilemma I had. The dilemma was if, generally, people with High-Functioning Autism, are pictorial thinkers, than how come so many autistic savants have exceptional skills in mathematics, which has traditionally been viewed as a non-pictorial “abstract” activity.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Tammet,

I have just finished your book, and I must say a heartfelt "thank you." I have a son, now 7, who is on the autism spectrum, and your book helped me understand what he cannot yet articulate -- something of what it feels like to be him. He shares some of the sensory sensitivities you describe, and he had an early love of numbers. I have a distinct memory of him reading license plates (entirely accurately) at 18 months old. Numbers were very much his friends at older ages: at 5, he would exclaim, "Oh, lovely number 7!!"

He has lost some of his love for numbers now that he is older and has found new interests. But your story gave me new insight, new empathy, and also new hope. He is a lovely person who deserves to be happy, and your story gave me new reason to believe he will find people who will love him and a way of life that will make him happy. I am so grateful for your story.

Savascha said...

I just came across your page after going through archived pages of Neatorama (one of my favorite esoteric blogs). Autism has been something that has fascinated me since I was little. I've always been drawn to people with autism. I think it may have something to do with my early relationship with obsessive compulsive disorder and my elder sister's slightly autistic personality (she has never been tested). When I was about 8 years old Kim Peek came and gave a talk at a church near my home (we both live in Salt Lake, but it was still a rare honor for him to speak), afterwards he had people ask him questions from the audience. For the life of me, I cannot remember the question I asked him, but I know that it stumped him and he gave me the most compassionate and humor filled look and said he was going to have to do some research into that and get back to me. Somehow I don't doubt that he did just that, and if I could remember my question, he'd be ready to answer me now. When I was 13 I first read about Temple Granden and it was more of an essay on her personal struggles with autism and why she turned towards animals to help fill her needs for interaction. Her creation of the hugging chute just struck me as a perfect resolution to her problem. Later I become involved with a man who worked with two autistic men in state care and we all got along so well. Derek was put in a deaf school, then a mental institution when his parents couldn't understand why their son would never speak to them and would get violent when touched. To this day, the only way he is comfortable is to have his arms inside his shirt and the sleeves tied back (something that completely disgusts me, as it is an example of his treatment) but it does give him peace. Kyle was a very aggressive young man who had often attacked his counselors and was prone to sudden outbursts of screaming. Yet for some reason, whenever I was around the two of them, all three of us would be completely at ease. Derek would often rest his head on my shoulder and sign the word "content" to me over and over. I would sing songs to Kyle and he would take his erratic behavior and just dance for us instead.

Now I am the aunt of a gorgeous and frustrating young boy with aspergers. He loves vacuums, hates the sound of his sister Hannah's voice, gets phantom pains in his arm regularly and becomes so fixated on video games that it takes physical intervention to get him to focus on anything else. But through the patience and humor of my brother and sister-in-law he is now growing into a calm, expansive, funny child. He used to be physically aggressive with people when he got excited, often pinching and hitting you to show he was happy to see you, and now he has learned to just give enthusiastic hugs and kisses instead.

I am going to buy a copy of your book for myself, my brother, my sister and loan it to anyone who will read it. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have the greatest respect for your ability to put into words the images that haunt some people.


Unknown said...

Learning about you has given me some unique opportunities to test theories about my son and help make his gifts more tangible to my husband and I. Dylan is 17 and has high-functioning Autism/ Asperger’s just like you. Unlike you however, math is not one of his strengths, or at least that’s what I believed until recently. We have always known his memory skills were exceptional, what we did not know and have only recently realized, is exactly how exceptional.

After seeing a documentary about you, my husband and I started asking Dylan not only the dates and years of special event and trips in our lives, we wanted to see if he could tell us what day of the week these various activities landed on. We checked out his responses and he was always correct. It didn’t matter if was something we did last year, or 10 years ago, his answers were always instantaneous and correct.

Last night I was researching something online and a newspaper clipping referred to a day of the week, which our city’s Mayor had made a statement on the topic. That cued me to think that perhaps it would be helpful to know the day of the week, which this article was published so I could know the exact date the mayor said what he did.

I took this new spark of inquiry and immediately asked Dylan what day of the week April 15th, 2006 landed on and without hesitation he said, “Saturday”. This was really cool because other than the fact that this was tax day, it had no relevance to him personally. I kept going back in years again, the answers were immediate and correct. My husband decided to delve deeper and went forward on his digital calendar and tested him. Again he was fast and correct. At one point when I asked him to name a day a REALLY long time ago: my day of birth, September 7th 1964. He made the mistake of saying Friday and I happened to know I was born on a Monday. Then we figured out that he for got to consider the leap years in which case, he would have been right. After we remind him of that, we gave him my husband’s date of birth and asked him what day of the week it fell on. “Tuesday. Now I need to go to bed, “ he said with a tone of impatience and kissed us both goodnight. We’ve always been proud of Dylan: he is exceptionally good-hearted and intelligent. Now we’re overwhelmed and would really like to know how his does this, but he’s unable to articulate his processes.

I once read a book called, “Island's of Intelligence” and it seemed to indicate that there was a possibility that people like Dylan make neural connections in areas most don't and have weaker connection in areas that most of us take for granted.

Duwana said...

My son is autistic and my dearest hope is that he will be a happy, functioning member of society. I found the following blog entry very interesting:

Dawn Wolfson

milhousesgirl said...

Not only are you invaluable to parents with children on the autism spectrum, and neuroscientists, but to Speech Language Pathologists. I am a speech hearing language major, and I plan on specializing in children that have autism. I have volunteered at a school that caters to children with special needs, many of them being diagnosed with autism, and I love them dearly. However there are many moments that are extremely hard and frustrating. I know my limits, but I also know their potential. I can read all the textbooks in the world on autism, but I can't read my kids minds. While I see teachers yelling at a child for throwing a tantrum because the shoes by the door are not lined up just so, I know that he is upset because there is a lack of control in a hectic kindergarden environment. While many teachers discourage flapping behavior I see no harm, because you have taught me that it is comforting. I know that autism cannot be "cured" but behaviors, and triggers can lessen over the years with the right help and encouragement. Thank you so much for showing me a way to help these kids that I see as my own.

RBasque said...

M. Tammet,
Je viens de terminer votre livre et je fus fasciné par l'expression intime de ce que vous ressentez et que vous partagez avec vos lecteurs. Je fus émerveillé par votre capacité de décrire très simplement des choses proprement extrordinaires. J'ai eu l'impression de passer de très bons moments en votre compagnie.

Anonymous said...

Dear Daniel,
I have seen the film about you and cannot explain the feeling of how impressed I was whilst watching it. Not only the wisdom, pleasantness or calm You emit but something else which I cannot explain make me say that I love you.

Megan said...

Hi. My name is Megan. I'm 16 years old and am absolutely astounded by your book. I think most thing that could possibly be said to/about you have been done so on your blog, but I just wanted to tell you myself that you are an amazing individual. I admire you.

Savitrii said...

Dear Daniel,
I just finished reading "Born on a Blue Day". I began reading it this morning and it moved me so much that I did not stop reading until I had read the entire thing. As a university student studying neuroscience, I thought your book was fascinating and eye-opening. As an appreciator of language and literature, I thought it was very beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world. What I wouldn't give to see the world the way you see it, if only for a moment. You are an inspiration to me!

Unknown said...

Hi Daniel,
I saw ur documentary on brain man and was totally awed. I am a teacher at a school for autistic kids. I m really blessed to work with an interesting lot of people and I learn so much from them. I must say that watching the documentary as given me much inspiration for continuing my passion. A big thank you.