Temple Grandin believes there are three types of specialized thinkers::
1. Visual thinkers (they think in pictures)
2. Music and Math thinkers
3. Verbal Logic thinkers
She herself is a visual thinker. If I had to pick one, I'd say I was, too, but certainly not "specialized." We've known with Wil from the beginning, that his mind thought musically. During the 18 long months he did little more than cry, he'd show a bit of interest in some jingles that came on TV, and even pause the crying for a blessed moment or two.
Fast forward to the age of the iPad and the birth of iHeart Radio. Wil could spend all day on that thing, and has become a music aficionado. He loves all types of music, truly, all types, and has encyclopedic knowledge of bands, their songs, their genre, and which station in which state is most likely to play their music. He loves everything from the Steve Miller Band to Katy Perry. He's good at math, too, no mathematical genius, but his mind thinks mathematically. He can add and subtract effortlessly. I, being visual, am still seeing the problem, borrowing, carrying, and all that nonsense, long after he's come up with the answer. He doesn't solve the problem, he knows the answer. He has math sense that will elude me to my dying day.
Wil plays the piano and sings all the time. He's never had a lesson (but he will, don't you worry, he will). His right hand never misses a note. His left is a bit loud and thumpy, but still, pretty amazing. When he wants to learn a new song, I put Scotch tape on the keys and then write with a Sharpie, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. He follows the numbers to get the tune the first time or two, and then he's set. That song is permanently locked in his data base, and at his ready any time, day or night.
We were at the yogurt shop on Thursday with his former Resource Room teacher, her husband and new baby (the one for whom he's the godfather). We were all chatting away, and all of a sudden Wil broke through the conversation with the question of what was the name of the song on the radio. We all recognized it, but didn't know the name, let alone the band. He persevered and I brought out my trusty iPhone with the Shazam app and in a few seconds was able to tell him it was "Young Folks," by Peter, Bjorn and John.
This morning, four days later, he asks during breakfast, "Remember the Halloween video I watched when I was eight? They played 'Young Folks' on that video."
No. I do not remember the Halloween video. I do not remember him ever paying more than five minutes of attention to any video whatsoever at age eight. I do not remember the song from a video I do not remember.
But I do remember that he is always right about these things. It gives me some insight into the way he thinks, that a song from long ago could so lodge itself in his brain that he was able to access it nine years later when he had another piece to go with it.
I don't need to tell you that autism is on the rise, as high as 1 in 50 boys will be diagnosed with it. The young folks today ain't the young folks of yesterday. There's no telling where the world will be when we put to use the specialized brains of these people.
Imagine the possibilities.