Posted by Carl Brahe
on May 14, 2000 at 18:20:21:
I have been amazed by the children with CP I've met over the past few months working with MCTOS. Actually, I'm in awe of them.
Below is an article I wrote trying to gain an understanding of these children and the intelligence, sometimes genius and even brilliance they have shown me.
I want to know more. Specifically any suggestions for developing a way for these children to share their wisdom with us. MCTOS has shown a potential for reliable switching for them. My question is where do we go from here. I believe the world will benefit greatly from what they have to offer us if we can find a way to help them express themselves.
Please, email if you have any thoughts or ideas on the subject. firstname.lastname@example.org
A different kind of intelligence
Intelligence is the ability to learn and understand or the ability to cope with new situations. It is the ability to gain knowledge and apply it to your present situation. In our culture that means utilizing tools that include: reading, writing, speaking, moving, gathering and analyzing data, observing and applying learned concepts to affect the world around you.
What if you are deprived of these basic concepts as the result of being locked-in a body that doesnít allow you to interact in the usual ways? As many as a million Americans are locked-in, a state of being aware and intelligent, but being incapable of making your body do anything that would allow you to interact with the outside world.
Many of these people started out normally abled. While they may have learned concepts that comprise usual intelligence, these concepts may fade, losing relevance in the personís life. For these people intelligence becomes learning to cope with being locked-in.
Many of these people are born with diseases that hold them locked-in from birth. These people may never have the opportunity to learn any of the above skills. If these people do have awareness and intelligence, as their family, friend, therapists and teachers and believe, it must be a different kind of intelligence. It must be an intelligence based on entirely different criteria.
Different intelligence is not necessarily inferior intelligence. Albert Einstein was thought to be retarded. He failed math. He had a different kind of intelligence that brought great benefit to the world.
A person born without the ability to control his body, such as a child with Cerebral Palsy, who is blind, will learn a different set of concepts that comprises his knowledge. His knowledge may be exclusively of his life circumstance, or it may include the intuitive realm that brings unexplainable wisdom and creativity.
A baby who grows up in this condition will have different external stimulation with which to create a model of the world. Without sound, for example, all the learning and experience of music, voice and other sounds that contribute to a personís development would be missing. Other senses would be more highly developed to compensate.
This childís ability to physically affect the world will be limited. Regardless of the limitations of his available abilities and concepts, nature demands that he try to understand his world and express himself in it. He will grow physically and mentally. He will do the best he can, with what he has to work with, to get his survival and higher needs met.
His entry into the world may be like other babies. His first experiences of the world maybe human touch. He may become aware of the sounds that bombard his new world or the vibrations they cause.
His world maybe limited to sound, touch and emotion. Like other babies he will experience, the emotions of those around him. He will feel their love, tranquility and joy. He will also feel their anger, guilt and fear. He will feel and discover in himself a full range of emotions.
He will learn to recognize emotion in others. He will learn how others emotions affect him. He will learn how he is affected by his own emotions. He will experience the chemical changes in his body. He may not be able to define these emotions, but he will feel them.
He will learn the feel of different touch. He will know the difference between loving touch and frustrated or angry touch. He will know which nourishes him and which lessens him.
He may recognize daily routines and passing days, but may not have a concept of time, as we traditionally know it. He may experience time as changes in temperature, feel of the air on his skin and activity around him that signal routine events. Time for him will have a different standard than the movement of hands on a clock.
He will feel textures and temperatures. He will hear ambient sounds. He will construct a world made up of these things. These will be the building blocks of his knowledge and belief. Interacting in this world will be the measure of his intelligence.
As he grows he will struggle to get his needs met. He will search for way to convey his hunger, fear and contentment. He will strive for expression in the world in an effort to meet his needs. He will try to understand those he interacts with using the concepts and environmental input he has to work with.
Learning that he feels otherís emotions, he may try to reach out with his emotions to touch back. When heís hungry, he may radiate the contented feeling of being fed. When he wants to be touched, he may try to touch others with love. If his hunger and other needs create frustration at not being met, he may project frustration, fear and anger.
His model of the world may be very different than ours, but no less valid. An artist, blind from birth uses delicate and accurate brush strokes to paint the world he sees in his mind. In his mindís eye, he sees the world in full color. His paintings reveal the amazing accuracy of his internal representation of a world heís never seen. His ability to see the canvas and paints he works with demonstrates an ability to see a complex and accurate model of the world using other senses.
No one really knows what goes on in the minds of those who are locked-in. If they are like other humans, their internal worlds must surely exceed the limits of their physical conditions. In their worlds, they may be geniuses and we may be disabled. No one can predict what new insights, or gifts of knowledge, locked-in people have to offer.
As technology unlocks these people intelligence will need to be refined.
We will have to learn think differently. We will have to expand our belief systems to gain the intelligence to understand a different kind of intelligence.