Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Differences in Strengths and Weaknesses

Originally posted on January 30, 2018

Intellectual  strengths and weaknesses may overlap with temperamental ones. I have a mild case of Asperger’s Disorder which, I think, operates on a spectrum. Severe is autism. Mild is Asperger’s. But the spectrum goes on: Social Learning Disability, average, and socially talented—“the hostess with the mostest” as they said of Pearl Mesta in the 1950s. It’s a spectrum of ability.

Talent, no talent; good ear, tin ear. It’s not something one can just do if they only would. I’m a bit socially dense and I’ve been compensating for it all my life. The popular view is that things are there to be seen or sensed, and average people can see / hear / sense them if they’d just pay attention. But it’s not so. The line by Theodore Geisel aka “Dr. Seuss” expressed this: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

This sentence expresses what passes for “common sense”“ It presupposed the eyes in your head pick up and interpret clearly what’s there… but in fact, people with social learning disability miss cues that other people pick up subliminally!

I didn’t know this bit of temperamental difference. It turns out in my experience as a Board-Certified Adult and Child Psychiatrist that this theme of temperamental differences, and ability differences, is not something people can will, if they only would. Many people really don’t get it!  “It” being obvious, not easy to explain, clear to people with a given sensitivity, and obscure to people without that sensitivity. It’s a matter of certain kinds of intelligence, and someone who finds it obvious that, say, this sounds better than that, may get profoundly lost in what others find geographically familiar. Oliver Sacks had that problem and also prosop-gnosia  —recognizing familiar faces. I’m medium. Some people are great at this and some face-blind.

There are many, many ways people are different. Some don’t read well, and severe cases are called dyslexic. Some read very well and they also remember. IQ can be high or low, and varies also with theme. Some are smart in some things and dense in others. (I don’t want to use the word “dumb” because it’s not willed.)  Like introversion and extraversion and many, many other temperamental variables, people are really very different in so many ways.

I’m very smart in some ways, medium in some ways, dense in some ways. I miss some cues that others take for granted! I don’t ignore them; I don’t perceive them. If you point it out, I’ll pick up, say 20%. If you point out what to look for—which is difficult for most people, since they "get" it—I’ll then see another 40 – 50%  You could point it out persistently and in detail—another 10%. But the last 20% that many people see subliminally, I just can’t see.

Really extraverted (or is it spelled extroverted?), socially skilled people pick up 94.4 – 98.6% (like my wife), but most people don’t even know it’s a perceptual talent! Differences in types of intelligence are just opening up for the common people, and even for scientific workers—many don’t get the implications. Most people are good at some things and bad at others, and our challenge is to notice, identify, analyze, discuss, and disseminate this information and its implications.

I welcome anecdotes of how you see this. Personal strengths and weaknesses welcome.

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