Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Like Son, Like Father

Posted by Neal on January 9, 2008

Readers who have been with me since 2004 may remember this post; if you found that one interesting, then you should have a look at this article from The New York Times.


4 Responses to “Like Son, Like Father”

  1. Viola said


    Your blog in 2004 was an eye-opener. I appreciate your thoughts on this. The article from New York Times really sums things up for me.
    Two years ago I was ready to start dealing with some issues and come full circle with some things in my life, so I went to a psychologist for counseling. I was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. At first it opened up a whole new understanding of myself. That same year two of my friends from Washington, where I was raised, found out they both had children who were on the autism spectrum. For those who are not aware: autism, ADD/ADHD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder with or without hyperactivity, sensory integration disorders, and sensory processing disorders are all on the autism spectrum. There are a myriad of conditions that could impose themselves on a person with these types of disorders: dyslexia, obsessive compulsive disorders,and comorbidity of autism with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. To put it in a nutshell, our nervous systems are being challenged from outward stimuli in such a way that it brings out “abnormal” behavior and pretty much gets in the way of learning and communicating effectively–especially if you’re not equipped with the tools to deal with it in the first place.
    My childhood was far from ordinary, so that played into the nervous disorders as well. Are there genetic dispositions toward “mental” tendencies? Yes….by all means, it takes place in a huge way. After I found out my “diagnosis” I went on stimulants for about a year. It finally occurred to me that if my children struggle at all with this disorder, would I medicate them? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

    I’ve had neck and back problems for years and went to a chiropractor. Under the care of a chiropractor, a better diet, and quality supplements (Omega-3’s, multi-vitamins with antioxidents, and a vitamin C here and there) as needed; I’m able to cope much better with ADD/ADHD. Our whole family sees our chiropractor.

    A pattern that I’ve seen with children and adults on “the spectrum” is there is included an extremely high level of intelligence. I believe intelligence is generally misunderstood due to the lack of social abilities we display. If you study children with autism, they are unusually sensitive and do tend to take things literally. Einstein is said to have been on the autism spectrum, as well as a number of bright persons who have contributed greatly to society.

    If you weren’t literal-minded, you wouldn’t be so damn funny. If we weren’t so intelligent, we wouldn’t get the funny-ness (did I make up a new word?) of your blogs. I think your teacher set you up for failure with passing the sign-up sheet around when you were in the 4th grade. If she wanted you all to have the workbook, then she could have ordered it for you and passed them around instead of passing out a sign-up sheet. Pretty silly if you ask me. I would have done the same thing. I guarantee you my husband would have done the same thing because he can tell you stories about run-ins he had with teachers. Yes–my husband and I both think alike in many ways. My son, Holt, would’ve done the same thing. Gregg, on the other hand, loves to sign his name right now, (he’s in kindergarten) and would equate the exercise to “signing his autograph.” As a family, we have discovered that we’re “just that way” and we do deal with things in an effective manner–but it wasn’t easy at first. I think the key is to love yourself as you are, good and bad. If you can love yourself, spectrum and all, you’ll be more equipped and patient to love your spouse. Your children will be loved and accepted in turn, and will benefit greatly from your understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. After all, they come by everything pretty much honestly and literally.

  2. Lee said

    Viola and Neal – if you haven’t already read Thinking In Pictures, I think you would find it very interesting. I first read about Temple Grandin in An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks (yes, I’m a big fan of his).

    Also, Wired published the AQ (Autism Spectrum Quotient) test developed by Simon Baron-Cohen here. (I took it a few years ago – I think I scored in the low-to-mid 20s… My wife did not find this to be surprising in the least.) I first read about the AQ test when I read Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, which I’d also recommend.

  3. Viola said

    Thanks for the AQ test and yet more book recommendations! It pretty much explains why I knew although I’m not “stupid,” I’m a little “off!” I scored 28, which is rather close to the autism diagnosis. This is an awesome discovery!
    Perhaps this would give you some insight into inherited traits. If you’re not too shy about sharing the test results with us, it would give us a better understanding of THE Neal Whitman.

  4. Lee said

    Viola – you’re welcome 🙂

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