Teaching My 2e Kid Social Skills with Star Trek: The Next Generation
The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are locked in a deadly stand-off with an all-powerful alien life form known as the Nagilum. Preferring to end the lives of his entire crew rather than subject them to torture, Captain Picard makes the difficult choice to initiate the Enterprise’s self-destruct sequence. Riker confirms. The countdown begins.
“Wait,” my seven-year-old pipes up, prompting me to hit the pause button. “They aren’t even counting nanoseconds, are they? They aren’t.”
The crew of the Enterprise is about to wipe themselves off the face of the galaxy, and my child’s primary concern is the accuracy of the clock.
This was not a huge surprise. My oldest child (who requests that I refer to him by his gaming handle, “B-Bot”) has always been obsessed with numbers. He was counting before he could talk, carefully lining up his cheerios and grunting as he pointed to each in sequence. After mastering the art of speech, he demonstrated instant recall of virtually any number, in any context, and was frequently exasperated by others’ inattention to detail, such as the exact number of bites they had taken in the process of consuming a sandwich. I couldn’t say “I’ve told you this a thousand times!” without having him politely inform me that no, actually, it was only eight.
B-Bot is incredibly strong, extroverted, and endlessly forgiving, but has a hard time reading emotions beyond obvious physical reactions like laughter or tears. He is also hilariously literal. As a toddler, he once crawled around, barking. When I said, “Oh, are you a doggy?” he immediately sobered, got to his feet, and explained, “No. I a boy.” While childhood staple of ‘playing pretend’ was a nearly incomprehensible concept for him, we had hours-long conversations about atomic structure, chemistry, cancer, and the solar system. His family nickname is the Energizer Bunny, because he never rests. We joke that B-Bot doesn’t sleep — he waits.
Though we initially suspected B-Bot was autistic, his formal diagnosis was more complex. He is “twice exceptional” or “2e” — both highly gifted and learning disabled. B-Bot will never need anyone to teach him reading, mathematics, or science. He does, however, need help understanding his fellow humans.
What do you do with a hyper-intelligent being with super-strength who never sleeps but doesn’t understand the concept of lying?
You introduce him to Data.