Vendergood

Dear Phoenix,

Vendergood.  It’s a real thing.  Sometime in the early 1900’s a rarely known man by the name of William James Sidis created a constructed language called Vendergood.  He combined Latin, Greek, French, German and other Romance languages to create his very own.  He had taught himself 8 languages.  He did this by the age of 9.

Intelligence is one of many aspects we have decided to measure in humans.  But it remains a mystery to me why we believe we can truly quantify intelligence and what good it does us to filter learning potential.

My fellow Autistics who are non-speaking are often given assigned IQ’s below 70 (labeled as definite feeble-mindedness).  In college, I argued that the reasons for this was not that non-speaking Autistic people are feeble-minded, but that the tests used are socially, verbally ,and culturally biased.  My view was not a popular one, and my theory was dismissed on that basis that I had no empirical data.

But, they didn’t have Empirical data to support that low IQ was comorbid with non-verbal Autism.  No one finished the test, no one created alternative measures.  Failure to finish the test was assumed to mean incapable, unable, and incompetent.  So I was to accept this with no formal study, but my theory was trash?

Let’s go back to Sidis a moment.  He had mastered high level mathematics at age 9.  Shortly after he became the youngest person to attend Harvard, finishing his Bachelor’s degree cum laude at age 16.  At age 17, following some bullying at Harvard over being a pacifist and recluse, he became a graduate fellow working on his PhD and was given a job to teach at Rice University.  He taught maths for one year and then left.

Sidis talked about wanting to live celibate and isolated.  He struggled to understand people. His parents intervened often for him (they got him the teaching job) as Sidis struggled for independence.  He was arrested at a socialist May Day parade that turned violent in Boston.  Stories about his life certainly indicate that people were difficult for him to understand.

His sister declared that his IQ was the highest ever recorded.  No proof exists of this, but the rumors remain that Sidis had an IQ between 250 and 300.

What?

Never mind that the IQ test was never meant to measure that high with 180 being the top score on the Stanford-Binet.  So, this could easily mean that scores above 180 are estimations with larger margins of error. Nonetheless, what could one possibly benefit from having an IQ of 300?  Or even 200?  And how do we score that?

If we start using IQ measurements to explain intelligence after otherwise unexplainable intellectual anomalies like Sidis, none of us have a snowball’s chance in hell of being anything shy of a bumbling idiot.  William J. Sidis had shown some amazing promise to learn everything really fast, but what did it get him?  What contributions did he make?  He spent the rest of his life running adding machines, and obsessively collecting streetcar transfers.  He published one book and held a patent on a rotary calendar. He died alone from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 46.

What if no one “discovered” Sidis at a young age?  What if Harvard had denied the boy access to University until he was proper age?  Would they have believed such intelligence came from an adding machine operator?  Would Sidis pass the SAT’s or even qualify for a scholarship to attend Harvard in the 21st Century?

What if Sidis were non-verbal?

Take into account Stephen Hawking, another exceptional mind.  Dr. Hawking is bound to his chair unable to speak, but his IQ is still estimated to be over 180.  Would people still believe that if he had made his achievements in science after ALS took away his speech?

Neither Sidis nor Hawking have a published IQ score to date.  Their IQ’s are estimates made purely by onlookers looking to categorize human achievement.  Now I am not denying that Dr. Hawking’s intellectual capacity is higher than average.  But what a travesty it is to throw around this number post-achievement, yet also use it to create exclusive access to education among children.  In the disability world, an early IQ assignment of 70, creates barriers that imprisons the minds of the non-verbal, while also adding undue weight to the academic achievements of speaking ASD kids.  For everyone else it creates the illusion that world changing ideas come only from people with IQ’s over 140 (genius).

Google DaVinci’s IQ and the number is 220.  What the f_ _ k?  How did DaVinci get such a high score on a test invented 400 years after his death?  If DaVinci were alive today he would have been yelled at by his teachers about how he would be a starving artist, have his journals confiscated by the police, and likely subjected to hundreds of hours of therapy for creating sketches of inventions that look like devices to bomb the school.

The sad truth is we give posthumous vanity IQ’s and honorary appointments to amazing thinkers long after they could have benefitted from acknowledgement, mostly to make us feel better about kicking them around while they were alive.  Innovation doesn’t come in a clearly marked bottle safe for human consumption.  Innovation is unstable, anti-social, irreverent, and chaotic.  If we all saw it coming, we wouldn’t need innovation.

Sometimes intelligence is easily recognized, but most of the time it is not.  Especially when it is unspoken.  But unspoken does not mean silent.  Unspoken words are the loudest to those who have learned to listen at a different frequency.  The dog is not crazy for hearing the whistle that is silent to humans.  Just as I am not crazy for hearing the intelligence of my non-speaking Autistic mates.

You are howling, my dear Phoenix. Now let us show them what they are missing.

Laura (Snamuh)

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