Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Robert "Bobby" Fischer is of course one of the 119 people in my referenced list of famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are/were on the autistic spectrum
Another theory about Robert "Bobby" Fischer

I thought the recent article about Fischer from The Wall Street Journal gave a plausible explanation for Fischer's prickly, unsociable and untrusting personality. I've written recently that I think a lack of proper education was an important factor contributing to the way that Fischer was not integrated into society in general as much as be possibly should have been.

The Wall Street Journal's article points out that "Fischer's problem was that he had no peers, at least not in chess, so he had no one to check his worst tendencies." This theory certainly makes sense, in the light of the knowledge that Fischer, with his reputed IQ in the 180s, definitely belonged in an elite subcategory of the "intellectually gifted", and I and many other people believe he also had autism/Asperger syndrome. A major social/emotional problem that is commonly faced by people, including children, who are intellectually gifted is a lack of contact with other people like themselves who are also highly intelligent. There are too many teachers and people in general who believe that gifted kids should not be put into classes comprising only other gifted kids, because it is incorrectly thought that gifted kids will not grow up to be socially normal if they aren't forced to mix socially and educationally with ordinary kids who are the same age; "their age peers". In fact, this is bullshit. Normal kids of the same age group are not a geniune peer group for gifted kids. Gifted kids need to at least have some opportunity to meet and interact with and compete with other kids of the same or similar age who are of similar intellectual ability. I know this from personal experience. It makes sense that such interaction should take place in an educational situation. This doesn't mean that these smart kids will never want to mix socially with kids of normal intellect, but it does meet an important need to be among geniune peers. According to what I have read this need for genuine peers, which is often unmet, is a more acute problem the more gifted the individual is. Highly or profoundly gifted kids might only befriend adults or other rare members of the intellectual elite. Fischer certainly would have been in this category.

A lack of contact with genuine peers is also a common problem for people on the autistic spectrum. There seems to be little recognition among autism experts and professionals who deal with children or adults on the autistic spectrum that autistic people need the company of other people who are autistic. It's a fact that needs to be faced that there is not much that can be shared socially between people with Asperger syndrome and neurotypical (normal) people. Autists and NTs generally have different pleasures, different world views, different life experiences, different styles of socializing, different interests, different dislikes, different problems in life, different styles of communicating etc. There just isn't much to do or say when autists meet NTs; what sometimes happens is that the autists try to put on a half-passable job of pretending to be normal, while the NTs try to hide how bored or offended they feel.

The article gave a quote from Fischer which I found interesting, which could be interpreted in a number of different ways:

One of the assembled admirers offered him a standard compliment: "Great game, Bobby." Fischer snapped back, "How would you know?"

One could assume that the intention behind Fischer's retort was mean-spirited arrogance, or one could read his reply as being clumsily tactless but logically justified. One could also speculate that there may have been a measure of sadness and intellectual loneliness in Fischer's rude reply. Can you imagine how lonely life could be for a person who is gifted/cursed with extreme intellectual giftedness and Asperger syndrome? I doubt that you could.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Out of all of the recent articles about Robert "Bobby" Fischer, I found this one to be most informative:

It's the only article that I've seen that provides some kind of explanation for Fischer's unpleasant and nonsensical Holocaust-denying views, and his attitudes that seem paranoid. It appears that Fischer fell in with a bad and nutty crowd in his youth, and that appears to be the setting where much of his unpopular world-view was formed.

I know a person in the real, offline world who is psychologically interestingly similar to the recently deceased chess genius, except, unsurprisingly, the person who I know is not a world's greatest at anything. This person is without doubt autistic, is of mature age, and I believe also has an intellectual gift or talent. There are many similarities between Asperger syndrome and intellectual giftedness; both conditions are often concealed or kept secret, both conditions are genetically transmitted, and both conditions often become obvious when a person's descendants show signs of the condition.

If you talk with this person, (or are talked at by this person), their cascade of complaints about government officials, businesses, past associates and various professionals comes across as the sad effect of a terrible case of Paranoid personality disorder, but those very few people who know this person well enough to see the physical evidence and documentation behind the complaints come to realize that this person really does get treated badly by almost everyone that they have dealings with, to the extent that the law is sometimes broken.

With regard to this person and also Mr Fischer, I have considered separately why these two individuals ran into so much trouble in their lives even though they both had such intellectual potential, and for both I have reached the same conclusion; this is what happens when an intellectually gifted person remains uneducated, such a situation can only lead to great trouble. When a dim person remains uneducated that is almost natural. When a normal person remains uneducated that is a shameful situation. When a brilliant person remains uneducated that is positively dangerous. The mind is designed for learning, and great minds have an urgent and constant need for learning, but great minds are often not properly educated in schools. If a sensible and suitable education is not provided, a great mind can be filled with absurd and noxious rubbish, such as religious dogma, conspiracy theories, psuedoscience health quackery or even the political views of the Nazi party. There's many a time that I've wished that I could belt every single one of my friend's former school teachers, and the school principal, around the head with some heavy reference book, but they would all be dead by now anyway. I know that my friend was not given an adequate education as a child. This might have been due to the essential mediocrity of the school, and my odd and extremely willful friend would have probably been a hard student to teach, and could well have been written-off as stupid.

Everything that I have read about Mr Fischer's education; quotes from his teachers and his own very negative view of his high school education, leads me to conclude that his school education was a shameful failure and I believe this educational vacuum was his great weakness. Certainly he was utterly obsessed with chess as a child and teen, and this would have posed some obstacle to teaching this student, but it is not true that Fischer was learning nothing but chess in his youth; the Times article says Fischer "became caught up with conspiracy theorists and white supremacists" after he dropped out of school. Obviously he learned a lot of poisonous nonsense from these teachers, and never forgot a word of it.

I know that students who are both intellectually gifted and autistic pose a double challenge to schools, and have non-standard educational needs that require individualized measures, but schools are supposed to be able to educate all students. We must never allow such brilliant young minds, fitted out with extremely retentive memory, to be filled with nasty nonsense or useless garbage or antiquated twaddle, because when this happens it is not only the problem of the person who's potential to participate in society is blighted, it's everyone's problem, in fact, such a person can make trouble on a global scale, from Sydney to New York to Manilla to Reykjavik to Zurich .....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I was sad to hear that the chess genius Bobby Fischer has passed away, leaving behind his defacto wife Miyoko Watai. It's interesting to see how utterly polarized are the comments about Fischer on the internet from various people; he had many great fans and many great enemies.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm annoyed that I missed seeing this story last night about Gene Nakauchi on the 7.30 Report on ABC TV:

"A young autistic boy from Queensland has become Australia's best hope at the World Chess Championships".

Whip their arses, Gene! (I don't intend that statement to be interpreted literally, of course).
There is some evidence that people have been reading my booklist/book review thing in this blog titled:

"Unusual lives, unusual minds: books and articles about Asperger syndrome, autism, introversion, intellectual giftedness, savants, synaesthesia/synesthesia, ...."

So I’ve reorganized it and added to it.

See it here:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dr Hans Asperger: does it take one to know one?

Is it only coincidence that the two doctors who are thought to have been the first to write clinical descriptions of the autistic spectrum, Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, have also both been identified separately by different authors as possibly having been somewhere on the autistic spectrum themselves? I don’t believe such similarities are merely coincidences. Is it possible that they were the first to identify and describe conditions within the autistic spectrum because other (non-autistic) practitioners failed to notice important differences between autists and schizophrenics? I’ll bet most medicos in the 1940s were happy to lump and dump patients of both types together into the all-encompassing category of schizophrenia and it’s sub-types. I’ve seen neurotypical people casually categorize autistic individuals as crazy. Normal people appear to have quite limited insight into the nature of minds that are different to their own type. With regard to autists; does it take one to identify one?

Some journal documents about Hans Asperger:

Lyons V, Fitzgerald M (2007). Did Hans Asperger (1906–1980) have Asperger Syndrome? (letter). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. November 2007, volume 37, number 10, p. 2020-2021.

Gillberg, C. Gillberg, I. C. Rastam, M. Schaumann, M. Ehlers, S. (1990) [The man behind the syndrome. Hans Asperger and the unknown autism. The Asperger man--a reserved outsider exposed to enormous psychological strain] (in Swedish) Lakartidningen. 1990 Sep 19th, 87(38) p.2971-4.

Some quotes from Hans Asperger:

“The autistic personality is an extreme variant of male intelligence.”

from page 84 in Chapter 2 of Autism and Asperger syndrome editor Uta Frith

“We are convinced, then, that autistic people have their place in the organism of the social community. They fulfil their role well, perhaps better than anyone else could, and we are talking of people who as children had the greatest difficulties and caused untold worries to their care-givers.”

from Chapter 2 of Autism and Asperger syndrome editor Uta Frith

Hans Asperger’s important 1944 journal paper, translated from German into English:

Asperger, Hans ‘Autistic psychopathy’ in childhood. (translated and annotated by Uta Frith)
Chapter 2 in
Frith, Uta (ed) Autism and Asperger syndrome. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Hans Asperger in the Wikipedia:

Wikipedia contributors. (accessed 2008) Hans Asperger. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I did some Google searches on the phrase "Did Lucia Joyce have Asperger syndrome?" and I also did searches on phrases with similar meanings and different spellings, but all came up with no hits. Is it possible that no one else has ever posed this question?

Does anyone really believe that "hebephrenia" ever was a valid psychiatric diagnostic category?

An interesting page of reviews of a biography of Lucia Joyce:

A typically scant and limited article on the Wikipedia about Lucia Joyce: