Kim Peek, the man that inspired the movie “Rain Man” has passed away recently at the age of 58. The movie was not a real life recounting of Mr. Peeks life, but the screenwriter thought so much of him after a meeting that he penned the story. Dustin Hoffman spent time with Mr. Peek to learn his mannerisms and about his unique gift of memory. What most people don’t know is that Mr. Peek was not autistic, instead he had a birth defect within his brain that made him unable to do a lot of normal things. The doctors misdiagnosed him and one wanted to do a lobotomy. What we would have lost if his father had listened to them.
But he didn’t and that defect gave Kim the gift of memorization. The ability to read facing pages of a book at the same time, one page with each eye. It wasn’t until that chance meeting with that screewriter that Mr. Peek started his journey in the public light that included discussion sessions with people of all ages, from k12 to college students. Kim was able to give you facts instantaneously after you asked a question. He even started to be more open, learning the piano even though he shouldn’t have been able to.
I watched a documentary about Mr. Peek a few years ago, and was awe struck with what he was able to do. His father took care of him every day of Kim’s life because he could not do the basic things for himself. While he could not think up new ideas or do the things that a Hawkings or Einstein could, he showed us another side of the human genius. He showed us that the brain can hold a great deal of facts. We have not tapped our brains to any degree that we could. If we combined what Einstein had with what Mr. Peek had just imagine what we could be.
The point of this is twofold. One is to pay respect to Mr. Peek, while the second is to show everyone that we are all different, don’t give up on a student because you think they can’t do the work. Maybe they see it in a different way than the norm for the topic. We need to ask questions and adapt to our students needs to give them every opportunity to grow.