What can we learn from “House” about autism?

The character “House” on the TV show of the same name is unbelievably arrogant, rude, and ultimately, usually right.  But he doesn’t get to be right immediately. He and his team often find correct answers after brainstorming.

“Listen, I don’t care if it makes sense.  Just give me something,” he tells his team of doctors.

Many people don’t understand the purpose of brainstorming.  You mention “a,” it leads to “b,” and then “c,” and the right answer, “d” appears.  The answer wouldn’t have presented itself without “a,” “b,” and “c” first, even if those first three ideas wouldn’t work.

Some people — most people? — shoot down ideas even before the sentence is finished.

This concept isn’t really specific to autism.  It could be about almost any subject.  But in the case of autism, many teachers, therapists, and parents are stuck in their ways, unwilling to try anything new.

Apparently the results have been so good that it’s necessary to do the same things over and over without trying anything new.

One time I came home after working with a child, took a nap and then woke up with an idea, hastily emailing the parent, who was horrified at the idea that I would propose making a deal with a school in exchange for care for the student.  The thing is, it probably would have worked.  Or at least it might have led to a discussion that could have opened some doors.

Thirty-five years ago, people still thought autism was due to the “coldness of the mother.”  If you automatically go with the current conventional thinking, you might just be wrong and behind the times.

“People get the wrong impression about scientists in that they think in an orderly, rigid way from step one to step two to step three,” said Paul Steinhardt in the Science Channels’ “Parallel Universe.”

“What really happens, is often you make some imaginative leap which, at the time, may seem nonsensical.   When you capture the field at those stages, it looks like poetry in which you are imagining without yet proving.”

Whatever that means, I’m for that type of thinking.  People used to think it was crazy that the world wasn’t flat.

We’ve been told forever that there’s no life in our solar system besides that which is on Earth.  But there’s a good chance that there’s life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, under the ice.  There’s a lot more life than previously thought underneath the ice in Antarctica.

If “thinking out of the box” wasn’t such a cliche, I’d use it.


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