If we could get back to 1985, we could more easily see a film called D.A.R.Y.L. about a Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform. A young boy, “conceived in a test tube with a computer brain installed by scientists”, is taken into a foster family and works to understand his social environment. The test tube is long gone (and he has started to exhibit real human emotions), but some of the scientists and their military funders express further interest in him.
I watched this as a kid multiple times; the predictable adventure was exciting enough for me. And in adulthood, D.A.R.Y.L. was the movie I asked my brother to watch with me when I first told him about my Asperger’s diagnosis. (Later, I shared the film Adam when I wanted to talk with someone about Asperger’s.)
The movie summary says “Everyone in town is in awe of young Daryl’s extraordinary talents and abilities.” This is the key reason I share it with this community (and not because it’s a huge blockbuster hit).
At the time, this movie felt unique in it’s handling of extraordinary giftedness. And it had a lasting impact on me.
Every major accomplishment that this kid showed, the people surrounding him were impressed but not fawning, encouraging but not gawking. And he was aware that he was different… without remorse.
What a gift!
The community’s acceptance of him allowed him to joyfully make friends with a neighborhood kid, form attachments, and flourish. He even cared for his foster parents so much that he developed social-emotional algorithms to help with their ease and comfort.
I can imagine that gifted, Aspie, and gifted-Aspie kiddos could also thrive emotionally in such an environment.
Although many of the characters responded skillfully to Daryl, towards the end of the movie, there was an all too familiar example of an adult attempting to impose their social conventions on a divergent youngster.
There is an uninspiring display of typical empathy instruction: “Can you imagine how he must feel?” To that I say, “Perhaps… and can you imagine what it must feel like to have people always trying to teach you empathy when they apparently don’t understand you?”
This robot kid inspires me to advocate for those who may have faced behavioral therapies instead of dignity-based conversation. He is highly coachable and eager to learn.
Often, these kids have more imagination and empathy than the adults coaching them. They may struggle in how to express that in a way that others can take in, but the empathy is there.
Imagine, if you will, that these kids have profound empathy. Ask them for help in understanding. Humble yourselves, adults. Be curious.
Start with a micro-validation of whatever observation they are clinging to. Yes, you want them to move on. Movement happens more quickly with validation, even a micro-validation. (I’ll go into this a lot more in my upcoming book with GHF Press).
Daryl’s buddy Turtle has it right, seeing through to the robot kid’s humanity. He exclaims, “They are listening to all that scientific crap about you?!”
Be sure and check out some of the other articles in the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop, Gifted in REEL Life…
And let me know in the comments below: do you remember the movie, D.A.R.Y.L.? Or are there other movies you know that manage to successfully pull off extraordinary empathy for extraordinary minds?