Posted on April 10, 2014 in Autism
A few years ago, I wrote a book on autism and literacy, A Land We Can Share, with Kelly Chandler-Olcott. To research that book, we read nearly every autobiography in press to gather tips and suggestions on teaching literacy from folks on the spectrum. One of the most useful books in this process turned out to be Daniel Tammet’s Born on a Blue Day. This book is not about teaching literacy or even about teaching, but as Tammet shares his stories of growing up, schooling, working, and even falling in love, there just happen to be many useful gems to mine about reading, writing, and studying that the teacher in me really appreciated. For instance, in this passage, Tammet discusses how writing felt to him as a child:
The stories I wrote, from what I can remember of them, were descriptively dense—a whole page might be taken up in describing the various details of a single place or location, its colors, shapes, and textures. There was no dialogue, no emotions. Instead I wrote of long, weaving tunnels far underneath vast, shimmering oceans, of cragged rock caves and towers climbing into the sky.
I didn’t have to think about what I was writing; the words just seemed to flow out of my head. Even without any conscious planning, the stories were always comprehensible. When I showed one to my teacher, she liked it enough to read parts of it out loud to the rest of the class (p. 44).
Readers will find many other things to love about Born on a Blue Day such as Tammet’s description of his giftedness in mathematics or his synesthesia, an unusual syndrome that enables him to experience both words and numbers as shapes, colors, and textures.
**Idea for using this book: Follow this reading with another book by Tammet, Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math. Then pass them both on to your favorite math teacher.