Einstein Syndrome

Word count: let’s not and say we did

I stopped by a bookstore on my way home tonight to look for The Einstein Syndrome by Thomas Sowell. I’d been doing research about another childhood psychological problem with which I’d callously afflicted one of my novel’s main characters when I surfed into Sowell’s book. I’d read one of his books before - The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy - so I was intrigued to see him writing on such an unrelated topic. Like the other book I bought, Gifts Differing, it was something I would have borrowed if the Boston Public Library hadn’t managed to “lose” all its circulating copies of both books. I could have bought a whole shelf at Buck-a-Book for what those two books cost, but they’re not the sort of book that gets remaindered.

I had to work to get the book, too. I found it listed in the kiosk computer catalog as being in stock in the bookstore, but there was no shelf that fit the location given (Psychology - Family - Child Psychology). I asked one of the staff - let’s call her Retail Girl - and she went back to the staff kiosk and asked another of the staff (Retail Guy). I followed a little behind, but I was just in time to hear Retail Guy tell Retail Girl that the section was upstairs. She, however, wanted to look it up for me in her special staff kiosk computer catalog, and her computer said it wasn’t in stock.

When it comes to a choice between what I retrieved from a computer and what some random Retail Girl retrieved from a computer, I trust myself. It may sound snobbish, but considering that I was writing Basic before Retail Girl was writing English and that I had noticed the not-yet-published paperback version of the book listed under an entirely different section (Family and Education - Child Psychology), I decided to give Retail Guy’s directions a shot. So I went away in apparent despair, but turned at the escalator and checked out the second floor. There was indeed a Family - Child Psychology section there, and fortunately I knew to look around the autism books. Presto! So I got to blow $25 on the book despite the best efforts of Retail Girl to help me.

But I digress. Einstein syndrome refers to smart children who start talking significantly later than other toddlers, to the point where some can even read before they can talk. Sometimes they’re misdiagnosed with autism or attention deficit disorder. (It sounds to me like it’s related to Asperger’s Syndrome.) Sowell had a son with the Einstein syndrome; he wrote an earlier book about his son and others like him (Late-Talking Children) which was criticized for being anecdotal. This work is his scientific evidence.

I love comparative genetics and weird cognitive science; if I could only work more of that into the novel I wouldn’t be 5,000 words behind.

8 Responses to “Einstein Syndrome”

  1. Jo Says:

    We have one of those late talkers in our family. In his twenties now, well adjusted, and so smart he scares me sometimes. He’s done well.

  2. Wang Says:

    Read this!

  3. arguello Says:

    My son is 30 months old and he can sign and cont with his hands but does not speak. He know what to do about all he does but he can’t say it.
    He can imitate all that he see’s but he gets frustrated when he tries to talk
    Please send us some ideas

  4. diane Says:

    my son, now 6, was told he was austic due to the fact he did not speak a word until after he was three. they want to put him in special education. he is in first grade now, reading on a sixth grade level (he read before kindergarten)and also has outstanding concepts of math. he does speak now, but as he puts it he does not have much to say!!!

  5. Susana Says:

    I found the book a relief. My son, a late talker and potty trainee, is extremely intelligent. I consider myself average. Therefore, it is hard sometimes to know what to do to help him deal with the normal school routines. He learns quickly and gets bored even faster. This book gives a new perspective and understanding. Give it a try.

  6. Adrienne Says:

    My son who is 5, displays 95%+ of the characteristics of Einstein Syndrome and related family history. He is finally starting to put together 4-5 word sentences. He understands everything you tell/ask him, but his ability to communicate is delayed. He is not potty trained yet-a key characteristic. He could do it, but doesn’t want to. He’s very skilled at puzzles (50-100 pieces by him self), in the last month he has learned to read about 20 words and can spell most all of them (most of the words are 4-5 letters). He is in a speech program at school and will continue through the summer through Easter Seals. We have read books and done some research on this syndrome learing what we have. We are confident that this is something a child can grow out of given the right tools and support. Our son has come a long way since December 2003. At that time he communicated largely through grunts and hand tugging. We are pleased to know that he will adjust.

  7. Nono Says:

    I also need some advice as my 3.5 year old son is not talking yet. In the beginning we taught it was the 3 languages he hears at home and 4 months ago we switched to English. eventhough he just started to hear the language he is developing a good understanging of the language. Last 4 months he goes for speech therapies and he started to say some words and trying to copy some others. However, he is really good in shape puzzles, like if you give him alphabet pieces to put in their places he does it in no time. He has a very good ear for music. He can sing you the melody very precise and he has a crazy memory of remembering places, things and faces. Eversince he is 10 months old and that even surprised his pediatrician. He has a really good short and long term memory. I haven’t read the book as it is not available in the country i am living right now so can somebody advise me. As parents the only significant thing I can say is I {as his mother } started to speak and walk when I was 9 months old. By the age of one I was forming perfect sentences. And my father is a musician as he plays some instruments without notes. Thanks in advance.

  8. kristy and allan Says:

    our son will be three in a month. he also is very bright, very demanding, and does not talk. he can hum the correct amount of syllables to every word he tries to say. and he says them in the right context. i think he believes hes talking just like us. We long to hear a simple mommy or daddy from him. im very glad i have found a place where i can try to find some answers. the speech therapists are not very reassuring. Its nice to know he will adjust but in the meantime GRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!