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People with developmental disabilities can't change - or can they?

"It belies the myth that people with developmental disabilities can't change"

This is a quote from a documentary on Kim Peek, the individual on whom the title character, Rain Man, was based. Kim is, of course, an autistic savant with extraordinary memory abilities, to the extent that he remembers nearly every fact he is exposed to. And Kim's abilities are so impressive that there may only be about 50 people on the planet whose cognitive talents approach his.

Interesting facts about Kim:

1. Until his early thirties, he was classified as mentally retarded.

2. He has agenesis of the corpus callosum, meaning that the thick bundle of nerve tissue that connects the two hemispheres of the brain in most people does not exist in Kim's brain.

3. Kim has a very limited ability to understand metaphors. So, if you were to say to him, "Get a grip on yourself", he would take the statement literally and begin to grab himself.

4. Give Kim any date in history and he can instantly tell you on which day of the week the date occurred.

5. Unlike most savants who seem to specialize in one area (such as an extraordinary ability to replicate music or draw), Kim seems to soak up data...about nearly anything and everything.

The documentary on Kim (on science channel) was fascinating. But I have to admit, after watching the incredible talents of a savant being demonstrated, I was surprised to hear him described as developmentally disabled. Of course, he certainly is. At 52, he must rely on his father to help him with basic activities of daily living, such as brushing his teeth. But, it just shows that the term developmental disability includes a bit more than we commonly conceptualize.

The quote, by the way, is a reference to the fact that, though Kim is now fairly social, at the time Rain Man was being produced he had difficulty even looking another person in the eye. Now, he addresses people in numbers great enough to fill lecture halls.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

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Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

Getting a disability approval
How to appeal disability denial
Disability hearing results
Helpful tips for going to social security disability hearing
SSDI hearing decision
Denied social security disability now what
Social security disability appeal status
Social security disability appeal attorney fees
I was denied social security disability for the 2nd time
What happens after a disability hearing has been held
How long does a Social Security Disability judge have to make a ruling?
The Social Security Disability Blue book
How to get an SSDI reconsideration approved?
Conditions that get approved for disability
Social security disability back pay status
Denied social security disability appeal
What to say at a disability hearing
Filing for disability with fibromyalgia
Tips for applying for disability