I recently had the privilege of meeting Kim Peek, the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rainman.
Indeed, not only did I get to speak with him, but we literally rubbed noses. During the meeting he would randomly walk over to people (I had a suit on and apparently he likes people with suits on, so this happened several times) and grab their hands to get them to stand up. Then he would say things to the person. At one point his Dad asked him to come back to his chair while he was helping me up for the third or fourth time, so he stood me up quickly and said, “You’re a tall man,” then returned to his seat.
According to his Dad, he’s no longer considered an autistic savant because he has gained social skills and a sense of humor. Instead he is referred to as a megasavant. Another interesting fact his Dad shared with us was that his Knowledge Quotient (as opposed to Intelligence Quotient because he took things too literally on the IQ test) is the highest in the world. I think Joseph Stalin and Albert Einstein’s were in the 150s and Kim’s is 184 (or somewhere in that range, I don’t recall the exact number).
The standard interaction when you first meet Kim is to tell him the year you were born. In seconds he will tell you what day it was on, what day it will be on this year and the year you can retire (at age 65). When I first met him he asked me where I grew up and then proceeded to tell me more historical information about my own town than I knew existed. I later asked him what the zip code of our small town was and although he missed the last three digits (but got the first two correct) he was able to give the names of roads and places in the surrounding area as if he had lived there for years. It was truly amazing.
After meeting him, I was intrigued by his abilities and curious to know more about him, so I purchased a book that his father, Fran Peek, wrote called The Real Rain Man, and finished it in a matter of days. It answered most of my questions, but it also made me wonder what life would be like if you could remember 99% of everything you read, and be able to read books in minutes instead of hours. It sure would have made high school easier, at least academically.
While this post was a draft, I came across an article in the Boston Globe discussing how sometimes being brilliant can be a curse.
In Kim’s case, he has managed to overcome the negatives and accentuate the positive aspects of his abilities. He is willing to undergo tests and examinations for research conducted in government labs all for the benefit of others. I read somewhere that some researchers are trying to model a computer program after his brain.
Kim was truly a pleasure to interact with and meet. If you ever have the chance to see him, I highly recommend you do so. It will be an experience you will never forget.
This is an awesome post. I found your links, especially “being brillant can be a curse” to be insightful. There are many myths and misunderstanding about giftedness. I’m currently on a quest to put pieces of a puzzle together. My child is on the autistic spectrum and displays areas of giftedness; although, I don’t know to what extent (I have not had him tested).
Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience in meeting Kim.
I actually met him in a fireside also many years ago — probably around 16-18 yrs, but I remember being similarly impressed.
Great post. Kim Peek is truely unique as an individual.
Yes, Kim is awesome….I want him to ride in the cash cab with me