Daredevil Stories

I am dubbing a new phrase, Daredevil Stories, to describe stories of people who apparently have a disability but somehow not only overcome the disability – but become substantially better than average. The name comes from a comic book in which the superhero Daredevil is blind but has better perception than sighted people. Normally, blind people hobble around with an ungainly walking stick, vulnerable to their surroundings, but Daredevil is as agile as a cat, having transcended his disability. You see a lot of Daredevil stories online, especially on sites like Reddit, describing how someone who seems to have a cognitive or learning disability early in life and against all odds becomes a genius (or is already a genius).It’s like, wow, not only did you not talk until 5 years old, but then ‘boom’ you’re a genius. Here’re an example from a blogger who transformed from a late-talker in special education classes to an academic stuperstar.

The original post about late talking;

I therefore have something in common with these famous physicists. I didn’t learn to speak until I was well past my third birthday, as my mum never tires of reminding me. In fact, as I have blogged about before, I was a very slow developer in other ways and when I started school was immediately earmarked as an educational basket case.

And his transformation. It’s kinda long, so I excepted the most relevant passages:

After a time I had caught up with reading in class and eventually managed to read just about every book the School had to offer, including the Diaries of Samuel Pepys

..and scores well enough to get a scholarship to an exclusive private school

In 1974 I took the entrance examination at eleven-plus for the Royal Grammar School in Jesmond and was recommended by the Governors for the award of a scholarship. This was effectively a private school but the City Council paid the fees for a limited number of pupils who did well in the entrance examination.

Pretty interesting…makes me wish I had a special story

The problem with Daredevil stories is that they are anecdotal and in isolation are of limited use for scientific inquiry. They are vulnerable to selection and confirmation biases. People want to seek out the ‘good’ traits in people who talk late or have a learning disability, or only people who are Daredevils are inclined to share their stories, resulting in lots of Daredevil stories and little else. As for late-talking due to genuine mental slowness, without any hidden gifts or talents, – you almost never hear those stories online. Who would have the courage to admit being dull, especially in a pop culture and economy where intelligence is more valued than ever? But they are out there – lots of late-talkers with no special skills. And dyslexics who not only read slow and confuse letters, but are kinda slow and confused at everything else, too. Not the super-genius dyslexics you read about.

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