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Kim Peek: A Tribute

December 27, 2009

I have been struggling for the last few hours about how to start writing this post.  I knew I wanted to – needed to – write it, but I also wanted to make sure that I do it justice.  That I do Kim justice.  I hope I have managed to achieve that.

So, who is Kim Peek?  I’m sure many of you – particularly those of you living on the other side of the pond we call the Atlantic Ocean – will have some idea of the answer to that question.  In short, he was one of the character studies conducted for the film Rain Man.  It was meeting Kim that inspired script-writer Barry Morrow to write the film.  And sadly, on the 19th December this year, Kim Peek died of a heart attack, aged just 58 years.

You may be sitting there wondering just why on Earth I am writing this post.  What does it have to do with anything?  Why does it feel so important to me?  I’m not sure I can really, properly answer that.  Except to say that, when I was reading an article about Kim in the newspaper this weekend, I felt uncannily able to relate to him, through Chipmunk.  Kim was a Savant, he was not autistic like Chipmunk, or like Dustin Hoffman’s eventual character in the film.  However, there are some startling similarities between Chipmunk and Kim:

  • Each of them is incredibly high-functioning with relation to academic abilities;
  • Each of them struggles with delayed muscle development and severely compromised motor capabilities, limiting their ability to do things such as washing/dressing themselves;
  • Each of them struggles with social interaction, understanding others, being a part of a ‘normal’ society;
  • Each of them has an amazing ability for recall – in the Chipmunks’ case, predominantly for things he is interested in, with Kim it seemed to be everything!
  • Each of them is a unique, special human being.  Sometimes misunderstood, sometimes humiliated – never beaten.

This is why I wanted to write about Kim Peek today.  As I read the article yesterday, I was astounded by his intellect, moved by the way he overcame his challenges and humbled by his attitude.  Despite all the daily obstacles he faced, this was a man who – with the unstinting support of his father – used his condition to teach and inspire others.  To challenge people’s misconceptions about disability and to make a better world.  I encourage you to find out about him – to at least read his entry in Wikipedia (linked above).  He was a truly remarkable man.  We need more people like Kim Peek.  I hope that one day, Chipmunk will have been blessed with enough confidence, enough inner strength, to be one of them.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Debra Greenleaf permalink
    December 27, 2009 20:43

    Thank you for writing this. I am sure that you have arrived at the conclusion, by now, that this is WHY I “friended” you on Plurk. We are both single-mothers of autistic children. It allows one an insight into humanity that others don’t quite understand or appreciate. RIP Kim Peek, your talents will not soon be forgotten.

    • bubbleboo permalink
      December 27, 2009 22:46

      Yes Debra, I did think that may be it – and I am very glad that you did ‘friend’ me! It’s so nice to be able to talk about things with people who actually understand – although others can listen, and sympathise, sometimes you need that insight that only those experiencing the same thing can bring. *Big hug*


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