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LESSON FORTY-NINE HERE!
In today’s lesson, entitled The Curious Case of the Walking Encyclopedia, you will listen to a passage about Kim Peek, an American savant who had a remarkable ability to memorize all sorts of things. You will also learn a little about autism and how our attitude towards people with autism has changed over the past thirty years. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
The Curious Case of the Walking Encyclopedia
Listen and Learn
Lesson Forty-Nine PASSAGE ONLY track:
During his long, distinguished career, actor Dustin Hoffman has portrayed a huge cast of unforgettable characters. But most critics agree that his defining role came in the 1988 Oscar-winning film, Rain Man, where he played Raymond Babbit, the autistic genius who was capable of performing astounding feats of learning and memorization. The film was inspired by the true story of the late Kim Peek, an American savant born with a rare kind of brain damage. As a child, Peek was classified as “mentally retarded,” and at the age of six, was expelled from school for being “disruptive and difficult to handle.” Only later did doctors discover that he possessed truly extraordinary mental abilities.
Peek was a vast storehouse of musical, historical, and political facts. He could accurately recall the contents of at least 12,000 books, including the complete works of Shakespeare and every book of the Bible—Old and New Testament—and could reel off all the addresses and numbers in entire big-city phone books. His ability to quickly absorb information and recall it on command prompted the medical experts who studied him to give him the nickname, “The Living Google.”
But Peek’s extraordinary gifts came at a price. He was an introvert who struggled to communicate and form relationships. When he met someone new or was faced with an unfamiliar concept or situation, he sensed danger and became unduly agitated and fidgety. And he had difficulty performing ordinary tasks that require the use of fine motor skills, simple acts like combing his hair and zipping up his jacket. Such inconsistencies in abilities usually occur in people affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But tests showed that Peek was not clinically autistic. With Kim, the problem lay elsewhere.
MRI scans revealed that Peek’s brain was missing a vital component called the corpus callosum. This is a stalk of nerve fibers between the brain’s two halves that enables information to pass back and forth between them. Doctors speculated that it was the absence of the corpus callosum that caused Peek’s brain to make unusual connections. In other words, it was this “defect” and not ASD that gave him his increased memory capacity. So as it turned out, Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Peek as an autistic savant, brilliant as it was, inaccurately represented the real Kim Peek.
But such technical criticisms can never cancel out what Hoffman and Rain Man did for the millions of people around the world living with ASD. Prior to the film’s release, public awareness of ASD was almost nonexistent. Most people had never even heard of “autism.” And only a very few understood the nature of this lifelong condition that affects a person’s ability to relate to and communicate with other people. Thirty years ago, autistic children were often labeled “mentally unstable,” “spastic,” or just plain “weird” by their peers, and were lumped together with other “special needs” students. Only a handful were “experimentally” integrated into mainstream schools or classrooms.
Today, as many as 1 in 68 children born in the United States fall under the autism “spectrum.” Most have varying degrees of learning difficulties and require tailored educational programs to meet their individual needs. But many have exceptional abilities and average to above-average intelligence. They attend “normal” schools and sit in “regular” classrooms where they are encouraged to interact and communicate with “ordinary” classmates. Of course, not all “normal” children are tolerant of such differences and often resent having such “quirky” classmates in their midst. But thanks to various Autism Awareness initiatives, children today better understand the affliction. They, too, are being given the opportunity to interact and communicate with people of all kinds. As a result, they are becoming more open and accepting, kinder and more compassionate. And lest we forget: they have Rain Man and Dustin Hoffman to thank for it, too.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn: Lesson Forty-Nine LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions are of various types. Follow the instructions for each question. Feel free to pause and listen several times if needed.
1. Decide if this statement is true or false.
Dustin Hoffman’s role in the 1988 movie Rain Man was based on the true story of a man named Raymond Babbit.
2. Write a brief answer to this question.
Why was Kim Peek expelled from school when he was six years old?
3. Decide if this sentence can be reasonably inferred from the information in the passage. Answer “Yes” or “No.”
Kim Peek has read both Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.
4. Write a brief answer to this question.
Why was Kim Peek nicknamed “The Living Google” by the experts who studied him?
5. Choose the TWO best answers to this question.
What were the two personal problems that accompanied Kim Peek’s extraordinary gifts?
a) He was an introvert who struggled to communicate and form meaningful relationships.
b) All the addresses and phone numbers of all big-city phonebooks were permanently stuck in his memory, making him unable to concentrate on other things.
c) Being clinically autistic, he lacked any kind of formal training or education.
d) He had difficulty performing ordinary tasks such as combing his hair and zipping up his jacket.
6. Decide if this sentence is true or false.
The corpus callosum is a stalk of nerve fibers between the brain’s two halves that enables information to pass back and forth between them.
7. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
What is the nature of the condition known as “autism”?
8. Decide if this sentence is true or false.
ASD is an acronym for Autism Specialized Disease.
9. Complete this statement with the TWO best answers.
Thirty years ago, autistic children were often__________________________________.
a) integrated into mainstream classrooms
b) lumped together with other “special needs” children
c) labeled “mentally unstable” or “weird” by their peers
d) encouraged to interact with children in “regular” classrooms
10. Write a full-sentence answer to this question.
How are autistic children with average or above average intelligence treated in today’s educational environment?
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
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KA Wordcast: Listen and Learn! LESSON FORTY-NINE
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
But most critics agree that his DEFINING role came in the 1988 Oscar-winning film, Rain Man, where he played Raymond Babbit, the autistic genius who was capable of performing astounding feats of learning and memorization.
In the above sentence, DEFINING is used as an adjective that means most important or most notable. It is based on the verb to DEFINE, which, in this sense, means to explain in detail the essence or character of someone or something.
Barak Obama is in his final and, to my mind, DEFINING year as President of the United States.
Last week, I had the opportunity to interview a Japanese-English interpreter who has worked with some of the DEFINING political figures of the 20th century.
One cultural anthropologist suggests that “entitlement,” the feeling that you deserve special rights and privileges, is the DEFINING attitude toward life among young people today.
DEFINING is often paired together with the word moment(s), which refers to the point in time when a person’s life undergoes a big change, as in:
Graduating from high school or college, entering the workforce, and starting a family are often seen as life’s most DEFINING MOMENTS.
Fiction writer Stephen King once said that the DEFINING MOMENT in his life came when his mother told him that one story he had written was “good enough to be a book.”
Most commonly, DEFINE means to explain the meaning of a word or phrase.
For this week’s homework, write out your spelling words five times each, DEFINE each word, and use it in a sentence.
The dictionary DEFINES “deforestation” as “the act of cutting down or burning trees over a wide area.”
Some people DEFINE success as having a lot of money, but I believe that being happy and surrounded by the people I love is the true meaning of success.
DEFINE also means to show or describe something accurately. For this usage, determine, establish, specify, and stipulate are some useful synonyms.
Researchers are still working on DEFINING what exactly the Zika virus is.
Until quite recently, marriage roles were clearly DEFINED.
Finally, DEFINE means to mark out the boundaries, limits, or shape of something.
The bicycle trails through Wendover Woods are clearly DEFINED and easy to ride on.
My cousin Danny sent me a postcard of Seattle’s skyline with Mt. Rainier sharply DEFINED against the sky in the background.
DEFINITION is the noun form of DEFINE for all of the above uses.
My English teacher emphasizes learning vocabulary in context, rather than simply memorizing DEFINITIONS.
The DEFINITION of success in education shouldn’t rely solely on the results of one standardized test.
Most Americans’ DEFINITION of “socialism” has a much more negative connotation than that of Europeans.
The film was inspired by the true story of the LATE Kim Peek, an American savant born with a rare kind of brain damage.
In the passage, LATE is an adjective that refers to a person who is no longer alive. It is a more polite and less harsh-sounding way of saying that someone is “dead.” For this usage, LATE is always used in front of a noun.
Every weekend, Jolene gets in her car and drives for nearly two hours to visit her LATE father’s grave.
As the LATE Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
The popular television talent-search program plans to hold a tribute to the LATE rock legend, David Bowie.
Most commonly, of course, LATE refers to doing something or something happening after the expected or scheduled time. LATE can be both an adjective and an adverb.
As usual, Jenna was half an hour LATE for our lunch date.
Ethan slept through his alarm clock and was LATE for school again.
Due to snow on the tracks, the trains are running LATE.
LATE can also mean happening near the end of the day or near the end of a particular era or time.
My parents let me stay up LATE last night to watch the finale of my favorite TV program.
Clear skies are forecast for Easter weekend, with a chance of showers LATE on Sunday.
“The Brady Bunch” was a popular television show that aired from the LATE 1960s until the early 1970s.
Akbar only started running in his LATE fifties, but since then he has taken part in more than a dozen full marathons.
LATEST is another adjective form that means the most recent, as in:
According to the LATEST playground gossip, the Morgan family is planning to immigrate to New Zealand.
Jimmy’s short anecdote has been published in the “Humor in Uniform” section of the LATEST issue of Reader’s Digest magazine.
The popular actress had to lose more than twenty pounds for her LATEST role as an Auschwitz survivor.
He was an INTROVERT who struggled to communicate and form relationships.
An INTROVERT is a quiet person who is more interested in being alone with his/her own thoughts and feelings than in spending time with other people.
Sally described herself as an INTROVERT who enjoys spending time on her own or with just a few very close friends.
Our late neighbor Mr. Wallace was an INTROVERT, a shy man who seldom spoke to anyone but his beloved dog, Hunter.
We were all surprised to learn that Martha, the class INTROVERT, went on to become captain of her college’s debate team.
INTROVERTED is an adjective that describes someone who is shy and withdrawn. Reticent, reserved, and unsociable are some possible synonyms.
Perhaps the other children in his class pick on George because he is INTROVERTED and timid.
Both of the Erikson sisters are shy, but Anna is more INTROVERTED than Sofia.
Prince Charles, the INTROVERTED heir to the English throne, is nevertheless outspoken when it comes to environmental matters.
In contrast, an EXTROVERT is a lively and sociable person who enjoys the company of other people. EXTROVERTED is the adjective form.
“I wish I had more EXTROVERTS in my class like your daughter,” the teacher told Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald.
Many people see me as an EXTROVERT because I don’t mind speaking in front of large groups, but most don’t know that I actually struggle to make face-to-face conversation.
Kyra was career-oriented and EXTROVERTED, while her brother Sam was artistic and reserved.
Such INCONSISTENCIES in abilities usually occur in people affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
To understand the meaning of the noun INCONSISTENCY, you’ll first need to understand what both CONSISTENT and CONSISTENCY mean. CONSISTENT is an adjective that means always behaving in the same way, or having the same opinions, ideas, standards, and so on. Unchanging and unwavering are some good synonyms. CONSISTENTLY is the adverb form of CONSISTENT.
Perez is the team’s most CONSISTENT hitter, averaging over .300 every year.
I have a lot of respect for Senator Sanders because his political views have been so CONSISTENT over the past forty years.
“Did you know that Raymond has been CONSISTENTLY late for class for the past week?” my son’s teacher called to ask me.
CONSISTENCY is a noun that refers to the quality of being CONSISTENT, that is, always behaving in the same way.
There is a lack of CONSISTENCY in Derek’s performance this school term. One day he participates in class and does really well, and the next day he’s aloof and uninterested.
Cameron was awarded Player of the Year because he has played with great CONSISTENCY throughout this season.
In contrast, INCONSISTENT means not staying the same throughout. INCONSISTENT can be used to talk about a situation or a person’s behavior or thoughts. Changeable and erratic are often used in place of INCONSISTENT.
Mr. Petersen complained that the number of students who attend his TOEFL class is very INCONSISTENT, which makes it difficult for him to prepare lessons.
I admit that since we moved into our new flat, I’ve been a little INCONSISTENT about recycling our household waste.
The novel’s treatment of the order of events is INCONSISTENT with what history books have taught us.
INCONSISTENCY, therefore, refers to the fact or state of being INCONSISTENT, that is, not matching a set of standards, rules, or ideas.
“I’m a little concerned about the INCONSISTENCY in the new teacher’s performance,” said Headmaster Williams.
There are some INCONSISTENCIES in your essay about sustainable energy sources that you’ll need to correct before you hand in your final draft.
The testimonies given by the police officers that first arrived at the scene of the crime were riddled with INCONSISTENCIES.
CONSISTENCY, by the way, has a scientific usage, too. It refers to the way in which a substance, usually some kind of liquid, holds together. Thickness and viscosity are some words you can use in place of CONSISTENCY for this usage.
I could tell by the CONSISTENCY of the sample that the experiment had failed and that my hypothesis was incorrect.
Beat the eggs, sugar, and butter together into a creamy CONSISTENCY.
Most have varying degrees of learning difficulties and require TAILORED educational programs to meet their individual needs.
In the passage, TAILORED is an adjective that means made specifically for a particular person or purpose. Customized is the nearest synonym.
Chinese herbal doctors can mix up a TAILORED concoction to suit your medical needs.
The company specializes in building TAILORED homes for people with physical disabilities.
TAILORED most commonly refers to clothes that are made to fit a particular person.
Instead of the usual fancy prom dress, Ella wore a pair of slim-fitting TAILORED trousers and a suit jacket to her senior prom.
Frankie looked really sharp in his gray, TAILORED sports coat and faded jeans.
TAILOR is a verb that means to make something for a particular person or purpose. Customize, modify, adjust, and adapt are some good synonyms.
The school’s most salient feature is that it will TAILOR its teaching materials and methods to fit each individual student’s requirements.
Unlike some of the larger travel companies, my local agent is always prepared to TAILOR travel arrangements to suit my specific needs.
The advertised position has ideal working hours and an easy commute, so it sounds as if it is TAILORED specifically for me.
A TAILOR is a person whose job is to make clothes, especially men’s clothes, to fit a particular person.
My great-grandfather was a TAILOR who once made suits for members of the Danish Royal Family.
There’s a TAILOR on the High Street that sells uniforms for all the local high schools.
When something is TAILOR-MADE, it is made for a particular person or for a specific purpose. People can be TAILOR-MADE for certain things, too.
The school was TAILOR-MADE for my son, since it specialized in helping returnees keep up their English.
Barney’s got a closet full of TAILOR-MADE suits and hand-made shoes.
Vinnie loves working with kids, so he is TAILOR-MADE for the position of summer camp counselor.
Of course, not all “normal” children are TOLERANT of such differences and often resent having such “quirky” classmates in their midst.
TOLERANT is an adjective that means able to accept other people’s actions, behavior, opinions, or ideas, even if you do not agree with or understand them. Open-minded, liberal, understanding, sympathetic, and unbiased are some words you can use in place of TOLERANT.
Our downstairs neighbors aren’t very TOLERANT of children. They’re always complaining that mine make too much noise.
It’s important that we teach our children to be TOLERANT and respectful towards other people’s beliefs.
Ginny’s parents are usually TOLERANT of her somewhat “wild” behavior, but once in a while she pushes them too far and ends up getting grounded.
Astrologists say that people born under the sign of Libra are hardworking, TOLERANT, and unselfish.
An animal or plant that can survive in difficult or harsh conditions is TOLERANT to (or against) those conditions, as in:
Since most garden vegetable varieties aren’t TOLERANT to drought, you’ll need to water your plants regularly.
Do you know how TOLERANT to cold weather Guinea pigs are?
TOLERANCE is the noun form of TOLERANT.
Our school has a zero-TOLERANCE policy on drugs. Students caught with any illegal substance will be expelled immediately.
Even if religious TOLERANCE is taught at school, a child’s home environment can reverse those lessons almost overnight.
We cannot allow our country to be represented by a person who has absolutely no TOLERANCE for ethnic and religious diversity.
TOLERANCE also refers to the ability to endure suffering or pain, especially under difficult conditions.
Because of their high TOLERANCE for thirst and their ability to walk for miles on end, llamas are used as pack animals in the Andes Mountains.
Doctors warn that if you take antibiotics too often, your body will build up a TOLERANCE to them, and they will no longer be effective.
TOLERATE is the verb form. It means 1) to allow someone to do something that you do not necessarily agree with or like, 2) to accept someone or something that is unpleasant or even annoying without complaining, or 3) to be able to endure difficult conditions or the affects of certain medications without being harmed.
I find it very difficult to TOLERATE people who continually lie to and manipulate others.
Research shows that we can TOLERATE pain better when distracted by music, TV, or other entertainment.
Patients who cannot TOLERATE penicillin must be given an alternative form of antibiotic.
The new study shows that trees have the ability to adapt to and TOLERATE the rise in temperatures resulting from climate change.