Friday, August 13, 2010

I Forgot To Remember to Forget

Who would know off the top of their head the year the Beatles released Love Me Do as a single, or whether Can’t Buy Me Love was on the Hard Day’s Night Album, or who wrote Nowhere Man (it was mainly John Lennon with some odds and ends by Paul McCartney)? For one person, Bill Stainton, a multiple Emmy Award-winning TV producer, writer, and performer and an internationally-recognized Beatles expert.  Jude Southerland Kessler would also know.  She’s author of the historically researched novel Shoulda Been There. She has spent 20 years and made seven trips to Liverpool to research her comprehensive and thorough novel about the life of John Lennon.   Sharon L. Richards, is another Beatles expert.  She was hired by the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, FL to be the Beatles Expert at their museum experience, the Vault.  Sharon’s memories of working at the Hard Rock Vault are contained in her first non-fiction release Nights Inside The Vault. 
Oh, and there’s one other person, a young man with less celebrity.  He’s my 13 year-old grandson Michael Rodriguez who lives in West Orange, NJ, who has autism.  Michael will be entering 8th grade next Fall.  He is socially shy and sometimes acts a little silly for his age, but he has an encyclopedic memory of Beatles songs, the primary Beatle who wrote it and the year and the album was released.  He can recite the order of the play list on any album without hesitation.  If you recite a list of songs on an unnamed Beatle album, with one out of order, he will tell you the album and inform you that you have them out of order and recite the correct order.  Needless to say he will also tell you the year it was released.  Michael’s dad used to play drums in a local rock band, and his older brother plays drums, guitar and piano, so maybe there’s something in the genes in addition to autism that contributes to this unique ability.


  1. One boy with autism who I taught tennis lessons to had an incredible knowledge of pinball machines.

    I feel like those with autism, who tend to have narrow interests, are simply more likely to build encyclopedic knowledge of subjects as they tend to only focus on a few (or even one).

    It sounds like your grandson has developed incredibly detailed equivalence classes regarding the Beatles rather than any fantastic memory capabilities.

    You yourself have an encyclopedic knowledge of applied behavior analysis. What is different is the novelty of the subject you've mastered compared to Michael, no?

  2. Michael's mastery of the Beatles' discography is a peak skill, while most of us develop similar levels of knowledge and skills across an array of domains. One can imagine the confusion of Michael's teachers when he rattles off Beatles' songs and their release dates but has difficult remembering the town in which he lives.