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We moved frequently (23 schools by 12th grade). The initial encounter with IQ tests was followed by aptitude and intelligence tests at nearly every new school I attended. I'm not sure why. It might have been due to the fact that the teacher would find me hiding behind the biggest boy in the class reading a library book way beyond my supposed grade level.

She would take it away (teachers seem to have been stamped out of a common pattern), and give me the approved reading book. I would say I had already read it (I had already read every book in every series) and the teacher would be angry with me. "You're not supposed to read ahead in the book." I would sit there, in class, bored to tears. I learned to tell time and calculate how many hours until 3 p.m. very quickly.

My mother let me stay home and read quite often (what else do you do with a gifted child when there are no special classes), but near the end of the school year we'd calculate how many days I had to attend in order to qualify to be promoted to the next grade. Too few days of attendance and you were automatically held back.

They gave me tests. The tests were largely geared toward reading and verbal skills, logic and linear reasoning ability. I was pretty good at them, and thought they were fun. Maybe they were trying to figure out what to do with their ugly duckling.

In high school I took a battery of tests along with the others in my class who were college bound. Probably they were the SATs, I don't remember. (One series of tests was for National Merit Scholarships, I know). I remember the booklet, with all of the tests in it, each section sealed. I had planned to take the English and Math portions, which were required for college, and I took those first. No problem. Then during the third testing period of the morning, those of us who weren't going to take a third test were required to sit quietly and wait while the testees a third test worked. Nobody was allowed to leave until everybody left.

Curious, I looked at the remaining topics and one seemed intriguing. "Spatial Relations" it said. I had no idea what spatial anything was, so I opted to take that one. It wouldn't affect my scores, since I was only going to submit the first two, Math and English.

The Spatial Relations test was one of those life turning points you experience every once in a while. I had never seen anything like it, and it was exciting and challenging. I didn't know my mind worked that way, and that test woke up a part of my brain that had been dormant until then:

I think in three dimensions or more (it's called spatial intelligence). When a problem or a situation arises, in my mind I see it in a lattice of potentials, resources, previous experiences, people, possible outcomes. Touching any one of the points activates other points, leaves yet others quiet. And as I work through the problem, the three dimensional structure shifts and reorganizes itself. It's not a learned skill, just the innate way I think.

Until I understood how I conceptualize a situation, the complicated array of resources and possibilities would often confuse me and bring me to a halt. Even now with new problems, I pause, look at the whole situation, and work my way through it, watching how the parts unfold, changing in complex relationships to each other, before verbalizing an outcome. It can be hard to verbalize in linear fashion what I can see multi-dimensionally.

And, yes, I love solving puzzles and crosswords, too. Understanding people is a lot harder.

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