Savant Syndrome

See also:    Creativity & Genius    Diagnostic Categories   






















Internet Resources

To explain the prodigious savant particularly, with such innate access to the vast syntax and rules of art, mathematics, music and even language, in the absence of any formal training and in the presence of major disability, a third kind of memory capacity -- "ancestral" or "genetic" memory -- it seems to me, must exist along with the cognitive/semantic and procedural/habit memory described elsewhere on this site. Ancestral memory is the genetic transmission of sophisticated knowledge (beyond instincts). Perhaps as such it is better named genetic memory.
Darold Treffert
The estimated prevalence of savant abilities in autism is 10%, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population, including those with mental retardation, is less than 1%.
Stephen Edelson
Savant skills are not limited to autistic persons, nor are all autistic persons savants. Therefore Savant Syndrome is a more accurate and inclusive term for this remarkable condition.
Darold A. Treffert
It is yet unknown whether individuals with and without savant abilities being affected by the same mental disorder display differences with regard to their intelligence profile. To examine this issue, we compared the test performance of 33 savant and 26 nonsavant autistic subjects using the Wechsler Intelligence Scales-Revised for children or adults (WISC-R/WAIS-R). Data analysis revealed inconsistent results with rather negligible differences concerning the compound of cognitive capacities. However, savant and nonsavant individuals with autism exhibited a significant mean difference on the subscale Digit Span. This finding may indicate less impaired working memory and executive function in autistic savants or rote memory and low-level processing being core savant skills. Several limitations of the study are discussed.
Sven Bölte, Fritz Poustka
Approximately ten percent of people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have Savant Syndrome at a 'splinter skill', 'talented' or 'prodigious' level, with the splinter skills being the most common representation by far.
Neeraja Ravindran
With appropriate approaches, understanding and patience on the part of those working with the savants, talents can be trained and as a part of that training process, some of the other defects will be lessened, albeit not altogether eliminated.
Neeraja Ravindran
This original work has had two main research spin-offs; the documentary and Autism diagnoses. This presentation outlines current research in the area of Autism and Savant Syndrome by presenting the original study and this latest work.
Robyn Young
"In my experience, in each of the savant categories, particularly in the talented and prodigious groups, very loving, optimistic, motivated and hopeful families are a part of the equation of discovering and nurturing the special skills that surface and thrive, and we are all its beneficiaries."
Interview with Darold Treffert, Metro KL (Malaysia)
Persons who are mentally impaired or blind can still amaze the world with their splendid creativity in arts and literature. In a project financed by National Science Council, three patients of savant syndrome had presented their talent in music, memorizing and poetry.
Taiwan News
Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it. He speaks seven languages and is even devising his own language. Now scientists are asking whether his exceptional abilities are the key to unlock the secrets of autism.
Richard Johnson, The Guardian
Thus human organism is motivated to achieve its capabilities through constant practice and use of skilled memory and edetic imagery. This is responsible for the development of special talents.
R.R. Abhyankar, S.S. Thatte, D.R. Doongaji
The practice of describing some children as being innately gifted or talented inevitably results in influential adults discriminating against young people not so labelled.
Michael Howe
Talents that selectively facilitate the acquisition of high levels of skill are said to be present in some children but not others. The evidence for this includes biological correlates of specific abilities, certain rare abilities in autistic savants, and the seemingly spontaneous emergence of exceptional abilities in young children, but there is also contrary evidence indicating an absence of early precursors of high skill levels. An analysis of positive and negative evidence and arguments suggests that differences in early experiences, preferences, opportunities, habits, training, and practice are the real determinants of excellence.
Michael J. A. Howe et al
We believe that the mental apparatus to perform 'lightning fast' integer, arithmetic calculations, such as multiplication and division, resides in us all, even though it is not normally accessible.
Allan W. Snyder, D. John Mitchell
Because of their inherent, utilitarian usefulness we have generally come to rely more heavily on left (dominant) hemisphere functions such as language, logical and sequential thinking than on right (non-dominant) hemisphere skills
Darold Treffert
The traditional conception of the brain - two hemispheres that are hardwired from birth - is yielding to an understanding of the ways the regions of the cortex learn to function together as a network.
Steve Silberman
...the eliciting of rules and the development of rule-based strategies tended to be specific in the particular areas of ability of these subjects.
N. O'Connor, B. Hermelin, Science Frontiers
Differences inherent in the various tasks allow for an explanation of Christopher's apparently inconsistent behaviour, which in turn provides evidence for the 'quasi-modularity' of his Theory of Mind.
Neil Smith, Ianth-Maria Tsimpli
I was convinced by the end of the book that Christopher is indeed a fascinating young man, but the authors' agenda goes far beyond biography. They believe that they are describing a true savant; as we shall soon see, I am not sure that premise is correct.
Elizabeth Bates
The brain is a scanner, not a thinker. Mentation and memories just ain't in the head..
Keith Chandler
We never doubt the gifts that go with able brains but we are far less willing to credit disabled brains with the power to astound us with extraordinary talents of sometimes phenomenal dimensions which the unimpaired brains cannot easily match.
Lyndall Hendrickson
Questions are raised continually as to what are the differences in brain mechanisms, if any, between (a) prodigies with certain musical or mathematical skills, for example; (b) persons with savant syndrome with similar skills and abilities and (c) the rest of us who function quite normally overall but lack some spectacular area of expertise.
Darold Treffert
The story line may be fictional but a factual basis for what may appear to be preposterous skills does exist. To the film's credit, it did not stray far from the truth for either autism or Savant Syndrome. It did not have to.
Darold Treffert
About Kim Peek, the inspiration for Raymond, the Rain Man.
Daniel Treffert
The American Association on Mental Retardation defines savants as, "Persons with obvious mental retardation who are capable of performing remarkable feats in sharply circumscribed areas (eg, arithmetic, calendar calculating) at a remarkably high level." This definition could arguably be used to describe any isolated skill that is remarkable in respect to other individual levels of functioning and thus would include Treffert's "talented savants." However, traditionally, the term savant or savant syndrome is reserved for skills that are significantly beyond what one would expect in the normal course of development and would correspond to Treffert's "prodigious savants." A third category of splinter skills has been proposed to describe areas of exceptionality less noteworthy than talented.
Robert O. Horst, Robert L. Hendren
The Savant Academy supports the education of people with Savant Syndrome, including musical, linguistic, mathematical, and artistic savants. The organization also encourages scientific research into and awareness of Savant Syndrome.
David Mehnert
One (possibility) in particular intrigued Snyder: people undergoing transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, could suddenly exhibit savant intelligence -- those isolated pockets of geniuslike mental ability that most often appear in autistic people.
Lawrence Osborne
We have stopped telling our son that he is brilliant because we realized that the fact that he has always been able to spell better than his peers, and sometimes his teacher, is causing him anxiety.
Barbara Fowler
The phenomenon of the idiot-savant offers a unique opportunity to investigate the presence of isolated skills against a background of general cognitive impairment. Studying savants aids in the understanding of the nature of inherent skill and talent.
Julia Slejko
Since it was first described a century ago, the phenomenon of the savant -- the juxtapositions of severe mental handicap and prodigious mental ability -- has remained unexplained.
Darold Treffert
Train the talent and with it some of the 'defect' subsides. The special talent becomes a conduit toward normalization, using the unique savant skills to help toward more socialization, language acquisition and independence.
Darold Treffert
Conditions that foster intuitive abilities include the following: a relaxed state, silence, focused attention, a receptive, nonjudgmental attitude, an ability to synthesize all brain functions, and novelty and variety in the environment.
Carolyn Yewchuk,
Savant skills occur within a narrow but constant range of human mental functions, generally in six areas: calendar calculating; lightening calculating and mathematical ability; art, music, mechanical abilities; and spatial skills.
Darold Treffert
Student term paper. Blatant plagiarism of Daniel Treffert's articles.
Christina Chang
Speaking as an Asperger's savant, I find 'seeing the big picture,' at age fifty-two, no more difficult than trivialities like 353,541, AKA 617 times 573. However, it took half a century to reach that point. My point is that improvement is possible.
Jerry Newport
There is still no generally accepted understanding of how savants do whatever it is that they do. The latest contribution to the puzzle is startling because it proposes that savant skills are possessed by everyone.
Rita Carter
Discusses Leslie Lemke, George and Charles ("The Human Calculators"), Blind Tom Wiggins, and J.H. Pullen.
Donald K. Snyder
Savants are more receptive to receiving channeled information than the average person... On a purely metaphysical level, autistic children are almost always infant or early baby souls, retreating out of fear of some person or thing.
Ainslie Macleod, Spirit Channeler

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