The Autistic Savant

AutisticSavant ICare BlogStudies have suggested that ten percent of people with autism have special abilities that exceed those of the general population. The most common of these abilities is something a called splinter skill, these skills includes the incredible memorization of various trivia, number sequences, maps and even sounds. Most individuals with the special ability, have one specific splinter skill, although some can possess several. These skills range on a spectrum, and such individuals can be talented to prodigious, the latter being pretty rare. Since prodigies are very rare in the general population,  how is it that individuals with autism make up fifty percent of such individuals?

This rains in a question as to why or how are individuals with autism more likely to have such amazing skills? In past studies, brain scans of talented and prodigious autistic individuals show damage to the left hemisphere of the brain, we must deduct that the right hemisphere therefor compensates. This is sort of like when one of the five senses are taken away from an individual, the other senses are strengthened, say  blind people with human echolation  or what can be called “bat like sonar,” simply put, it allows blind individuals with this skills to easily navigate their physical environment. 

In the talented autistic individual, the right hemisphere seems to be much more active, just like the sound sense in the blind individual.  Furthermore, usually the the special ability is discovered early by a family member or someone involved in the care of the autistic child and it it is then further reinforced by those around him or her. Add to that the sometimes obsessiveness that accompanies an autistic mind,  the skill is further developed by the individual themselves through constant its constant use. We can now see how an Autistic Savant may develop. Many questions, both practical and profound can be drawn from this information. Practical application to this questions would be to explore the question of  whether to “train the talent,” versus “eliminate the defect” in an autistic individual’s learning program toward “normalization,” there could be a lot said for “training the talent,” as it helps minimize the so called defect. The other question is profound, what in fact is all of our hidden potential and just how do we tap into it? 

Or as Darold A. Treffert, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry University of Wisconsin Medical, puts it, ” Until we can understand and explain the savant, we cannot fully understand and explain ourselves. For no model of brain function, including memory, will be complete until it can fully incorporate and account for this amazing condition and its remarkable manifestations. And no conclusions about human potential can be finalized either until we fully explore the ramifications of what is seen in the savant. Serious study of savant syndrome, including the autistic savant, can propel us along further than we have ever been in understanding, and maximizing, both brain function and human potential.” 

Source: University of Wisconsin Medical Society

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