Autism Wiki
Gottfried Mind Katzen

Cats, watercolour by Gottfried Mind, an Autistic savant

An Autistic savant is a term used for an Autistic person with Savant Syndrome. People with Savant Syndrome has serious developmental or mental infirmities coupled at the same time with certain extraordinary skills. Such skills may include exceptional memory, arithmetical abilities, and extraordinary skills in art or music. The special abilities of Autistic savants are recognized generally during childhood in children with Autism and other developmental difficulties.

In an article entitled "Savant Syndrome: An Extraordinary Condition", Darold A. Treffert, MD, describes Autistic savant which he termed as Savant Syndrome, in these words:[1]

"Savant syndrome is a rare, but extraordinary, condition in which persons with serious mental disabilities, including autistic disorder, have some "island of genius" that stands in marked, incongruous contrast to the overall handicap. As many as one in 10 persons with autistic disorder have such remarkable abilities in varying degrees, although savant syndrome occurs in other developmental disabilities or in other instances of CNS injury or disease as well. Whatever the particular savant skill, it is always linked to massive memory."

Savant abilities

Tokya by Stephen Wiltshire

Tokyo by Stephen Wiltshire

Around 10% of Autistic people display savant abilities while such abilities are around 1% in non-autistic people (including persons with intellectual disabilities). An Autistic savant may display their abilities in many ways, mostly in any of the following fields:

  • Exceptional memory: Feats of memory may be manifested in several ways. For instance, an Autistic savant may recall the names of all presidents, their dates of birth, places of birth, years of presidency, and several other information related to the presidents. Similarly, Autistic savants may recall the birth days of a person even after 10 or 20 years.
  • Arithmetical abilities: They can calculate mentally incredibly fast, additions of large numbers, square roots, calculating what day of the week a day in a particular date was or will be in seconds, and so on.
  • Extraordinary skills in art: Some Autistic savants display extraordinary skills in art and drawing
  • Extraordinary skills in music: Music is another extraordinary ability which some autistic savant may possess.

Savant FAQs

Around 10% of Autistic people and people with related disabilities are estimated to have autistic savant abilities.[2]
Skill range
Skill range cover a wide spectrum of skills.
Typical skills
Musical and artistic skills, calendar calculating, and many other skills are found in autistic savants. However, rarely more than one skill is pre-dominant except in very few savants.
First discovery
They were present throughout history. However, in modern times, the savant abilities were brought to focus by Dr. Benjamin Rush, often referred to as the father of American Psychiatry, in 1789. However, it was only around a century later in 1887 that Dr. J. Langdon Down presented his observations of three decades of experience as as Superintendent of the Earlswood Asylum in a series of lectures before the Medical Society of London. Some examples of historical people now believed to have been Autistic savants include Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins and Jedediah Buxton.

Famous savants

There are many famous autistic savants including the following:

  • Gottfried Mind (1768–17 November, 1814) was an Autistic savant who was a gifted painter. He created many paintings of animals.
  • Temple Grandin (b. 1947) is an associate professor at Colorado State University and a famous and successful adult with Autism. Grandin is also a successful professional designer of humane livestock facilities.
  • Kim Peek (November 11, 1951 – December 19, 2009), is a unique savant who is able to display many abilities associated with Autistic savants - he has a photographic memory; can read an average size book in about one hour and can recall around 98% of the same; he can recall names of the around 12,000 books; he has fantastic mathematical abilities. He is not considered Autistic.

Although Kim Peek's initial diagnosis of Autism was later changed, Osche believed his message about acceptance of differences would be particularly relevant to the group. [1]

  • Aleksander Vinter (born 1986) a Norwegian musician with prodigious musical abilities. In his lifetime he has claimed to have made over 10,000 songs.
  • Stephen Wiltshire (born 1974) is an accomplished architectural artist.
  • Henriett Seth F. (born 27th October, 1980 in Eger, Hungary), also known as Henriett Seth-F., is an autistic savant and is gifted with exceptional artistic abilities. She is also an accomplished writer.
  • Matt Savage (born 1992) is an Autistic savant with excellent musical abilities.

(The above is just an illustrative list. Many more savants exist.)

Further reading

External links