Autistic Savantis an individual with an “unusual gift or an outstanding skill orknowledge clearly above their general level of ability and above thepopulation norm”. – Darold A Treffert, M.D.Approx.10% of people with autism are savants of some degree. Savant alsoappears in other developmental disabilities, and those with absolutely nohandicaps. About 50% of persons with savant skills have Autistic Disorder. SAVANT SKILLS: ‘Splinter skills’ - hobbies, most common. ‘Talented skills’ - specialized on intellectual level. ‘Prodigious skills’ - most intellectually exceptional. Approximately 100 prodigious savants worldwide. EXAMPLES: music, art, math, language, memory FACT: over the past century and currently, many musical savants are both blind and Autistic.
The brain involves two hemispheres: left & right. Between the two is a thickband of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Left hemisphere (left brain)involves more logical, processing, & interpretation skills. Right brain favorsintuition, memory, creativity..Through CT and MRI scans done on those with savant syndrome, it is shownthat the right hemisphere is compensating for a deficiency or lack of skill inthe left hemisphere. 1 of 5 senses is given attention in each savant. This willbetter determine their special skill. Example: enhanced vision could result inimmaculate memory.
Tony is an autistic savant with great musical abilities and was diagnosed with autism and mental retardation. He is also blind. He can play 20 different musical instruments and graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Tony’s blindness occurred as a result of oxygen therapy that kept him alive as a premature infant born three months early.
After a CT scan it was found Tony has “mild cerebral atrophy to the left hemisphere”. He has a normal amount of tissue in the right brain and decreased amount in the left brain. Like most savants, the right hemisphere has to make up for the left hemisphere. Tony has a prestigious right hemisphere skill (music) along with remarkably enhanced habit memory giving him great musical abilities.
MYTH: People with Savant Syndrome have a low IQTRUTH: Majority of savants have an IQ between 50 & 70, as high as 114.IQ does notdetermine Savant Syndrome one way or the other.Tests are mainly used for academic testing and use a lot of verbal testing. Autismfrequents language deficits. Therefore tests can be low.“Savant syndrome is a rare but remarkable condition in which people withdevelopmental disabilities, including autism or other central nervous systemdisorders, have some remarkable island of genius that stand in stark contrast totheir overall handicap.” – Darold A. Treffert, M.D.
He suffers from a childhood brain injury. Alonzo can not tie his shoes or feed himself. Has an IQ of somewhere between 45-50. He can replicate a 3D model of almost any creature after looking at it for a brief section.
After MRI scans, there is not much shown compared to most head injuries There are a few white spots that indicate where there is no oxygen getting to the brain No major abnormalities are visible Dr. Reeve’s, a psychologist that did Alonzo’s first brain scan, believes the head injury changed something in his motor cortex
It is responsible for the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements. Damage to this would explain why he can not feed himself or tie his shoes. He is able to take visuals of animals and use his motor cortex and sculpt these animals. Where it might have harmed him in way, it gave him an amazing ability.
• Some savants have more than one special skill.• Most savants have right – brain activity skills.• The CT, MRI, and PET studies show damage to the left hemisphere, which can come from prenatal, perinatal and postnatal causes.• The assumed action is that the damage in the left hemisphere is linked with corresponding damage to the higher-level cognitive memory circuitry. Thus, the lower-level procedural memory (or ‘habit’) compensates for the damage and loss• This explains why autistic savants are often habitually active in right brained skills.