Thursday, November 8, 2012

Savant Syndrome


Recently I came across a very informative article on savant syndrome that I thought was worth bringing to your attention.  The article is titled Savant Syndrome: An Extraordinary Condition – A Synopsis: Past, Present, Future.  It provides a thorough discussion on the savant syndrome and some key points have been summarised below.

Savant syndrome has a long history and some of the earliest reports go back to around the 1780’s when a fellow named Thomas Fuller was able to accurately state how many seconds a man had lived who was 70 years old, 17 days and 12 hours old.  He was able to provide the answer in 90 seconds even allowing for the 17 leaps years that were included.

In recent times the syndrome gained more prominence as a result of the film Rain Man in which Dustin Hoffman played a character with savant syndrome.  The savant syndrome condition is rare and it is estimated that one in ten autistic children show some savant skills although others believe this to be much lower such as maybe one or two in 200.  In addition, males outnumber females with the condition which is also reflected in some of the other autism spectrum disorders.

Of interest is that skills associated with the savant syndrome are usually in a very narrow range of skills.  They will often fall into the music, the artistic field, numbers or being able to memorise a lot of information or complex details.  With music it mainly relates to the ability to play the piano and with art it often relates to drawing, painting or sculpturing.  In relation to numbers, people with savant syndrome can calculate times, dates and days when events have occurred, whether it is in the past, the future or how long it may take.  Furthermore, the ability to calculate numbers at lightening speeds is another example as well as great accuracy with measuring distances.  Being able to memorise complex details such as in road maps, the contents of books or being able to accurately recall in extensive detail after only a brief look are other examples of skills associated with savant syndrome.

Research continues to take place on savant syndrome and more progress has been made in the last 15 years than in the previous 100 years.  As further studies and research continues it provides the opportunity to discover the reasons for these hidden abilities and to provide a better understanding as to why they occur that may open up other possibilities about human development and potential.

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