Laurence Kim Peek, an exceptional savant, was the inspiration of the autistic character of Raymond Babbitt in the movie Rain Man. He was diagnosed with autism with an extraordinary memory being able to memorize every book he reads. Despite his exceptional ability, he still experienced social anxiety brought by his disability.
Individuals with autism have a developmental disorder and are behaviorally challenged. They have poor social skills, may engage in repetitive behaviors, and have trouble with communication.
Savants are no ordinary geniuses. They are distinctly intellectual people, great thinkers. Savant syndrome affects people with significant cognitive disabilities often due to autism. Studies show that one in three individuals with autism might be born with these exceptional abilities.
A Disability With Extraordinary Ability
Individuals with autism who have also been considered with savant syndrome are said to have outstanding abilities in music, arts, math, science and some other fields of study. How this comes to be is not clear, but studies suggest that as infants, they may have experienced injury in the left hemisphere of the brain that triggers the right brain to compensate, setting free these unusual abilities.
- Stephen Wiltshire is a British savant who at age three was diagnosed with autism. He was known to be a “human camera” because of his astounding ability to draw landscapes from memory.
- Rex Lewis-Clack, a 20-year-old gifted musician, self-taught pianist, strikes the piano keys with dexterity. He suffers from severe symptoms of autism besides being born blind. His keyboard is his gateway to the world besides his own. He plays his piano until he drops.
- Gottfried Mind, a Swiss autistic savant, very weak and incapable of hard work, but he got great talent for drawing. He is known as Cat’s Raphael for bringing lifelike cats in his drawings.
- Gilles Trehin, a French savant artist, author, and creator of the fictional city of “Urville.” He designed and developed a detailed fanciful megacity in his mind for 20 years.
- Jedediah Buxton, known as the English mental calculator, also one of the earliest considered autistic savant. He is not knowledgeable in science or history, but to him everything was number. All that he saw and experienced were associated with numbers. The Royal Society tested his capability in 1754, and his brain was able to calculate numbers of up to 39 digits.
- Ellen Boudreaux is an exceptional blind, autistic savant, who like Stephen Wiltshire is a music genius. She can play music flawlessly by just listening to it once. Besides her talent in music, Ellen can also walk around without stumbling on anything despite her being blind. She makes chirping sounds that act like a sonar. Another exceptional thing about her is her ability to tell time without looking at the clock.
- Daniel Tammet, a highly functioning savant with autism, has a remarkable mathematical and language abilities. He came to fame after reciting from memory Pi to 22,514 decimal places. He can also speak 11 languages.
Above are just some of the what we often call “less fortunate” because of being severely disabled in their cognitive function and socialization. People with savantism and autism may have disabilities but think twice in considering them less fortunate because they are blessed with extraordinarily amazing abilities which can’t be discounted by just looking at them.