Celebrating the success of individuals with autism and pervasive developmental disabilities.
Whether it's a small measure on a graph, goals that have been reached, or great personal achievements, the hard work of individuals with autism is an inspiration to their peers, educators, and the community at large.
Savant syndrome—or savantism
Savantism is a non-medical term that describes a rare condition in which individuals with developmentally disabilities have an expertise and splinter skills in one or more areas. A characteristic common to savantism is a remarkable, yet narrow, memory. Savants also have exceptionalities in one or more of the following areas: mathematical calculations, memory feats, artistic abilities, and musical abilities.
Approximately 10 percent of individuals with autism are savants. In the non-autistic population, this proportion is estimated to be only 1 percent. However, these numbers, although commonly cited, remain inconclusive. Some savants have neurobiological exceptions, especially in the left hemisphere of the brain.
Approximately 100 individuals alive in the world today are believed to be a prodigious savant, which is someone whose skill level would qualify him or her as a “prodigy”—even in the absence of a cognitive disability. About half of all savants are believed to be prodigious musical savants.
Historically, the term used to describe such individuals was “idiot savants,” a French term meaning unlearned (idiot) skill (savant). In 1978, Dr. Bernard Rimland introduced the more appropriate term “autistic savant” in an article in Psychology Today. He believes the savant has an incredible ability to concentrate and focus on a specific area of interest. Some researchers believe understanding savantism will help us learn more about how our memory and cognition works.