Savant Syndrome- A Disease Or A Gift?
Imagine being able to memorize the digits of pi to over 20,000 or being able to play a piano concerto flawlessly without any prior musical training. These kinds of skills are uncommon, but are typically attributed to a condition known as "savant syndrome," which is poorly understood and lacks a formal definition. However, researchers generally concur that it is a condition in which a remarkable talent coexists with a developmental condition like autism.
What is Savant Syndrome?
According to James Hughes, a comparative psychology researcher at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, "the trouble occurs when you consider that'remarkable' can be a subjective adjective," in an email. "This is one of the reasons why you might come across subtle variations of the definition of savant syndrome in the literature. You might come across the term "prodigious savant," and while "prodigious" is a relative term, this term typically describes the most well-known savant cases like Kim Peek or Stephen Wiltshire who possess talents that are far beyond what most people could achieve. He was born with a number of serious brain anomalies, including one in which the nerve bundle bridging his right and left hemispheres was completely absent. Kim Peek, a guy from Utah who served as the inspiration for the film "Rain Man," was born with this ailment.
The man loved maps and atlases, as well as trivia, and he remembered almost everything he ever read. However, he had difficulty walking and performing everyday tasks like making a sandwich and tying his shoes. However, he was able to read two pages of a book simultaneously, one page with each eye, and give you precise driving directions from any two cities in the world from memory. Peek, who passed away from a heart attack in 2009, and Stephen Wiltshire, who can take a helicopter trip over a city and draw it in great detail from memory, are examples of what's known as "prodigious savants." Not all individuals with savant syndrome, however, possess such extraordinary skills; rather, something about their cognitive make-up allows them to learn in a manner distinct from those who do not have the disorder.
The Link Between Savant Syndrome And Autism
Savant syndrome can occur alongside developmental delays, a catastrophic brain injury, or, in very rare circumstances, it might appear out of nowhere. Despite the fact that not all savants are autistic and not all autistic people have savant skills, autism is the disorder that overlaps with savant syndrome the most frequently. One in ten people with autism are thought to possess some savant skills, which frequently involve a heightened capacity for memorization of things like sports knowledge or license plate numbers. Researchers are still working to fully understand how these skills are created. However, there is a distinct cognitive and behavioral style that aids in the development of special skills, and it so happens that this cognitive style appears to be specifically tied to autism. Hughes claims that savant syndrome in autistic individuals has a distinct psychological profile that tends toward particular tendencies including enhanced sensory sensitivity, obsessional behaviors, increased technical/spatial abilities, and systemizing. Each of these actions has the potential to have an impact on how skills or talents develop.
"Over the years, we have made advances in our understanding of how and why people develop savant talents," adds Hughes. There are several theories that attempt to explain why some people develop savant abilities while others do not. An emerging finding is that autistic savants display a distinctive set of cognitive and behavioral characteristics that might influence the development of special skills and talents. No one is born with their skills, just like no one is born with the ability to paint portraits or drive a car.
Overall, the evidence suggests that autistic savants may exhibit a distinct cognitive and behavioral style that could affect the growth of savant abilities. Increased obsessions, for instance, may result in the development of abilities via hours of practice that other people might not be ready to put in, whereas the capacity for systematization may facilitate understanding and the creation of connections between disparate pieces of knowledge. Some researchers contend that savant syndrome may be regarded as a sub-type of autism because of these behaviors, which have been proven to be unique even from those with autism who do not possess savant abilities.