AUTISTIC SAVANTS

FAMOUS AUTISTIC SAVANTS

“There is beauty in the midst of adversity” –  a profound maxim which, on numerous occasions, has been proven true by the existence of autistic savants. The complexity of Autism as a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders has raised so many questions and theories in the annals of renowned medical experts and researchers all over the world. But the case of autistic savants has opened up a new room for discussion and subject of study, with scientific implication presenting that the human brain has the latent potential for extraordinary abilities which are activated when there’s a presence of a known variable, such as a disease or disorder.

Autistic savants are known to exhibit superhuman abilities, talents, and skills in different fields of knowledge and facets of development. They are the living testaments of Alexander Graham Bell’s statement, “when one door closes, another opens”, which means that the human brain makes up for the failure in one or more of its functions by enhancing another. Autism is a neurologic disorder that affects the person’s cognitive ability, hindering many areas of development such as speech, sensory response, and judgment. As a result, many autistic individuals become nonverbal, have sensory issues, and can’t make easy decisions. However, autistic savants possess incredible talents that make them stand out even over a group of skilled people. To give you more idea about the potential of autistic savants, below is a list of well-known autistic savants from all over the world and throughout history.

Gottfried Mind

Perhaps one of the earliest known savants in history, Mind’s special artistic prowess bloomed when he was enrolled in an art academy in 1776. At the age of 8, Mind’s teachers have regarded him as quite strange, moody, and although undeniably talented, possessed a weak body that cannot endure long hours of artistic work. This description can somewhat be an indication that Mind is an autistic person.

One of Gottfried Mind’s legacy and proof of his talent is his drawing of cats, which was created as a result of a short squabble that happened between him and his mentor, Sigmund Hendenberger. The latter was busy drawing a cat when Mind approached him and told him that his drawing is not what a real cat looks like. Quite humiliated, Hendenberger then told the boy to make his own drawing of a cat and work in the corner. The resulting work of art was so lifelike that Mind was then named Cat’s Raphael.

Stephen Wiltshire

Possessing a very good photographic memory, Wilshire’s work of art that was captured in a video is now being watched and shared on many social media platforms. He is the man behind the accurate hand-drawn representation of the Tokyo City bird’s eye view after finishing a brief helicopter ride. He then proceeded to make a 10-meter panoramic view of what he saw, which is very detailed and accurate. Considering that it was Wiltshire’s first view of Tokyo on that angle, it was made clear that he is an autistic savant.

Being diagnosed with autism at an early age, Wiltshire’s passion for drawing was discovered when he was sent to a school for children with special needs. There, he started drawing animals, until his object for art expanded to city buses and landscapes. It was through his drawings that he was able to communicate with other people. Wiltshire’s first muttered word was “paper”, which he was able to speak only at the age of 9 and with the help of his teachers.

Daniel Tammet

Dubbed as the ‘Brainman’, Tammet’s savant abilities cannot be undermined. He is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and they attribute his savant abilities to his epileptic episodes while he was still 4 years old. Although his appearance can be compared to that of a normal individual, Tammet admitted that he had to will himself to be able to learn how to speak and behave appropriately when he’s around other people.

Tammet’s rise to popularity started in an International Pi Day fund-raising event, where he was able to recite without notes, more than 22,000 digits of the mathematical constant Pi. Through interviews, Daniel revealed that he has synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon which enables him to see colours and shape that are unique in every number, and even feel the texture of each.  Mathematical prowess is not the only savant area of Daniel Tammet. He is also able to speak in 11 different languages, one of which is Icelandic, that he was able to learn and use a week after the language was introduced to him.

Kim Peek

Remember the Academy Award Best Picture winner ‘Rain Man’? This movie was inspired by the true to life events of Kim Peek, the autistic person with remarkable gifts, portrayed by the actor Dustin Hoffman. Kim Peek was diagnosed with autism at an early age, and with severe brain damage that hinders the development of many motor skills such as walking, and a huge decrease in cognitive abilities such as learning how to speak. His condition was so severe that after having been admitted to a special institution, their family doctor advised his father to forget about him. Peek’s father disregarded the advice, which turned out to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

Kim Peek’s general IQ test showed an overall score that is below average, and he struggled to maintain a walking pace. Motor skills as simple as buttoning a shirt was also difficult for him to accomplish alone. But Peek’s savant skills was quite something extraordinary, which was said to be very rare even in today’s medical discoveries. He was able to remember everything he’s read, and that includes a wide selection of 12,000 or more books. More astounding is the fact that he can read 2 pages of a book in mere 3 seconds, his left eye reading the left page, and his right eye reading the right page. Dubbed as ‘Kimputer’, he was also able to correctly answer trivia questions from different subjects, pinpoint the day of the week from a given date, and remember every music that he was able to hear since he was a child.