Today’s “economist” has an excellent article on new studies that link autism to genius and/or savant abilities. Worth reading, despite the Rainman photo and reliance on savantism instead of the differences in the autistic brain that have a high number of true “genius” IQ’s or talents that go with the diagnosis (again, not saying everyone, obviously… but there are many of those historically we would call “genius” in their respected fields who were, in fact, on the spectrum).
“THAT genius is unusual goes without saying. But is it so unusual that it requires the brains of those that possess it to be unusual in others ways, too? A link between artistic genius on the one hand and schizophrenia and manic-depression on the other, is widely debated. However another link, between savant syndrome and autism, is well established. ”
Hypersensitivity, attention to detail, hyperfocus, pattern thinking and the ability to think differently are all sited as findings that make one an expert in any field. Doesn’t seem new and groundbreaking to me, particularly, but any positive and/or observant take on those on the spectrum is hopefull in my eyes.
“Many, but not all. Dr Happé has drawn on a study of almost 13,000 individual twins to show that childhood talent in fields such as music and art is often associated with RRBIs, even in those who are not diagnosed as classically autistic. She speculates that the abilities of savants in areas that neurotypicals tend to find pointless or boring may result from an ability to see differences where a neurotypical would see only similarities…
Simon Baron-Cohen, a doyen of the field who works at Cambridge University, draws similar conclusions. He suggests the secret of becoming a savant is “hyper-systematising and hyper-attention to detail”. But he adds sensory hypersensitivity to the list.”
When they get into conversations about experiments with neurotypicals to make them more like those on the spectrum by using magnetic field… they kind of lose me there.
“Dr Snyder argues that savant skills are latent in everyone, but that access to them is inhibited in non-savants by other neurological processes. He is able to remove this inhibition using a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.”
Yeah, uhm these people can’t seem to make up their minds between “curing” autism and snagging the genius label to neurotypicals by mimicking savent skills. You can’t have it both ways, guys.
The conclusion of the article, however, is hopeful:
“Savant syndrome, then, is a case where the politically correct euphemism “differently abled” has real meaning. The conclusion that should be drawn, perhaps, is not that neurotypicals should attempt to ape savants, but that savants—even those who are not geniuses—should be welcomed for what they are, and found a more honoured place in society.”
However, the words savant and autism are not synonimous, as the article seems a bit confused with.
I would’ve liked to see a more well thought out article detailing these studies and contrasting a large variety of examples both historically and those from recent testing… but perhaps because this is, after all, autism awareness month, that they felt under the gun to give us something to talk about.