Treffert (2014) [savant syndrome].pdf - J Autism Dev Disord(2014 44:564571 DOI 10.1007\/s10803-013-1906-8 ORIGINAL PAPER Savant Syndrome Realities Myths

Treffert (2014) [savant syndrome].pdf - J Autism Dev...

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ORIGINAL PAPER Savant Syndrome: Realities, Myths and Misconceptions Darold A. Treffert Published online: 6 August 2013 Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013 Abstract It was 126 years ago that Down first described savant syndrome as a specific condition and 70 years ago that Kanner first described Early Infantile Autism. While as many as one in ten autistic persons have savant abilities, such special skills occur in other CNS conditions as well such that approximately 50 % of cases of savant syndrome have autism as the underlying developmental disability and 50 % are associated with other disabilities. This paper sorts out realities from myths and misconceptions about both savant syndrome and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that have developed through the years. The reality is that low IQ is not necessarily an accompaniment of savant syn- drome; in some cases IQ can be superior. Also, savants can be creative, rather than just duplicative, and the skills increase over time on a continuum from duplication, to improvisation to creation, rather than diminishing or sud- denly disappearing. Genius and prodigy exist separate from savant syndrome and not all such highly gifted persons have Asperger’s Disorder. This paper also emphasizes the critical importance of separating ‘autistic-like’ symptoms from ASD especially in children when the savant ability presents as hyperlexia (children who read early) or as Einstein syndrome (children who speak late), or have impaired vision (Blindisms) because prognosis and out- come are very different when that careful distinction is made. In those cases the term ‘outgrowing autism’ might be mistakenly applied when in fact the child did not have ASD in the first place. Keywords Savant syndrome Á Autism Á Autism spectrum disorder Á Hyperlexia Á Einstein syndrome Realities Savant Syndrome Defined Savant syndrome is a rare but spectacular condition in which persons with developmental disabilities, including but not limited to autism, or other CNS disorders or disease have some spectacular ‘islands of genius’ that stand in jarring juxtaposition to overall limitations. (Treffert 2010 ) The condition can be present from birth and evident in early childhood (congenital) or develop later in life after CNS injury or disease (acquired). It affects males 4–6 times more frequently than females. Typically the skills occur in five general areas—music, art, calendar calculating, mathematics or mechanical/visual-spatial skills. Other skills occur less frequently including language (polyglot), unusual sensory discrimination, athletics or outstanding knowledge in specific fields such as neurophysiology, sta- tistics, navigation or computers, for example. Skills are usually single skills, but multiple skills can occur as well.

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