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bhetti
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31 Dec 2009, 6:53 pm

I've been kinda confused about "savant" and "savant abilities" since an online encounter with an HFA woman who claims to be a savant.

it started when I got annoyed by Demi Moore's lawyers and posted a rant about how many homeless could be sheltered and hungry kids could be fed for the legal fees being spent to protect the reputation of Demi's hips. (law is one of my special interests and sometimes I get up in arms over some of the inherent stupidities that abound in the legal arena).

I didn't know the lady, she posted back at me about some of Demi's movies which I know nothing about, so I tried to explain it was the stupidity of the legal action that annoyed me, and how important can the size of a celebrity's hips really be in comparison to everything else we face? she said she was out of the loop and didn't understand, so I told her she should ignore my ranting.

so then she said this:

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I didnt "ignore" anything-- I told you I dont know anything about the Demi matter. Im a savant autistic; only know narrow areas.


I clarified that I'd said she SHOULD ignore me, not that I'd said she did.

she responded
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It is a waste of my time to get in2 your Demi tangent. Im not responding further. If you want to persist, I will un-follow you. Autistic savants limit info. intake to only what is relevant to our narrow range of abilities & interests. We r not generalists.


this exchange really bothered me. not because we disagreed or because she threatened to unfollow me (I told her she should, so she did). what bothered me is her inference that her savantism is a limiting factor.

from what I understand of savantism, it's a separate syndrome from autism, and it would be the narrow interests of autism along with inability to communicate that caused her decision to limit any info from me that would clarify my position... in other words, it just wasn't interesting enough to her because it didn't fall within her special interest, so my attempts to clarify frustrated her.

ok, fine with me. I ignore a lot of things that don't pertain to my special interests. but savantism, where does that fit in? it seems like dragging something irrelevant into the discussion.

I didn't see anything in her personal blog to indicate savantism, although she made lots of references to "savant abilities". I could certainly see signs of prodigious abilities able to bloom because of a supportive parent.

I've encountered plenty of people with savant abilities who don't make a big deal out of it at all and who don't present it as a limitation or disability, and don't tend to flaunt it, either.

that's the part that seems weird to me. is savantism a disability? where's the line between being intelligent, a prodigy or a savant? I'm struggling to understand the woman excusing herself due to being a HFA savant. HFA makes sense, but savant doesn't. is autism coupled with savantism some kind of curse?



buryuntime
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31 Dec 2009, 7:56 pm

I'm going to guess the person is just trying to make themselves look important. Honestly I can not see a true autistic savant bragging on the internet about their "abilities".

Also, any autistic can have narrow interests without being a savant. The person is trying to glamor up their autism or doesn't have it at all.



Callista
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31 Dec 2009, 9:30 pm

Savant syndrome is basically when you have one skill, usually a very narrow skill, that is far above all your other skills, above what would be expected of a typical person, and comes with very little practice.

For example, if you had savant memorization abilities, you might be able to read the Gettysburg Address once and then repeat it back perfectly (takes most people an hour or so to memorize). Or, if you had a savant skill in the area of mathematics, you might be able to find the prime factors of a ten-digit number within seconds (it takes most people minutes, more if there's a large prime involved). Some people put perfect pitch in the same category (the ability to recognize any note after hearing it); savant musical skill is also not uncommon, for example the ability to learn to play an instrument in a month to the degree of skill that would take most people five years to learn. Occasionally artistic skills end up in the savant category, too; for example, people drawing with a great amount of skill at very young ages or despite very little practice or education in the subject.

Basically, savant skills pop up when your brain is very, very specialized in one (or occasionally more than one) area. They can be striking enough to make you famous, or they can just be quirks of your neurology that aren't really all that remarkable except in how quickly you learned them.

There's a spectrum of savant skills. There are a lot of people on WP with "splinter skills"--minor savant skills, along the lines of perfect pitch; for example, I can pretty much compose a harmony line to any melody after having heard it once--something a college music major can do easily, but which most people don't learn at the age of nine (when I was first exposed to harmony in music). Most professionals wouldn't call that true savant syndrome, because what I can do, anybody with a bit of musical talent can learn (and I don't even have perfect pitch, just very good relative pitch). But you will see that kind of thing very commonly on the spectrum.

The really flashy kind of savant syndrome, the kind where the person can do without practice something that is not just amazing for them but amazing for anyone, is rather rare. However, about half of these obvious savants are on the autistic spectrum, so the stereotype of the autistic savant is not unjustified. (The other half tend to be developmentally delayed, have epilepsy, have congenital brain anomalies, or have had a head injury--basically, they have weird brains.)


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Meadow
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31 Dec 2009, 9:51 pm

I wouldn't say weird brain Callista but definitely different. You know your stuff. I haven't read up on all of it but that sounds right. I have the savant skills in visual art, high degree of skill with no training and was referred to someone who deals with autistic savant artists. I haven't gotten my artwork out there yet. I also haven't been able to advance or develop it as much as I would have wanted because of depression as a result of how challenging mere survival has been up to now. I have some things that will reproduce well so I should do fine once I can get my footing. I just have many obstacles still with my verbal communication skills, cognitive abilities as well and will need some help to get there. I don't know if I will get that help so only time will tell whether I can make it happen all on my own or whether I will need some help. I don't think it's anything worth bragging about though. I'm just sorry that I have suffered so long and fallen through the cracks so miserably with the talent I have. I've just been sabotaged so much and have yet to understand it given my obvious or clearly recognizable potential.



bhetti
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31 Dec 2009, 10:53 pm

ok, what you guys are saying makes sense.

splinter skills makes sense. I hadn't heard of those before.

I think I have a couple myself, including an artistic flavored one that makes it possible for me to learn new media really quickly and get to the point of doing things that people say are impossible without much practice. it really has nothing to do with talent, though... it's more the technical part of art: memorization, exploration, research, testing. developing actual artistic talent has been much more challenging and time-consuming.

another apparent splinter skill is remembering dialogues, to the point of annoying the other party when I can say "you said this, then I said this, then you said this" etc. years after the fact, but people who know me well defer to my memory because they know I'm right.

still, I can't see that either of those things make it more difficult to understand what's going on around me, although the second one caused a lot of pain until I realized that people forget, lie, etc. and that it's not my memory at fault, it's theirs. my artistic ability only narrowed my life options because my mother pushed me away from science and math and told me I was an artist until I resented my artistic skills. still, I don't consider them anything that interferes with my cognitive experiences. they also don't seem like much to brag about. they're part of me, yeah, but it's not that big a deal. they also seem very separate from the fact that I have AS.

if anyone (or most people) can do what a person with a splinter skill can do, then it's not a disability, right? the lady who said she can't understand because she's an autistic savant didn't describe savant syndrome, but did describe what sound like a few splinter skills. I don't understand why someone would consider splinter skills an impediment to communication.



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31 Dec 2009, 11:06 pm

I consider myself 'very' talented or gifted and I'm highly critical of those sorts of things and have a very high standard. I have a lot of trouble with verbal communication, social problems to the extreme, cognitive challenges as well. It's all in one's interpretation I guess in some instances. The only skill I really have is my artistic capability and it's quite high. I couldn't do anything else vocationally because of the broader handicap, which is quite encompassing. Maybe you could just give this person a break a little bit. Sounds like their shortness could also involve some sensory issues or cognitive issues perhaps. I don't see what the big deal is with your issues around her.



bhetti
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01 Jan 2010, 12:19 am

naturally she could have sensory or cognitive issues, given that she has HFA. it's not really a matter of giving her a break, either. I'm struggling with how being an autistic savant causes a limit on what information one is willing or able to allow in or to process. I can see the HFA factoring in, but savantism? that's what I'm trying to understand. she calls herself a savant, but she describes "splinter skills" like Callista describes, that are similar to what a lot of people I know have. I'm quite certain I don't know any full-blown savants. if I do, they keep it hidden. the people I know with splinter skills certainly aren't impeded or disabled by them.

do you have a problem with me trying to understand how savantism could be a communications disability? I've never heard of it being one. I have heard of and experienced AS being one, though. is there anyone here with splinter skills or savant syndrome who considers the condition a disability?



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01 Jan 2010, 12:31 am

Maybe you could do some research and learn something about it from the experts rather than coming off so judgmental and condescending toward another person. Yeah, I have a problem with that.

I'm not interested in any further discussion with you.



bhetti
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01 Jan 2010, 12:51 am

where are the experts, Meadow? I know you said you're not interested in further discussion with me, but I did spend a good chunk of time searching for information. I read a bunch of articles on savant syndrome before I posted here. I figured this would be the most likely place to find people who have it and could explain it. I found Callista's explanation of splinter skills was very informative.

it still doesn't explain why someone with HFA would consider savantism or savant skills a disability so if there's someone here who does, I'd love to hear your perspective on it.



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01 Jan 2010, 2:27 am

bhetti wrote:
where are the experts, Meadow? I know you said you're not interested in further discussion with me, but I did spend a good chunk of time searching for information. I read a bunch of articles on savant syndrome before I posted here. I figured this would be the most likely place to find people who have it and could explain it. I found Callista's explanation of splinter skills was very informative.

it still doesn't explain why someone with HFA would consider savantism or savant skills a disability so if there's someone here who does, I'd love to hear your perspective on it.

I believe she was more likely referring to her autism as a disability rather than her savant skills. She did refer to herself as an autistic savant, not just a savant.

It mostly sounds like an autistic misunderstanding brought about by different areas of conversational focus and wording. From what I've seen here on WP, it's quite common and nothing that needs to be taken personally (from either side).


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01 Jan 2010, 7:51 am

I earlier got the idea somewhere that she was talking about something that is NOT savantism, Savantism, historically, talks about certain skills that are quite large. Ones like Art, Math, Music, and MAYBE ****GENERAL**** memory. If you talk about specific memory, that is almost required for HFA and AS people. Some claim that is due to time spent, but that isn't fully true as I am sure many here realize.

Savantism, in a way, can be looked at as a disability because, though you can do ASTOUNDINGLY well in some area, or maybe a couple, you may do just as poorly in other areas. If not for that, it would be pure benefit. Look at people with williams syndrome. THEY are generally music/language savants, but other skills are impeded quite a bit.

Savantism IS one of those words that is thrown around WAY too much, and too many see it as something to brag about. It may also be "diagnosed" by a like-minded psychiatrist/psychologist. WHO CARES unless YOU admire it or need it?



bhetti
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01 Jan 2010, 3:32 pm

fiddlerpianist wrote:
It mostly sounds like an autistic misunderstanding brought about by different areas of conversational focus and wording. From what I've seen here on WP, it's quite common and nothing that needs to be taken personally (from either side).
yes, I think that is the case.



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01 Jan 2010, 3:42 pm

As for me, not the person you were finding fault with for whatever reason, I am a savant in the area of visual art and I am also autistic which equal: Autistic Savant.



bhetti
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01 Jan 2010, 4:03 pm

I did some more reading last night and the woman who claims the savantism was diagnosed with a PET scan and concluded to have the genius savantism that is currently estimated to exist in only about 30-100 people in the world. her savant skills apparently lie in the artistic realm, but she also said she's the only diagnosed autistic to pass the bar in the country. I have my doubts about her being the only HFA/AS lawyer in the country, but after reading a bunch of articles I'm starting to grasp that any case of savantism is significant because of the adaptness of the brain to learn and exploit that one area in comparison to the slowness or inability to function in all other areas.

2ukenkerl wrote:
Savantism, in a way, can be looked at as a disability because, though you can do ASTOUNDINGLY well in some area, or maybe a couple, you may do just as poorly in other areas. If not for that, it would be pure benefit. Look at people with williams syndrome. THEY are generally music/language savants, but other skills are impeded quite a bit.

Savantism IS one of those words that is thrown around WAY too much, and too many see it as something to brag about. It may also be "diagnosed" by a like-minded psychiatrist/psychologist.
if savantism can really be detected with a PET scan, is it a diagnosable syndrome? I haven't turned up much at all yet on the subject. and I think savantism is not a disability just because it enables certain abilities to flourish beyond the average when an individual struggles with other disabilities like some of the ones that come with autism (sensory, language, etc.). like you said, without the disabilities, it would be pure benefit. so why use it as an excuse for not being able to understand something, when HFA will do quite nicely on its own?

from what I've been reading, apparently savantism isn't always easy to detect. some savant skills don't come out until a person "stumbles" across them, and if they aren't supported, they might just fade into the background. the notable savants get a lot of encouragement and practice with their skills. perhaps there are more savants than have been detected, if it takes a PET scan to determine whether one is a savant.

I have a database to scan later that might turn up information.

hopefully by the end of the day I'll be done with this obsession.



bhetti
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01 Jan 2010, 4:12 pm

Meadow wrote:
As for me, not the person you were finding fault with for whatever reason, I am a savant in the area of visual art and I am also autistic which equal: Autistic Savant.
if I said something you didn't understand, and I tried to clarify, and you got frustrated and trotted out your dx as an explanation of why I don't make sense to you, what would it be?

1. I'm an autistic savant, I can only understand narrow fields of information.
2. I'm autistic and I'm having a hard time putting this conversation into a context that makes sense.
3. I'm autistic so even though I misunderstood you this conversation doesn't interest me enough to try to understand what you really meant.

answers 2 and 3 make complete sense to me. I have to use answer 2 with my family all the time, usually after staring at them for a minute trying to figure out what the hell they're trying to say.

if I found out my lifelong skills as an artist qualified me as a savant, I would not be using answer 1 for anything because it sounds pretentious. it sounds like an excuse to not try to meet people even part of the way to resolve a misunderstanding.

now, I'd love to hear some of your experiences/viewpoints as an artistic savant. maybe in a new thread though.



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01 Jan 2010, 4:21 pm

That's funny that you want her to differentiate for you on any specifics. It all plays together anyway and an individual isn't expected to talk in a diagnostic/specific fashion about their own condition or necessarily be able to differentiate those things to begin with. Who are you to judge this person about what they say is true for them? I just don't get your whole attitude and find it rather offensive and intrusive.

Edit: I see you are doing the same thing to me and I don't wish to speak to it.