The stereotype of being a Savant or having special abilities

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does your autism give you any special abilities?
yes 69%  69%  [ 29 ]
no 31%  31%  [ 13 ]
Total votes : 42

Callista
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05 Mar 2010, 11:30 pm

If Tammet isn't a savant, the nobody is. You might argue that learning nine hours worth of pi can be done with synesthesia and a good memory, but try learning a new language in seven days and then tell me he isn't a savant.

There's no knowing whether he acquired the savant syndrome or just the synesthesia after his first seizure; that's the trouble, because savant syndrome is associated both with brain injury and with autism. Maybe it was a combination of both; nobody knows. What we do know is that the man has some very interesting neurology in his head.

I honestly have no clue why it matters so much whether or not we have WP members with minor savant skills. The splinter skills of the sort we have here are so common among autistics as to be quite unremarkable. Prodigious savants like Tammet are very rare; but nobody should be surprised to hear that someone with a diagnosis of Asperger's or Autism has savant traits.

And of course there are multiple types of skills that autistics can have; not all of them are savant skills. Some of them come from obsession and practice. Others, like my early reading ability, are more like the natural talent you might find in a neurotypical youngster. Yet others are the result of overall giftedness.

But many of us do have some skills that we didn't practice (while an NT would have had to practice intensely), that are far above what we should be expected to have, and that were acquired (or, more properly, discovered) at an unusually young age. What else would you call them?


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05 Mar 2010, 11:43 pm

KoS wrote:
This is the type of savant that Daniel Tammet is: http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/ ... red_savant

He is mentioned in the article:

"One final example of acquired savant abilities is Daniel Tammet, whose skills, and their onset and development, are described by him in his very popular book Born on a Blue Day. After several childhood seizures, which were ultimately diagnosed as temporal lobe epilepsy, Daniel began to experience a very powerful and unique synesthesia in which every number has its own color, shape and texture. Coupled with the synesthesia was lightning calculating and calendar calculating ability, along with massive memory for numbers. Daniel was able to memorize Pi to 22,514 decimal places, for example. He also has the ability to learn languages in a very brief time. He mastered Icelandic, for example, in seven days as chronicled in Focus Production’s 2005 documentary, Brainman. "

I thought he had one, when he was four?

I'm a little jealous of the boy that got hit in the head with a baseball. I got hit in the head with a cricket ball, which is much harder than a baseball. It could have cracked my skull, but all it left me was a sore bump.
I had absolutely no skills but drawing when I was little. Perhaps that was my minor savant skill?

I can kind of understand where you are coming from about people with AS not being savants, though I disagree.


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KoS
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05 Mar 2010, 11:48 pm

Callista wrote:
If Tammet isn't a savant, the nobody is. You might argue that learning nine hours worth of pi can be done with synesthesia and a good memory, but try learning a new language in seven days and then tell me he isn't a savant.

There's no knowing whether he acquired the savant syndrome or just the synesthesia after his first seizure; that's the trouble, because savant syndrome is associated both with brain injury and with autism. Maybe it was a combination of both; nobody knows. What we do know is that the man has some very interesting neurology in his head.



He may be a savant, but he is not an autistic savant, and that is the point I am arguing here. Not the genral concept of savants and prodigies.

And what do you mean no way of knowing? By his own admission and that of his family, it was directly AFTER the seizures started. They blatantly said it. It's in his own book, written by him, about himself. I don't think "knowing for sure" gets more rock solid than that! Next you'll be trying to tell me that he and his family couldn't possible remember that accurately, or they can't be sure, but well, I think with something that major, it would be pretty ingrained in there. Or it's one hell of a coincidence! Just when he has brain modifying seizures his autism and the savant abilities that come with just pop up? I highly doubt it, and besides like I mentioned before, by his own admission the savant skills were bought on by the brain damage.

Callista wrote:

I honestly have no clue why it matters so much whether or not we have WP members with minor savant skills. The splinter skills of the sort we have here are so common among autistics as to be quite unremarkable. Prodigious savants like Tammet are very rare; but nobody should be surprised to hear that someone with a diagnosis of Asperger's or Autism has a skill of that sort.

And of course there are multiple types of skills that autistics can have; not all of them are savant skills. Some of them come from obsession and practice. Others, like my early reading ability, are more like the natural talent you might find in a neurotypical youngster. Yet others are the result of overall giftedness.

But many of us do have some skills that we didn't practice (while an NT would have had to practice intensely), that are far above what we should be expected to have, and that were acquired (or, more properly, discovered) at an unusually young age. What else would you call them?


I would call them skills and talents. Same as what I'd call it for NTs. I'm getting the feeling here that people here don't fully understand what a savant is and that it applies to any person on the Autism spectrum with a high level of skill or ability in a specific field.

Like I keep saying, it is not because of savant ability that these skill are aquired, it is because of the focus of the AS mind and the details it picks up, NTs are not privvy to this special method of seeing things this way. This coupled with the all consuming obsession (which I prefer to think of as passion) that Aspies have with their special interests, the results can often seem prodigious, but it is really just normal for someone with Aspie brain wiring, almost expected I think. For sure! I just don't think it is savantism.

The term savant also implies that a person is severly retarded and the fact that they can perform a particular skill so well is what makes them a savant. Like my brother, yesterday before he started his job for the day for which he is paid FAR more money than I am at my job, he pissed on the floor and put his face in it. He's 25. He's an idiot! (And please don't jump down my throat for saying that, he's my big brother and I love him, but seriously...face in piss? Idiot!!) and he's also a savant. As many of you know the original term for Autistic savants was idiot-savant, and I'm pretty sure they were talking about people like my brother.

But you're right, it doesn't really matter and it doesn't bother me if Aspies want to consider them and their skills savant. I just didn't think it was correct.


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Callista
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05 Mar 2010, 11:50 pm

So, basically, every savant in the world has to be exactly like your brother.

Uhmm... no. Really not.


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KoS
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05 Mar 2010, 11:54 pm

Callista wrote:
So, basically, every savant in the world has to be exactly like your brother.

Uhmm... no. Really not.


No, read my post.

My general gist was referring to what the words autistic-savant really mean. People LIKE my brother. Not exactly like him, but at least as affected by Autism as him.

Thanks for that insightful post though, it really added to the discussion.


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Callista
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06 Mar 2010, 12:22 pm

What I meant when I said "we have no way of knowing" is that there's no way to know whether a seizure could have triggered savant skills in someone who didn't already have autism. Most likely, he already had a highly unusual brain to begin with. Epilepsy itself is part of your brain configuration; it's not a TBI or an illness or something that changes your brain from the outside. (Usually. It is possible for various things to induce epilepsy.) And early childhood is about where inborn savant skills start anyway.

I think you are simply trying to define savant syndrome as something that can only happen from childhood if you are obviously autistic or developmentally disabled. It seems like we are simply working with two different meanings of "savant syndrome", and that is causing the confusion.


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KoS
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06 Mar 2010, 5:50 pm

No, I am defining savant as it is realistically and factually defined. You seem to be definining it in a way that you have created, but that allows you to fit whoever you want into the savant category. It is convenient for you, but it's not real (my least favorite aspie trait - convenience truth. UGH! - I know you wont give up on it either, but anyway...).

Autistic savants do express their savant abilities from an early age (childhood) and they develop and prgoress as a normal persons skills would (unless they have not been given the chance to do so - some savants go completely unrecognized until hey are much older because of this). And I've never seen or heard anything to the contrary.

An aquired savant, such as Daniel Tammet, their ability starts onle after brain trauma no matter that age. If he had had any savant ability before then, believe me, they would have known about it. Sure his brain might have always been unusual, but it was not always a savant brain, He is not an Asperger's Savant, he is an aquired savant who has VERY MILD Asperger's Syndrome.


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jakewp
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06 Mar 2010, 6:00 pm

Some time ago I started a topic about my unusual ability to pronounce foreign languages, it seems many people could relate.

It's good and it's not at the same time, because every time I think about my good language skills and my passion for foreign languages it reminds me that it's useless and I barely have anyone to talk with even on my mother tongue.


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Exclavius
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16 May 2010, 10:24 pm

Closest thing to a special ability i have is the ability to envision hyper structures. By that I mean i can "picture" a 4 or 5 dimensional object.
Helps me understand cosmology, mathematics, physics, but doesn't help in the real world, cause I can't understand human relationships.



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16 May 2010, 11:16 pm

I've always been very good with music. Ive had IQ tests and the results were scattered from mental retardation to genious with very little subjects falling in the average catagory. I know it sounds like Im talking all big about myself but Im probablly a musical savant with composing music. If you want to hear what I do e-mail me and I'll send some tracks and you can decide. Ive been able to play the piano all my life and I can also play along to any song while Im hearing it and play it back. I don't do this perfectly though. I tend to play things back in my own style. I cant read sheet music while playing an insturment either. I either have to do it by ear, or study the sheet music and then play it.



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17 May 2010, 2:12 am

Exclavius wrote:
Closest thing to a special ability i have is the ability to envision hyper structures. By that I mean i can "picture" a 4 or 5 dimensional object.
Helps me understand cosmology, mathematics, physics, but doesn't help in the real world, cause I can't understand human relationships.


Same sort of faculty here, though I've tested adding dimensions, I can get to a structure that has so much information it almost looks like static unless I rotate it, or translate along various axes' to examine it. The lower dimensional cases can be resolved from the higher ones, I just call it n-dimensional visualization ability.

Fun thing to try, lay a plot of ζ(s) along each axis of a 3-space, treat each new imaginary axis as another real axis, and repeat it again, see if your head kersplodes.


I wouldn't call it savant ability though, but I did get the impression of a structure that I can easily overlay on a zeta plot x-ray (http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/math/pdf/0309/0309433v1.pdf) while considering different ways to explain the density of primes on various sorts of spiral number lines.


Oh, btw, is reading encyclopedias at age 4 actually that out of the ordinary?



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17 May 2010, 2:28 am

justMax wrote:
Fun thing to try, lay a plot of ζ(s) along each axis of a 3-space, treat each new imaginary axis as another real axis, and repeat it again, see if your head kersplodes.

Head hasn't kersploded yet... and i can envision it.. but i don't think i could place anything into the space visually.

justMax wrote:
Oh, btw, is reading encyclopedias at age 4 actually that out of the ordinary?

Nope, I did it too. Had to sneak into my parents bedroom to get them, and didn't let others know i was reading them. Learning wasn't necessarily a good thing in an ultra-religious belief system. In retrospect parents wouldn't have minded, would've encouraged it, but what I got out of their teaching made me think otherwise.



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17 May 2010, 2:32 am

Image

Zeta plot, what the equation in my avatar produces for various complex values of s.



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17 May 2010, 7:17 am

No, but my English teacher used to praise my essays more often than others'. But that's probably because English is taught badly in my country. Wasn't born with savant skills but at age 15 I used to analyse sentences from Victorian novels. The next year my essays really caught my teachers' attention.



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17 May 2010, 9:56 am

I have perfect pitch but there doesn't seem to be much use for it. Besides, my perfect pitch abilities only work with piano sounds I think.



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17 May 2010, 11:52 am

I voted 'no.' I don't think I have any special skills, if I do they certainly don't stick out enough for me to notice. I've always been called 'smart' and 'bright' and been the star student, teacher's pet, etc. I'm you average person...better in some areas than others.

I've met some kids with AS that are patients of my mom (she's an OT), only one had a 'special skill.' He could tell you what day you were born on when you told him your birth date. Another boy I just randomly met in a store was 10 years old and could sprout off a bunch of random stuff about astronomy.