The Academy award-winning film Rain Man brought national—indeed international—attention to the savant syndrome condition. But since it was first described more than a century ago, the phenomenon of the savant syndrome—islands of genius and ability in stark juxtaposition to handicap and disability—has remained unexplained. This site explores savant syndrome in depth, and provides profiles of specific savants, some of whom have prodigious skills and abilities.
Darold A. Treffert, MD, past president of the Wisconsin Medical Society and a psychiatrist at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, has studied savant syndrome for years. He was a consultant to the movie Rain Man. On this website he describes the condition, reviews and summarizes the world literature on the topic, since the early reports, describes more recent cases and catalogs and categorizes savant abilities. He also provides a bibliography for references and text and video profiles of people with savant syndrome.
His first book—Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome—is available in 10 languages.
His most recent book—Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant—was published by Jessica Kingsley Inc, London, in April, 2010. The book provides an update on well-known savants Dr. Treffert has been following for years and explores new cases, particularly the acquired savant in which neurotypical persons demonstrate previously dormant savant skills sometimes at a prodigious level, following head injury or central nervous system incident. It also explores genetic memory—how savants know things they never learned. Both the acquired savant and genetic memory have vast implications for accessing dormant potential—a little Rain Man perhaps—within us all.
In April, 2016 the Treffert Center, sponsored by AgnesianHealthCare in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin opened on the campus of St. Agnes Hospital. A library section houses Dr. Treffert’s vast collection of savant syndrome books, videos, scientific and popular media articles, theses and similar items to be shared with other researchers worldwide on request. It also houses a unique collection of savant artwork including paintings, drawings, silhouettes and sculptures from around the world. The Treffert Center website can be accessed here.
Click here to read an eight-part conversation on creativity, autism and the savant syndrome with Dr. Treffert and Psychology Today.
The Treffert Center
371 E. 1st St
Fond du Lac, WI 54935