The Academy-award winning film Rain Man brought national—indeed international—attention to the Savant Syndrome Condition. But since it was first described a more than a century ago, the phenomenon of the savant syndrome—islands of genius and a-bility in stark juxtaposition to handicap and dis-ability—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 & video profiles of persons with savant syndrome.
His first book—Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome—was updated most recently in 2006 and is available in 10 languages. It is available through the www.iuniverse.com web site, Barnes and Noble at www.bn.com and www.amazon.com.
His most recent book—Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant—was published by Jessica Kingsley, Inc., London. It was released in April, 2010 in the United States and will be available in May, 2010 in the United Kingdom and Europe. This 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 (CNS) disease. 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. There is a color illustration section of savant art, and special section outlines techniques for “training the talent” (art, music, math) in these special people. The book is available at www.jkp.com or through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Click here to read an eight-part conversation on creativity, autism and the savant syndrome with Dr. Treffert and Psychology Today.
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