Improve the health of the people of Wisconsin by supporting and strengthening physicians' ability to practice high-quality patient care in a changing environment.

2016 Archive


Update: Dec. 16, 2016

A holiday message from the Treffert Center and an invitation to subscribe to the newsletter

Richard Wawro, King’s College ChoirThe Treffert Center opened in April, 2016 incorporating a savant syndrome library, an assessment clinic, a treatment clinic for autism and related disorders, and a school/academy. The center programs are described in detail at treffertcenter.com. Each month there is a newsletter describing programs and progress at the center. You can read Dr. Treffert’s column in the newsletter here, with a very appropriate holiday drawing by Richard Wawro, inspired by a Christmas Eve service he attended at King’s College in London. You can become a regular subscriber to the Treffert Center newsletter here, which will allow you to keep up with all the programs and progress at the center for persons with exceptional minds.

Update: Oct. 24, 2016

Hyperlexia lecture by Dr. Treffert available online

Doctor Treffert recently gave a lecture on hyperlexia and Einstein Syndrome at the Treffert Center titled “Oops! When ‘autism’ isn’t Autistic Spectrum Disorder.” It provides a definition, description and examples of hyperlexia 1, 2 and 3; underscores the need to be cautious when assigning an “autism” diagnosis prematurely and inappropriately to children who read early or speak late; suggests appropriate interventions to those children when necessary; provides examples of “success stories” with such children; and provides additional resources on the topic for concerned parents and professionals. Click here to view the lecture.

Update: Sept. 19, 2016

New guide to the musically gifted available for teachers and educators

Finally, there’s an extremely practical book outlining successful musical teaching techniques for the musically gifted autistic and/or savant pupil. Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism, was written by Susan Rancer, RMT, an experienced musical therapist with years of experience teaching such students, and Henny Kupferstein, a doctoral student in psychology with specialization in autism who herself is a musical savant with perfect pitch and synesthesia.

Autistic people with musical giftedness typically have perfect pitch, which provides accelerated learning opportunities but also comes with particular learning problems including significant difficulties in learning to read music. Thus the need for special approaches. Music teachers, parents and, most importantly, students will benefit from this treasure-trove of examples and advice for bringing out the most of the extraordinary gift that music can provide in and of itself for students, but also the conduit it can provide for gains in other areas as well including language, social and daily living skills.

The book is available through Amazon.com. Additional information is available here.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: Sept. 8, 2016

Oct. 3 lecture features Dr. Treffert and Jason Padgett

“In Search of the Rain Main Within Us All: The Amazing Acquired Savant Syndrome” is the focus of a lecture being presented Oct. 3 in Fond du Lac. Doctor Treffert and acquired savant Jason Padgett will be speaking at the Treffert Center from 2 to 4 p.m.

The event is free, but seating is limited and registration is required. Click here for more information.

Update: July 21, 2016

A Savant Skills Curriculum: Giftedness and Autism

For a number of years, Trevor Clark has been developing a curriculum especially tailored to advancing savant skills to promote better school performance and post-school employment. In this book, Exploring Giftedness and Autism, Dr. Clark provides a “how-to” manual for dealing with both the opportunities and challenges that savant skills present, from “splinter-skill” to prodigious levels.

Dr. Clark has had much success using a strength-based, rather than deficit-based approach in his many years with Autism Spectrum programs in Australia. He shares those useful strategies in this book, which also includes a foreword written by Dr. Treffert.

The book is available from the publisher, Routledge or Amazon.

Update: June 27, 2016

Treffert Center seeking key position

Now that the Treffert Center is up and running, we are seeking to fill an important evaluation and research position for both the savant syndrome and autism programs. We seek a qualified neuropsychologist, child psychologist, child psychiatrist, developmental neurologist or developmental pediatrician to carry out evaluations and assist in research projects in autism, savant syndrome and hyperlexia. Interested persons can e-mail Darold Treffert, MD.

Update: June 6, 2016

Temple Grandin lecture at Marian University

Temple Grandin, PhD, delivered the 9th Annual Treffert Autism/Savant Syndrome lecture at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis. on May 20, 2016. She spoke to over 700 attendees at the evening lecture, and spent time with staff and area educators at the Treffert Center earlier in the day. She also visited the Free Spirit therapeutic horse riding stable in Fond du Lac.

Dr. Grandin and Dr. Treffert began their involvement with autism in the 1950s—he as a clinician and she as a child with autism. She has gone on to be an expert on design of animal livestock handling facilities worldwide. At this stage in her adult life, Temple states her primary identity is being a college professor in animal science at Colorado State University and autism is secondary. Just as at the Treffert Center, Dr. Grandin focuses on strengths—not disabilities—in people with autism, teaching to their talent and gradually “stretching” expectations. To read more about her visit, click here.

You can access Dr. Grandin’s full lecture on the Treffert Center website or click here.

Update: June 2, 2016

What do battleships, light houses, sidewalks and health care organizations have in common?

One-half of Dr. Treffert’s medical career has been in clinical patient care; the other half has been in medical administration. In many ways those roles are the same, trying to get patients, and organizations, to realize their full potential. In this column published by the Fond du Lac Reporter, Dr. Treffert discusses two administrative lessons learned: re-arranging sidewalks to and from our services to best fit patient pathways, and being able to recognize, and deal with, sometimes harsh, but realistic realities facing organizations at differing points and periods of time.

Update: March 25, 2016

Temple Grandin at Marian University and the
Treffert Center

Temple Grandin will give a lecture at Marian University on May 20, 2016 in Fond du Lac, Wis. She also will visit the Treffert Center for a tour and book signing. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Click here for more details, including registration information.

Update: Feb. 29, 2016

News From the Treffert Center

The new Treffert Center (see Feb. 19 update below) seeks to preserve, make available and expand Dr Treffert’s legacy by inviting individuals, families and communities worldwide to explore the potential of the human mind, focusing on strengths rather than limitations. In this new seven-minute video, you can learn more about Dr. Treffert, including his upbringing, education and extensive experience with children with autism, as well as the mission of the Treffert Center.

You are also invited to subscribe to a new e-newsletter filled with important dates, information and insights from all areas of the Treffert Center. Click here to sign up.

Update: Feb. 23, 2016

NPR’s Hidden Brain explores hidden genius

Derek Amato had a concussion in a diving accident and immediately thereafter became an expert piano player, never having exhibited that talent previously. In an episode of the NPR program “Hidden Brain,” Derek tells the story and explores his case of acquired savant syndrome in his own words, with some comments by Dr. Treffert and Dr. Barry Kaufman.

Click here to listen to “Stroke of Genius: How Derek Amato Became a Musical Savant.”

Update: Feb. 19, 2016

The Treffert Center—a place for the study of exceptional minds

Doctor Treffert met his first savant in 1962 and has been engaged in research and public information about that extraordinary condition since then. This website (www.savantsyndrome.com) has been a gold mine resource for new cases and a great podium for research, public information and, most importantly, a place for information and support for these remarkable persons and their equally remarkable families. The movie Rain Man made “autistic savant” a household term; Dr. Treffert was a consultant to that excellent film.

In recent years Dr. Treffert has been in search of a place to house his huge library of videos, books, papers, publications, documentaries and savant artwork to preserve that collection and make it as available as possible resource to other researchers, journalists, students, media, families and the general public. Now Agnesian HealthCare and St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have established the Treffert Center to house those materials and expand research and information services.

The mission for the center can be accessed here, and a press release about the center can be accessed here. More information about the center can be accessed at www.treffertcenter.com. Now open, the center will have a Grand Opening later this Spring.

In recent years Dr. Treffert has expanded his interest in savant syndrome to research in autism, hyperlexia and other forms of exceptional brain function. In addition to the library portion of the center, focusing on those conditions, there will be an expanded autism assessment and treatment program and a pre-school.

The center is presently recruiting clinicians and research personnel for the autism assessment and treatment component, along with some “fresh, new explorers” to carry on Dr. Treffert’s work. Dr. Treffert can be reached at daroldt@charter.net

Update: Feb. 10, 2016

Rex Lewis Clack and savant syndrome

A detailed story on savant syndrome, featuring Rex Lewis Clack as a musical savant, was published recently on SPECTRUM—a leading source of news and expert opinion on autism research. In “Extraordinary minds: The link between savantism and autism,” author Linda Marsa explores the link between prodigy and savant syndrome and references Dr. Treffert’s work, as well as some other more recent studies suggesting savant syndrome may be more frequent than one in 10 persons with autism.

Following its publication on SPECTRUM, the article also appeared in The Atlantic, and can be accessed here.