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2017 Archive

Update: Nov. 2, 2017

Could someone with autism be a superstar surgeon?

This guest blog from Scientific American provides a history of savant syndrome from its beginnings as “idiot savant” in 1887—and even earlier—to its present form of exceptional brain performance.

Update: Oct. 24, 2017

‘The Good Doctor’

ABC television’s new series The Good Doctor features a character—Dr. Shaun Murphy—having both autism and savant syndrome. In her article for Bustle.com, Alaina Urquhart-White relies in part on an article by Wisconsin-based physician Darold Treffert, MD, a globally renowned expert on savant syndrome and research director of the Treffert Center in Fond du Lac, Wis., to clarify the myths and realities of portrayals of autism and savant syndrome through characters like Murphy, as well as other well-known portrayals in television and film. Click here to read Dr. Treffert’s article Savant Syndrome 2013—Myths and Realities.

Update: Oct. 2, 2017

Treffert presents TEDx talk on ‘Accidental Genius’

Doctor Treffert was a featured speaker during TEDxFondduLac, an independently organized event in the spirit of the TED Conferences mission of “Ideas worth spreading.” Held August 19 in Fond du Lac, the event sold out in just over six hours and featured 14 speakers across a variety of platforms and demographics.

Doctor Treffert’s talk, “Accidential Genius,” focused on savant syndrome, including the acquired savant—a condition he describes as, “a situation in which ordinary people like you and me have some kind of a brain injury or brain incident at which time some new ability—musical, artistic or math—emerges spontaneously and explosively.”

Click here to watch Dr. Treffert’s TEDx talk.

Update: Sept.27, 2017

Boulder sculptor Alonzo Clemons featured on
ABC 7-Denver

Wisconsin physician and savant syndrome expert Darold Treffert, MD, research director of the Treffert Center in Fond du Lac, Wis. is interviewed by Jaclyn Allen of ABC 7-Denver about sculptor Alonzo Clemons, considered to be one of less than 100 “prodigious savants” in the world. Click here to watch the ABC 7 segment on Clemons and read the article. Click here to read more about Alonzo Clemons.

Update: Sept. 21, 2017

Online Lecture: The Incredible Savant Syndrome

The Kavil Institute for Brain and Mind and the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) sponsored a conference titled Extraordinary Variations of the Human Mind in La Jolla, California in May. Doctor Treffert presented a lecture at that conference titled “The Incredible Savant Syndrome.” That 18-minute lecture can be accessed below:


Update: Aug. 1, 2017

Hyperlexia Web Sites

The journey for proper evaluation and intervention for children who read early—hyperlexia—can be a confusing and frustrating one for concerned parents. This WMJ article, published in 2011, has received wide distribution separating hyperlexia into types 1, 2 and 3. Type 1 are neurotypical children who read early. Type 2 are children on the autism spectrum, where fascination and pre-occupation with numbers and letters are part of the total autism cluster of symptoms. Type 3 are children who, for a period of time, have that same pre-occupation with letters and numbers, and some other “autistic-like” symptoms for a period of time. Those “autistic-like” symptoms fade over time with very successful outcomes. These children, as it turns out, are not on the spectrum.

The mother of a type 3 child has established a web site at hyperlexia3.com that parents of hyperlexic children might find useful whichever type their child fits into. There is also a Facebook site for parents of children with hyperlexia that such parents might find useful as well.

Also, just published is Hyperlexia Manual: A Guide to Children Who Read Early through the Treffert Center. It is available in either PDF or hard copy form through inquiry at treffertcenter@agnesian.com

Update: July 11, 2017

An amazing example of brain plasticity

Noah was born with only a thin rim of cortical tissue, less than two percent of normal. He was given little chance to live and certainly no chance of normal development. Yet, with less than two percent of cortical tissue, he survived and developed normally with tremendous input from a very determined mother. That he developed normally is astounding, but even more astounding is that a CT scan three years later showed an abundance of cortical tissue itself on a CT scan where only cerebrospinal fluid existed before. Video documents the developmental progress. This clinical case, like Dandy-Walker syndrome, shows that estimates that we use only ten percent of our brain capacity are underestimates. Click here to read more.

Update: May 2, 2017

Hyperlexia Manual: A Guide to Children Who Read Early

Based on his work with Hyperlexia 1, 2 & 3 forms, Dr. Treffert and others from the Treffert Center have published Hyperlexia Manual: A Guide to Children Who Read Early. It provides information and guidance for parents, teachers and clinicians regarding careful diagnosis, interventions and outcome of children who read early. A paper on hyperlexia, which appeared in WMJ here has been an often-cited article raising awareness of hyperlexia and caution about assigning an autism spectrum diagnosis in all children who read early. Not all children who read early or speak late are autistic.

Update: March 29, 2017

Scientific American: Autism’s “Island of Intactness”

The March 8, 2017 Scientific American guest blog featured Dr. Treffert’s blog post Autism’s “Island of Intactness”. Within each person with autism, however impaired, there is an “island of intactness” often deeply hidden. The challenge is to discover that island of intactness and then nourish it, reward it, celebrate it and watch it grow. With that growth comes better communication and language abilities, increased socialization, improved daily living skills and overall progress toward independence. Sometimes that island is very basic; at other times it is an island of genius as seen in savant syndrome. In either case, watching the growth and outcomes of these islands makes the search for strength in people with autism very worthwhile.

You can access the blog here.

Update: March 20, 2017

Ping Lian Yeak lecture

Each year Marian University presents a program in the Treffert lecture series. This year it will feature artist Ping Lian Yeak, his mother and Rosa Martinez from StrokesofGeniusInc.org who have worked with Ping Lian Yeak for over ten years. Each of those presenters returned to Fond du Lac ten years after participating in the Windows of Genius Exhibit in 2007. Click here to learn more about Yeak’s upcoming lecture.

Update: Feb. 28, 2017

New website for the Treffert Center

The Treffert Center has established a new web site at treffertcenter.com. Posted there is information and links to the several services at the Treffert Center: an extensive library on savant syndrome and related areas of exceptional brain performance; assessment and treatment services for autism, other developmental disorders and hyperlexia; and the Treffert Academy, a strength-based school for neurotypical children as well as children with special needs. The site also carries blogs and access to research activities of the center.

The Little Black Doctor’s Bag
This blog from the Treffert Center can be accessed here. While some of the instruments may be obsolete and outdated, the bedside manner and mission remain the same: to cure sometimes, to help often, to comfort always.

Update: Feb. 24, 2017

Jason Padgett: a remarkable acquired savant

Jason Padgett suffered a head injury in a mugging incident. Following that he experienced new synesthesia, an interest and compulsion to draw, and a knowledge and understanding of mathematics, particularly fractals. There had been no such interest or ability pre-injury. His fascinating story can be viewed HERE with all of its implication for actualizing dormant potential within us all.