By Darold Treffert, MD
At age 5, Boone is a veteran web-surfer, and he has his own website. His forte is drawing clocks — lots and lots of clocks — using computer programs, especially Paint Shop Pro which he began to use at age 2. According to his mother, Boone began designing and installing wallpaper for her desktop at about 18 months of age. He has always been obsessed with clocks. His mother states Boone’s first words were numbers which he called out one day, unexpectedly, as the second hand swept around the dial of their kitchen clock. “He was never told what numbers were,” his mother says, “He just seemed to know.” He can tell time in both regular and military time (even though he’s seen a military watch once). He can also estimate time without reference to a clock with good accuracy.
Boone started his clock drawings with fewer numbers, and in Arabic style. But on July 21, 2001, at age 4, Boone drew a clock with Roman numerals. “We don’t have a clock with Roman numerals,” his mother states. As can be seen from the following examples, at age 4, Boone was using Roman numerals from I to XII, but at age 5 was using Roman numerals from I to XXIV. According to experts on such clocks, it seems unlikely that Boone would have copied such a clock as his model, since such Roman numeral clocks typically use I to XII, and then I to XII again, rather than Boone’s system — a system of numbering he somehow learned by himself. But how?
Clocks are Boone’s main obsession but he is also fascinated by ceiling fans, 1-800 numbers, books, fast food restaurant names, logos of all sorts and street signs to name a few. “Autistics are obsessive in their interests,” Boones mother states, and Boone certainly fits that description. At age 5 Boone now reads well. He can name the capitols of most states and countries and name the currency for most countries along with populations, areas and highest points for many countries. He can build a clock from parts purchased at arts and crafts shops. Obviously he enjoys immensely designing his own clocks.
He is especially sensitive to loud noises and violence of any sort including plane crashes or storms, for example. He enjoys sharing his work with others, and has learned to date and alphabetize his own work and delights in his web page at http://home.isoa.net/~nitetrax/aboutboone.htm
One of Dr. Down’s original savants described by him in 1887, was a 17-year-old boy who “although not understanding, as far as I could gather, the use of a clock-face, could tell the time to a minute at any part of the day, and in any situation.” Ellen, described elsewhere on this site, has that same capacity and this special skill continues to be reported in some other instances since Down’s original case. In that sense Boone’s special interest in clocks, and time, is fascinating indeed. One wonders, in a more general sense, whether there might be a relationship, in savants, among the frequently reported special skills of perfect appreciation of passing time without reference to a clock, calendar calculating and perfect pitch. Atomic clocks are based, after all, on oscillations, as is perfect pitch, and calendar calculating dates back to early times when the only ‘clock’ was the celestial timepiece of the sun and the seasons. Who knows?
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