Fact sheet providing information on autistic savants,  a condition of Autism, an Autism Spectrum Disorder


A common misconception is that the autistic savant phenomenon is extremely common among autistic people. The term is used to describe a person who is autistic and has extreme talent in a certain area of study. There is a common association made between savants and autism, especially due to the 1988 film Rain Man. Historically these individuals were labeled 'idiot savants' in France as they were regarded as unlearned yet showing great skill (savant) in certain areas.


Estimates of the prevalence of this phenomenon range between 1% and 10%. Most autistic people are not savants, and savantism is not unique to autistic people, though there does seem to be some relation. Mental calculators and fast computer programming skills are the most common form, along with memory feats, musical skills, and artistic ability.


The estimated prevalence of savant abilities in autism is 10%, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population, including those with intellectual disability, is less than 1%.


A well known example is Daniel Tammet, the subject of the documentary film The Brain Man. It is interesting to note that Kim Peek, one of the inspirations for Dustin Hoffman’s character in the film Rain Man, is not autistic. Bright Splinters of the Mind is a book that explores this issue further.


cases of Autistic savantism

• Henriett Seth-F., Hungarian autistic savant, poet, writer and artist

• Derek Paravicini, blind British musician

• Alonzo Clemons, American clay sculptor
• Tony DeBlois, blind American musician

• Thristan Mendoza, Filipino marimba prodigy
• Leslie Lemke, blind American musician

• James Henry Pullen, gifted British carpenter
• Jonathan Lerman, American artist
• Jerry Newport is an author, savant, and has Asperger's syndrome
• Matt Savage, U.S. autistic jazz prodigy.


cause of Autistic savantism

Theories have been proposed to explain Autistic Savantism but none have been proved to date. A common explanation is that these skills arise from the person's ability to have intense focus and attention on a given area to the exclusion of all else.


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This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation. It is derivative of an autism and Asperger's syndrome-related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org

Cases of autistic savants are rare among children with Aspergers syndrome or Autism