Savant syndrome – the upside of autism

For many parents, learning that their child has autism is a crushing news. Those parents will focus on the difficulties the child will face, starting with sensory processing issues, and ending with problematic social skills. However, autism isn’t only accompanied by difficulties. Autistic children are often very intense about pursuing their passions and interests. And some are so-called savants.

What is the Savant syndrome?

In this syndrome, a person who has autism or significant brain damage and has trouble leading normal, independent life, becomes proficient in an area such as mathematics, music, memory, or art. This proficiency is so extraordinary that these people are hailed as geniuses.

No one knows the exact cause of the Savant syndrome. About a half of savants have autism – and the other half some kind of brain damage. The most popular kind of savant is the calendrical savant: a person who can calculate rapidly the day of the week on a specific date. They also often have an absolute recall and can remember what they did on any given day in their life.

Blessing in disguise

While autism is often accompanied by problems which require physiotherapy and even medication, special abilities unavailable to normal human beings make these problems less of an issue. It is true, that real genius savants who can achieve considerable success in their field are rare, but it is a fact that autism often is accompanied by a special skill or ability.