Savant Syndrome

What is savant syndrome?

Savant syndrome is an unusual, but remarkably spectacular condition; despite of physical and mental disabilities, they can still do extraordinary things with their exceptional talent. Savant is known as a knowledgeable person in 1887; the word savant originated from a French word “savior” meaning “to know.”

savant syndrome



Savants could be mental handicaps, individuals with autism or having mental and physical illness. It happens when a lesser to normal intelligence exhibits a special talent or ability in a limited field. These talents can be seen at a young age.

Children having these conditions are prodigies and excel in their specific field. It usually affects males than females, 4 to 6 times. Mostly the skill shows in 5 common areas; calculating, art, music, use of calendars, mechanical/visual-spatial skills.

Causes of Savant syndrome

It’s been decades since Dr. J. Lagndon Down, is known for discovering and describing autism. Dr. J. Lagndon Down also first found out and introduced the point of idea in this remarkably spectacular case. Where in he, himself can’t even directly give a pathophysiological explanation why such phenomena happened to a particular person.

On the other hand, there are still several theories that can give hints why such phenomenon happened like; Eidetic Imagery, Inherited Skills, Concrete Thinking and Inability To Think Abstractly, and Left Hemisphere Damage, but still this following theory can’t explain all savants.

Researchers assumed that it’s also caused by an alteration in a gene or genes, and others consider it as a result by some kind of impairment to the left hemisphere of the brain, with assistance for this injury happening in the right hemisphere. The logic for the syndrome is not at all clear, however, it needs more intensive research study.

It’s sad to say that until now the cause of savant syndrome is still unexplainable, why it happened, where did this such talented and extraordinary skills came from, how can this develop, how come the brain will eventually forgot such skills, what really is going on in this brilliant and mysterious brain, were few questions that are still left unanswered.

Symptoms of Savant syndrome

Until now the extraordinary skills that savant person’s manifest, is still unexplainable. Others conclude that savants have eidetic (visually intense) memories. They manifest great capabilities on memorization. This theory is responsible for some savant skill, it backslashes to explain others.


The said skill can appear without notice and disappear without further explanation. The skills can be classified in 3 key categories; Talented Savants where the person shows an ability that is higher in contrast to their overall level of disability, Splinter Savants are persons that possess specific skills that stand in distinction to their overall level of functioning, lastly, Prodigious Savants, a rare form of the condition wherein the person’s brilliance or ability is not only astonishing in contrast to their disability, but would be more astonishing even if seen in a non-disabled person.

Another theory affirms that since savants cannot think abstractly, they result to rely on concrete thinking, conveying all their mental energy into a form of expression, may it be art form, music, calendars, mechanical/visual-spatial skills or calculations.

Others experts in the field also assumed that intelligence is not a single aspect, but rather that mental ability is distributed into multiple intelligence that is unrelated to one another. It is approved that it could explain further on how autism or mental retardation and savant skills coincide in one person.

Treatment of Savant syndrome

Savant syndrome doesn’t need any special treatment since it doesn’t have any threatening symptoms that could affect the daily activity of the savant and it is not a disorder or a disease condition. Savant skills can be used to gain attention as remarkably talented abilities and not seeing it as bizarre abilities.

What is really needed to be treated and managed is the underlying cause like Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and other CNS disorder. Savant syndrome is diagnosed when a person with lower IQ or intelligence or to those who are having mental and physical disabilities, would demonstrate such a talented and extraordinary skills.

On the other hand, David Skuse, Chair of Behavioural and Brain Sciences and leader of demanding gene study, has stated that “once the identity of the missing gene has been traced more precisely, the discovery is bound to have important implications for diagnosing and treating the condition” ( Mark Henderson The Times).

Prognosis of Savant syndrome

The extraordinary skills that a savant person possesses can be present in acertain span of time and can also disappear any time or in a very extraordinary case, special skills could still exist for a life time. Some study says that there has been a report of the savant skills that disappears when a gained skill is improved in other areas. There has been new researches that found out that these savant skills can be practiced and improved.

Source:

  • Savant Syndrome – Encyclopedia of Children’s Health at http://www.healthofchildren.com/S/Savant-Syndrome.html
  • http://www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/drhiles/Savant%20Syndrome.htm
  • http://syndromespedia.com/savant-syndrome-what-is-symptoms-treatment.html

Books:

Darold A. Treffert – (2000), Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome Cecil R. Reynolds, ‎

Elaine Fletcher-Janzen – (2007), Encyclopedia of Special Education


Ana Maria Rodriguez – (2008), Autism and Asperger Syndrome


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