Savant (Encyclopedia of Science)
Savant is a name used to describe a person who has extraordinary skills in a very specialized area, but who is nonetheless intellectually disabled. It properly describes a rare phenomenon or syndrome in which a person with a severe mental handicap displays genius-like ability in a narrow field or area.
The award-winning movie Rain Man brought attention to a mental condition in which a person, who is barely able to care for himself and who has trouble doing even the simplest tasks, can also be a prodigy in one specialized area. What distinguishes these rare individuals is that though mentally handicapped overall, they possess the ability to do one thing brilliantly, a talent that would be considered spectacular and extraordinary even if it were found in a person of normal abilities. It is a true puzzle to see a person who may be unable to interact normally with other people or who might never change his or her clothes or take a shower unless told, display phenomenal calculating, artistic, or musical ability.
The term "idiot savant" was first coined in 1887 by British physician John Langdon Haydon Down (1828896), after whom the genetic disorder Down syndrome was named. At that time, doctors actually used the word "idiot" to describe someone whose IQ was below a certain level....
(The entire section is 1097 words.)
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Savant Syndrome (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
A condition characterized by a combination of below normal intelligence and extraordinary mental abilities in one or a few narrow areas.
Persons who display savant syndrome have traditionally been called idiot savants, a term that many currently avoid because of its negative connotations. Alternate terms include retarded savant and autistic savant, the latter referring to the fact that savant syndrome is often associated with autism. It is difficult to arrive at an exact figure for the incidence of savant syndrome. A 1977 study found the incidence among the institutionalized mentally handicapped in the United States to be 0.06 percent of the population, or one in roughly 2,000. Most savants are males.
Savant skills occur in a number of different areas. Savants with musical abilities demonstrate an excellent ear for music from an early age, often including perfect pitch. They are able to reproduce melodies and even entire compositions with great accuracy and often show considerable performing talent, including both technical and interpretive skills. Others show unusual talent in the visual arts, which may include the ability to produce life-like reproductions at a very young age, when most children can turn out only primitive drawings. Some savants demonstrate a computer-like ability to perform difficult mathematical...
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Savant Syndrome (Encyclopedia of Children's Health)
Savant syndrome occurs when a person with below normal intelligence displays a special talent or ability in a specific area.
Children who display savant syndrome have traditionally been referred to as idiot, retarded, or autistic savants. The negative connotations of the term "idiot" have led to the disuse of idiot savant. Because the syndrome is often associated with autism, the term autistic savant is more frequently heard. The first known description of a person displaying savant syndrome occurred in a German psychology journal in 1751. The term savant was first used in 1887 by J. Langdon Down (the doctor for whom Down syndrome is named).
About half of all children with savant syndrome are autistic. Approximately 10 percent of all children with autism have savant syndrome. The rate increases to 25 percent of children with autism who have an IQ over 35. (Many autistic children have lower IQs.) About three times as many boys as girls have savant syndrome. This may be because more boys than girls are affected with autism. Less than 1 percent of the non-autistic population, including those with mental...
(The entire section is 657 words.)