Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant is written by Daniel Tammett, one of only 50 or so recognized autistic savants in the world. In his first-person account, Tammett explicates how his mind works, liberating it from common misconceptions about autism that treat it as a unilaterally negative condition or disease.
Tammett first explains that his mind works differently than the average individual's because it is less flexible, easily getting stuck on various routines; and less empathetic, fixated mostly on the self's observation. Some people choose to see these features as debilitating, and hand people with autism a pessimistic prognosis.
Hammett challenges negative views of autism, explaining that it renders him able to memorize and perform calculations far faster and more accurately than the average individual without autism. He gives examples from his personal life where he accomplished extreme cognitive feats; these include learning the Icelandic language in one week, and memorizing pi to the 22,514th digit, setting a record in Europe. Hammett also dives into certain perceptual differences he experiences, especially synesthesia, in which different types of sensory information easily substitute for each other. Hammett's synesthesia allows him to see numbers, ordinarily thought of as purely mathematical concepts, as shapes and colors.
Tammett punctuates his story of being an autistic savant with recollections from a frustrating childhood, in which he was bullied and ostracized for being different. He overcame these obstacles and went to teach in Lithuania, later developing a website to educate users and managing to cultivate a romantic relationship—all things he had once never imagined were possible. Tammett ends the novel by discussing the avenues of autism research that are possible to explore, and validates the stories of other people who have autism, arguing that they provide critical knowledge that will help improve future models of the brain.