Approximately 10% of autistic individuals have what society calls a ‘special talent’ (also known as ‘savant abilities’, ‘savant syndrome’ or ‘savantism’).
People on the autistic spectrum are generally very good at pattern spotting and enjoy the predictability of patterns. They often have exceptional memories for non social, very specific detail. If the pattern that fascinates a person with autism is something society deems ‘special’ like music, maths or language, that person is deemed to have a ‘special talent’ and may be called a ‘savant’.
It is important to remember that all autistic people have strengths and weaknesses, whether or not the are classed as a ‘savant’. It is up to us to support them to make the best of their strengths, whatever they may be.
Some well known autistic savants of the 21st Century are:
- Stephen Wiltshire – an artist who specialises in architectural drawings.
- Daniel Tammet – who has exceptional talents in maths and language learning.
- Derek Paravicini – an exceptional pianist who is not only autistic but also blind.