Idiot-savants are people of low intelligence who have one or two outstanding talents such as calendar calculation, drawing, or musical performance. The syndrome occurs with high frequency among autistic children (autism is about four times commoner in boys), and the male to female ratio is about 6:1 suggesting a sex linked disorder (Hill, 1977). It is estimated to occur in 0.06% of the mentally handicapped population or about 1 in 2,000 of those living in institutions (Treffert, 1988). The gift starts apparently spontaneously between age 5 and 8 years. Frequently the parents claim that they themselves do not have the talent and know of no one in the family who has, but there is a tendency for savant skills to run in families, suggesting that genetic factors play a role.
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