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The savant syndrome: Genius and mental handicap combined

  • J. A. M. Schipperheijn (a1) and F. J. Dunne (a2)
Extract

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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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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Brink, T. L. (1980) Idiot savant with unusual mechanical ability: an organic explanation. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137, 250251.
Giray, E. F. & Barclay, A. G. (1977) Eidetic imagery: longitudinal results in brain-damaged children. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 82, 311314.
Hermelin, B. & O'Connor, N. (1983) The idiot savant: flawed genius or clever Hans? Psychological Medicine, 13, 479481.
Hill, A. L. (1977) Idiots-savants: rate of incidence. Perceptual Motor Skills, 44, 161162.
Horwitz, W. A., Deming, W. E. & Winter, R. F. (1969) A further account of the idiots savants, experts with the calendar. American Journal of Psychiatry, 126, 412415.
O'Connor, N. (1989) The performance of the ‘idiot savant’: implicit and explicit. British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 24, 120.
Tredgold, A. F. (1914) Mental Deficiency. New York: Wood.
Treffert, D. A. (1988) The idiot savant: a review of the syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 563572.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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The savant syndrome: Genius and mental handicap combined

  • J. A. M. Schipperheijn (a1) and F. J. Dunne (a2)
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