What is Savant Syndrome? Types, and link with some mental disorders

The word savant means an individual who has an extraordinary aptitude in a particular field and is distinguished among others, despite having impairment in social functioning or intellectual functioning. This aptitude can be in fields like music, mathematics, etc.

Savant Syndrome

It is a rare condition seen in an individual who has several developmental disorders like autistic disorders, with an extraordinary talent and ability. This condition can either be genetic or acquired in children or adults. These skills can be seen coexisting with intellectual disabilities, neurodevelopmental disorders and even with other genetic disorders or brain injury or diseases which arise before, during or after pregnancy (SSM Health, n.d.).

Observations of Savant Syndrome:

Many observations are collected with the help of reports and studies and surveys. According to these reports conducted over the centuries, the observations are as follows:

  1. One in ten autistic individuals exhibit savant skills, even if the condition is rare.
  2. Males are more likely to have savant skills than females, with a ratio of 6:1 in comparison to the approximate 4:1 ratio of autistic disorder.
  3. Savant skills have an intrigued narrow range of special abilities
  4. Savant skills have a spectrum
  5. Prodigious memory is accompanied by these skills
  6. The condition can be either congenital i.e., genetic, or acquired
  7. These skills never fade or disappear, instead they are replicated and improvised to creation
  8. One theory cannot explain all the savant skills (Treffert, 2009).
Types of Savant Skills

There are several types of savant skills, the following skills are:

  1. Musical Talent: It is typically the most common savant skill. This includes playing piano with ears and with an almost perfect pitch every single time. Not only performing skills but also extraordinary composing skills are also documented.
  2. Artistic Talent: These usually include painting, drawing, etc. These skills are the second most common after musical talent. Several different forms can be sculpting, lightning calculations, or other mathematical skills, etc.
  3. Calendar Calculating: It is a very curious and conspicuous skill observed. It is also one of the most common among the savant skills. This skill includes being able to tell the day of the week on a particular date that has either been gone or will be coming in the future.
  4. Other skills: These skills are occasionally observed. This consists of multilingual acquisition, polyglot skills, exquisitely discriminating senses like smell or touch, accuracy in telling time without the help of a clock, etc. (SSM Health, n.d.).

In most cases, one specific skill is observed in an individual who has savant syndrome. But in a few cases, multiple skills also can be observed. May this skill be one or multiple in an individual, but it is always linked with an exceptional memory (SSM Health, n.d.).

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is referred to as a developmental disability. This disability is caused due to differences or changes in the brain. These people mostly have issues like social communication, and social interaction, and have restricted and repetitive behaviors. These people may have several other ways of learning, or movements, or being attentive (Signs & Symptoms | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) | NCBDDD | CDC, 2023).

Treatment for ASD with different approaches like behavioral, developmental, educational, psychological, pharmacological, socio-relational, etc. (Treatment and Intervention Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2022).

Autism and Savant syndrome

From a long observation, it has been observed that autistic people are more prevalent for having It. In an annotation, it was concluded that savant syndrome or savant skills are inseparable from autism (Heaton & Wallace, 2004).

As per statistical reports, it is seen that around 50% individuals who have savant skills fit in the criteria of ASD i.e., autism spectrum disorder. These savant skills occurrence in autism can be explained with the help of cognitive psychology. Few latest research in the field of neurocognition suggests that this occurrence of savant skills in autism has a major role of cerebral dominance pathologically, and also the difference in brain connectivity (ShuQin, 2013).

Savant syndrome without Autism

Mostly it is seen with autism rather than without autism. As per the data, one in ten autistic people have savant skills, whereas it can be seen 1 in 1400 non-autistic children. It is also observed that major neurocognitive disorders like dementia also show it, but they are acquired in nature. In the case of head injury rare conditions like foreign accent syndrome occur where savant skills are seen.

In this case, the individual starts speaking in a language that he did not know well before the injury. Some sudden savants are also recorded. Of 11 unexpected savants, 6 cases had coincidental scenarios. It was considered that things like menopause, traumatic stress, and fever may have contributed to it (Lovering, 2022).

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