Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Differently Abled

The link between savant syndrome and autism is well established. This economists.com article called "Genius locus," points to a recent study that reinforces this conclusion. It says that as many as 30% of autistic people have some kind of savant type capability in areas like math or music. Autism symptoms like poor communication skills, and obsession with detail are also exhibited by creative types in science, engineering, music, and the arts.

The standard diagnosis requires three things: 1) impairment in social interaction, 2) difficulty in communicating with others, and 3) restrictive and repetitive behaviors and interests. May experts believe that it is the third feature that is related to savant syndrome. Obsessional interests and repetitive behaviors give autistic people the edge in developing keen powers of observation and other skills.

I really like they way the article ends:

Nothing comes for nothing, it seems, and genius has its price.

Savant syndrome, then, is a case where the politically correct euphemism “differently abled” has real meaning. The conclusion that should be drawn, perhaps, is not that neurotypicals (neurologically normal) should attempt to ape savants, but that savants—even those who are not geniuses—should be welcomed for what they are, and found a more honored place in society.

From Greg Mankiw's blog a book recommendation:

A Different Kind of Boy by Daniel Mont
and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I read and liked a lot. One caveat there is a spoiler alert on for some of the comments on amazon.

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