Special Gifts and Talents: Non- Savant Autistics
Though all autistic individuals are not savants, there are instances of autistic people who have learned or developed a special skill or talent.
Autism, Art and Music
One young autistic man, Forrest Sargeant of Olympia, Washington is a photographer. His parents bought him a camera and were amazed at the beautiful, artistic images he captured without any assistance. He is nonverbal and considered severely autistic; his work has been featured in a prominent art gallery and he earns money from his photographs.
There are other cases of autistic children who take drawing, music, or painting lessons and easily master the skill. Many autistic individuals are very detail-oriented and possess strong memorization skills. They are able to use these abilities when engaging in a particular activity that is of high interest to them.
Talk to special education teachers of autistic children and they'll tell you that many of their autistic students have a natural inclination for mathematics. Their skill is usually in calculation. One young boy mother says he converts the letters of the alphabet into numbers from 1 to 26. He can then speedily add the numbers when given a series of letters. She states he also enjoys multiplying and dividing large numbers as well. Some autistic individuals can mentally add, subtract, multiply or divide large numbers, but have difficulty with comprehending a simple story.
Some parents help their autistic children to strengthen these skills by enrolling them in special math classes, purchasing educational materials and games, or getting their school district to test the child for giftedness and providing the mandated resources.
Many parents report that their autistic children have incredible memories. Children as young as three have memorized all the U.S. states and capitals, complex directions to favorite places or their home, the names of different cars makes and models, and a host of other things.
Teachers, therapists, and caregivers exploit the natural talent of their students. They engage them in repetitive trials to teach skills that may not be of interest to them, and find that the children are able to achieve a level of understanding because they remember specific procedures or rules and begin to apply them.
It must be stated again that all autistic persons do not possess some special skill or talent. It is one of the unfortunate myths perpetuated by movies, television, and the mainstream media.
These autistic individuals and their special talents should be nurtured and encouraged as should any child with a unique gift.