A savant is a person with a disability and an extreme ability.
Perhaps the best-known savant from popular culture was Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Rain Man”. He was a calendar/numerical savant. There are many types of savants – most prevalent in musical, artistic, and calendar/calculator savants. Even though they have prodigious skills in a specific area, savants are characterized as lacking many so-called life skills or social skills. The ultimate goal for any savant is to develop their gift and make them self-sufficient and self-supporting, if possible. Many developmentally and learning disabled children are savants and usually have an unusual ability to focus on a specific task. For example, musical savants have an insatiable appetite for music and an incredible attention span. All savants, no matter what kind they are, have perfect pitch.
Dr. Darold Treffert is the world’s expert on savant syndrome. His website has a wealth of information on his work with various musical savants. This site features further details about the research, lectures, and works of Dr. Treffert.
Sarah is a 12 year old girl who began reading at the ninth grade level in kindergarten. She is hyperlexic (can read at an early age, but does not possess comprehension). Although, she started studying piano at 3 years old and has perfect pitch, she had little interest in music. However, after she finished her piano series, her mother wouldn’t let her quit and suggested she start singing. Now she loves to sing and dance.Sarah – age 12
Devon also has perfect pitch. In my opinion savants are the hardest children to teach because they’re so gifted but so scattered. I am currently trying to teach Devon piano, which requires him to be attentive during our sessions. Working together, his mother and I are helping him control his behavior. I started him on a tone bell and he would grab the book which had letter names and sing on pitch from the book without hearing the song.Devon – age 6
Evan started studying piano at 3½ years old. Evan has amazing abilities: here are a few: he knew shapes and color by 8 months, he was reading by 18 months (able to spell backwards and upside down), he memorized the current Giants roster at 2½ years old, knew all states and capitals by age 3, looked up words in dictionary at 3½ years old and more. Evan was interested in engaging in music before he spoke. He knows all the family’s CDs by name and song number. He studied piano with me but had a hard time focusing, because he is easily distracted by the information on the page. He is a work in progress when it comes to learning piano.Evan – age 5
For the latest updates on Savant Syndrome, please visit Dr. Treffert’s website maintained through the Wisconsin Medical Society at www.savantsyndrome.com.