Autism & Artistic Talent

Instructor: Monica Walker
Did you know that some individuals diagnosed with autism are considered artistic geniuses? Ten percent of individuals diagnosed with Autism have genius skills, compared with only one percent of the general population. Let's take a look at this phenomenon.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a range of developmental disorders with mild to severe symptoms. Individuals diagnosed with ASDs may have issues with communication, social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and extremely limited interests. Some symptoms of autism are low IQ, physical deficiencies, and an inability to understand social cues. ASDs are diagnosed in early childhood, often by age three. Scientists are uncertain what causes ASDs and currently there is no known cure for autism.

Savant Syndrome

Roughly ten percent of those diagnosed with autism will have savant syndrome. These individuals will possess inherent autistic savant abilities, generally first seen during early childhood. Common abilities include extensive mathematical calculations, memorization, and artistic or musical skills.

The latter group, artistic autistic savants, may play a musical instrument with perfect pitch or be able to play a piece of music in its entirety after only hearing it once. Another may see a landscape or cityscape and draw it in detail, without having taken art classes or entirely from memory.



Savant syndrome is not limited to persons diagnosed with autism. Individuals with other severe developmental disabilities, central nervous system disorders or injuries, and persons with IQ results in the mental retardation category also display genius skills. Savant syndrome is also thought to exist on a spectrum, with individuals exhibiting talents to differing degrees. Males are more likely to have autism, as well as savant syndrome, and both are correlated with difficult pregnancies.

One ability that features across all individuals with savant syndrome is a prodigious working memory, no matter the skill. Working memory involves the ability to hold and process an abundance of verbal and non-verbal information. It appears to be an intrinsic part of the syndrome. Research also shows that these individuals have an intense attention to detail.

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