Einstein Syndrome: Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:03 Einstein Syndrome Definition
  • 1:01 Einstein Syndrome Misdiagnosis
  • 1:31 Einstein Syndrome…
  • 4:38 Einstein Syndrome Examples
  • 6:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

Just because a child is a late talker does not mean they are less intelligent; in fact, they could be exceptionally bright as is the case in Einstein syndrome. Learn the definition, characteristics, and examples of Einstein syndrome in this lesson.

Einstein Syndrome Definition

Beverly is losing sleep at night worrying about her 3-year-old son, Miles, who is hardly talking and can't form complete sentences like other 3-year-olds. She does a search on the Internet for answers and autism spectrum disorder comes up as a possible explanation for his lag in speech. Though, Beverly does not believe Miles is autistic. He's a wiz with puzzles and appears smart. So she wonders: why is he not talking?

Developed by American economist Thomas Sowell, Einstein syndrome describes late talkers who are highly intelligent and possess strong analytic skills and memory. In these exceptionally bright ''Einstein children'', visual-spatial skills emerge before verbal skills. The syndrome is named after mathematical and physicist genius Albert Einstein, who was a relatively late talker himself. Einstein's parents were so worried about his lag in speech that they consulted a doctor. Einstein's teachers reportedly said that he would not amount to anything due to his defiant behavior.

Einstein Syndrome Misdiagnosis

Many late talkers are seen as having cognitive or developmental delays, some even placed in the autism spectrum disorder category. In an interview with Dr. Stephen Camerata, a speech and language pathologist from Vanderbilt University, he expressed concern that too many bright and late-talking children were being misdiagnosed as autistic, leading to worried parents and misguided treatment techniques. He worried that these erroneous treatment techniques would stifle creativity and intelligence in these exceptional Einstein syndrome children.

Einstein Syndrome Characteristics

Many of the characteristics of Einstein syndrome children and persons have been compiled based on two major research studies: Thomas Sowell's research study of 46 children/families across the United States and Stephen Camerata's subsequent research study of 239 children across the United States. From Sowell's research, he wrote the book The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late which provided a wealth of knowledge on this syndrome. Characteristics of persons with Einstein syndrome include the following:

1. Most Cases Being Male

In both Sowell and Camarata's studies, an average of 86% of the late-talking Einstein syndrome children were male.

2. Parents or Relatives in Analytic Careers

Almost three fourths of the late-talking children in both Sowell and Camerata's research studies who were biological children of their parents and families had parents or close family members who were in an analytical field such as mathematics, accounting, engineering, physics, and music. A majority of these family members were engineers, interestingly enough.

3. Strong Analytic Skills

Einstein syndrome children tend to have strong mathematical, musical, and analytical skills. In Sowell's study, 67% of the parents with Einstein syndrome kids reported that their children were unusually good at doing puzzles. Fifty percent of parents in both Sowell and Camarata's studies reported that their children had extremely good memory. A handful of these parents even reported their children as having photographic memory. Strong computer skills were another analytical skill at which Einstein syndrome children excelled.

4. Parents with Higher Education

Fifty-nine percent of the Einstein syndrome parents in Sowell's research group had a college education, and 27% of those 59% had a post-graduate degree. Seventy-one percent of parents in Camarata's research study had a college degree. It is evident that children with Einstein syndrome tend to be highly educated and bright.

5. Late Talker Family Members

About a quarter of the Einstein syndrome children in Sowell's study, and almost half of the children in Camarata's study, had a close relative who was also a late talker.

6. Delayed Social Skills

Almost 50% (43% in Sowell's research study and 47% in Camarata's research study) of the children were reported to have below average social skills compared to a child without Einstein syndrome.

7. Delayed in Potty-Training

The average child potty trains between two and three years old, but toddlers and preschoolers with Einstein syndrome on average became potty-trained between the age of three and three and a half.

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Additional Activities

Writing Prompts on Einstein Syndrome

Prompt 1

As you just learned, there are certain characteristics that late-talking children share, a few of which are being male, demonstrating delayed social skills, and having a very short attention span. There have been so many notable individuals that, while late-talkers, proved to be highly intellectual individuals. In your case, is there anyone in your family or someone you know who was a late-talker? What characteristics associated with Einstein syndrome did he or she exhibit?

Prompt 2

Einstein syndrome is commonly misdiagnosed as autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, this syndrome is common to many different diagnoses. In fact, those with a known genetic disorder, such as Down syndrome, are late talkers. In light of this information, what makes Einstein syndrome different from ASD? Does genetics play an important factor in such differences? Support your argument with material reasons.

Prompt 3

James is two years old. While he doesn't talk, he does make sounds and use body language to communicate with the people around him. James has a knack for solving puzzles and actively enjoys playing with his siblings. His parents are having a harder time potty-training him, as opposed to his siblings.

On the other hand, Jacob, who is the same age as James, does say a few words; however, he doesn't use them to communicate. Instead, he repeats the words he does know over and over again. James has yet to figure out how to tell people what he wants. In this scenario, does James or Jacob show the characteristics of Einstein syndrome?

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