"Autistic savant" refers to individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons. There are many forms of savant abilities. The most common forms involve mathematical calculations, memory feats, artistic abilities, and musical abilities. A mathematical ability which many autistic individuals display is calendar memory. Examples of some memory feats include: remembering everything about presidents (birth/death, term in office, names and birth dates of family members, cabinet members, etc.), memorizing the U.S. highway system, and remembering everyone's birth date, even after meeting the person once and not seeing him/her for 20 years.
The movie Rain Man exposed millions of people to autism as well as the autistic savant phenomenon.The reason why some autistic individuals have savant abilities is not known. There are many theories, but there is no evidence to support any of them. For example, Dr. Rimland speculates that these individuals have incredible concentration abilities and can focus their complete attention to a specific area of interest. Admittedly, researchers in psychology feel that we will never truly understand memory and cognition until we understand the autistic savant.
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