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In the mind of an autistic savant

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 In the mind of an autistic savant2005-02-15 15:50
13 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

From the Guardian:
Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it. He speaks seven languages and is even devising his own language. Now scientists are asking whether his exceptional abilities are the key to unlock the secrets of autism....

Tammet is calculating 377 multiplied by 795. Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think."...

Last year Tammet broke the European record for recalling pi, the mathematical constant, to the furthest decimal point. He found it easy, he says, because he didn't even have to "think". To him, pi isn't an abstract set of digits; it's a visual story, a film projected in front of his eyes. He learnt the number forwards and backwards and, last year, spent five hours recalling it in front of an adjudicator. He wanted to prove a point. "I memorised pi to 22,514 decimal places, and I am technically disabled. I just wanted to show people that disability needn't get in the way."

Yeah, you're doing that alright. The mind is an amazing thing. Of course, what savants can do indicates that it ought to be possible for anybody, if you knew how. Unfortunately, however amazing it is that he describes what goes on as he does it, that still doesn't make it teachable. Because he doesn't use any clever formulas or anything. But he obviously uses a kind of synesthesia that works, without much effort.


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13 comments

15 Feb 2005 @ 16:05 by jstarrs : That's beautiful...
...I remember seeing a programme about an autistic kid who was able to communicate his feelings by computor, by typing.
He stated that, for autistic people, for him, it was like living on an island that was surrounded by a sea of fearful monsters - you want to leave it but you are unable to. I thought that was an amazing analogy.
By the way, Swan [link]is interested in the subject of synestesia at the moment.
Arnold Mindell [link] (Process Work [link]) uses this method to explore unconsciousness signals in peoples processes.
When somebody is expressing him/herself in a certain sense (auditive, visual etc) like saying 'you see what I mean?' and 'I see this image...' etc, then he will ask the person to imagine what that would be like if, for example, he could hear that, or feel that, or smell that.
By making the person use the dormant sense to express themselves, often valuable subconscious material is brought up, about the process.  



15 Feb 2005 @ 16:15 by ming : See what I mean
Now, from NLP I've learned to pay close attention to that kind of thing. People generally do (in their mind) what their words reveal, and more. So, if one says "I see what you mean", then one is actually seeing it, visually. One might not consciously be aware of what exactly one is seeing, but it can be dug up with a little prodding. It is fascinating that we generally all are using specific perceptions to structure our thinking. Lots of people will claim that they don't, that they just "think" or they just "know", but under the surface we can always find that they're using pictures, sounds, feelings, smells, etc, and they're structuring them in certain sequences that arrive at a result. For example, to make a decision, somebody might compare a picture they imagine with a number of pictures they remember, and they might tell themselves something about it, and then they get a certain feeling in their body. Depending on what feeling it is and where it is, they conclude that it is "yes", "no", "true", "false", "good", "bad", or anything more complicated. But, most people, if you ask them casually, they'll deny that there's any kind of sequence of perceptual representations involved. But there is.

And it seems that when people arive at some level of genius in some field, it often involves some kind of synesthesia. They do something extraordinary in combining different perceptions, after which it becomes natural and effortless to do what they're doing.  



15 Feb 2005 @ 21:30 by Klaus Gormsen @195.47.133.234 : autism
Flemming what do you mean by "Anestassia"?
Klaus  



15 Feb 2005 @ 22:29 by ming : Anestassia, Synesthesia
Ha, that was my (new) spell check feature that went crazy there. I wrote synestesia, and thought I corrected it to synesthesia, but apparently it had a better idea. Anyway, now I corrected it back for real.  


23 Feb 2005 @ 19:26 by quirkeboy @209.92.185.199 : Science Channel to feature this guy..
Just wanted to let you know.. I think that theres a program tonight on the Science Channel about this kid:
[link]  



16 May 2005 @ 07:10 by Jack @67.167.153.186 : Daniel Tammet
I just watched that program tonight about Daniel. I saw him on the Late Show with David Letterman and was quite interested. I was just flipping through channels and saw him. Synesthesia seems to me one of the most intriguing concepts I have come across in quite some time. I am almost soothed by the idea of it. I can't explain it but it is very calming and relaxing to me. Just my thoughts. I needed to share them.  


3 Dec 2005 @ 08:33 by Mike @80.99.165.111 : Seth F. Henriett is new autistic savant
I just read that Seth F. Henriett, an autistic savant girl's book. It was very beautiful! This girl's novel title is: Autizmussal önmagamba zárva -in English: Closed myself with autism. This book contains paintings an photos, that made an Hungarian autistic genius girl. Read her book, I recommend to you!  


5 Dec 2005 @ 13:19 by Mike,british citizen, research of talent @193.224.44.167 : Seth F. Henriett is new autistic savant
I did't know till 2005 autistic savant, who lives in which in poor country, as Hungary. But Seth F. Henriett, Hungarian autistic savant 's book (Autizmussal onmagamba zarva)I have already read, "es elajultam tole". That I wrote in Hungarian, because I also lived in Hungary. (Sorry, but I did'nt know to learn perfect in English, because I speak only Hungaryan (because I lived in Hungary till 2003), and now I live Great - Britain.
Seth F. Henriett, the Hungarian autistic savant excellent writer, because in autistic people was not writer or poet never!  



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