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After hearing it for the first time, while listening to a television movie several hours earlier. Lemke had never had a piano lesson--and he still has not had one. He is blind and developmentally disabled, and he has cerebral palsy. Lemke plays and sings thousands of pieces at concerts in the U.S. and abroad, and he improvises and composes as well. (ISLAND) Kim Peek is a walking encyclopedia. He has memorized more than 7,600 books. He can recite the highways that go to each American city, town or county, along with the area and zip codes, television stations and telephone networks that serve them. If you tell him your date of birth, he can tell you what day of the week it fell on and what day of the week it will be when you turn 65 "and can retire." Peek can identify most classical compositions and knows the date the music was published or first performed as well as the composer's birthplace and dates of birth and death. He is also developmentally disabled and depends on his father for many of his basic daily needs. His abilities provided the inspiration for the character Raymond Babbitt, whom Dust in Hoffman played in the 1988 movie Rain Man. (ISLAND) EXIGENCY--Lemke, Wawro and Peek all have savant syndrome, an uncommon but spectacular condition in which people with various developmental disabilities, including autism, possess astonishing islands of ability and brilliance that stand in jarring juxtaposition on to their overall mental handicap. Finding what they are capable of is amazing; however, beyond the mere wonder lie the questions of more significance .what could it be that makes a mentally retarded person have the extraordinary skills? Is this what is termed as servant syndrome?
The figure above indicates I the result of an experiment conducted to determine whether savants calculate mathematically or memorize the dates of particular events. The periods under consideration are further classified as close, medium or far periods.
Analysis of servant syndrome
Savant syndrome is the condition in which a person with low intelligence or IQ posses extraordinary skill than expected from them. Savantism is the condition in which persons with mental disorders are acquitted with abilities and expertise that contrasts their limitations. The above par possession of such skills usually leads to very many questions as to what could be the underlying reasons and factors for such an observation. Though the skills and talents are desirable, the fact that the persons with such skills are mentally retarded still makes one think on what could treat the mental disability and promote the skills. Majority of those having the syndrome are men i.e. a ratio of 5men:1woman has been established from research. Most of the savant syndrome individuals have been very instrumental in the artistic performance. Biologically it can be explained from the chromosomal mutation of XY and xx in men and women respectively where men are at a greater risk as they either get infected or be normal while women can actually be normal or carriers. According to Transy and Legrain (1995), "50% autistic servants have savant syndrome whereas only a mere 1% comes from the rest with mental retardation." To the surprise of many people, persons with this syndrome have displayed best performances in big ceremonies by managing to play more than one musical instruments and at the same time doing the singing.
From figure1, talents are better kept if habit of practicing is made. Elderly people with disabilities seem more comfortable than young people with similar disabilities. More still is the ability of savants to design the structures of many cities and draw to scale the constructions and buildings. Some have the ability to measure distances minus using the instruments that are needed for use.
The term savant syndrome has gone several evolutions before researchers could adopt it as the most desired as per the today. According to a researcher called Treffert, "Roughly half of all the people with the syndrome have autistic disorder whereas the remaining half face development disability referred to as mental retardation or brain injury." Treffert (1999). Various researchers therefore conclude that savant syndrome and autistic syndrome have a link .In 1887 the term was referred to as idiot savant term that was seen to contradict in meaning the extraordinary talents possessed by the individuals. Again it was found out that not all the reported cases involved persons with mental disorders therefore leading to the extinction of the term. The condition was further described as autistic savant when diagnosing for the disorder. This term was also later seen as misnomer given that only half of the people with the disorder were autistic. This therefore led to the general acceptance of the term savant syndrome as the most appropriate.
What has become of great worth is the interest that scientist and researchers have made in order to get further knowledge about the syndrome. The clout of the research is based upon the fact that the findings will help uncover the different kind of memories the brain has. It also enables one to determine the intellectual unique intelligence that each and every individual is endowed with. Research about the syndrome is likely to be stepped up by the desire to get to tap the talents into more productive purposes and to help in the comprehending of the autistic individuals.
The chart above illustrates the findings made when 364 children were diagnosed to confirm the proportion meeting autistic characteristics and their parental data on special skills noted. It was revealed that out of a sample of 137, only 90 were found to have their parental special skills available.
Other talents that have been displayed by persons with this syndrome include the ability to master the history of various nations by knowing the exact dates when different events occurred and the personalities involved. The syndrome may also come with the creativity of being able to learn and speak very many languages at a very short duration. Some of the young people with this syndrome have as well managed to constitute poems and do the recitation with much ease. Moreover the syndrome has enabled many of the persons with mental disability to do architectural drawings and others have been in a position to be innovative in the design of various construction structures and even managed to construct very admirable houses for those with much wealth.
Theories of servantism
The question that rings across minds of many researchers is that what could cause a mentally retarded person get endowed with the specific talents that are not common even with those high intelligent. Several theories have thus been developed to help in giving the answers to the various reasons. Despite the theories much more research are on the pipeline to unveil the possible factors that cause the syndrome. The first theory developed explains that some savants are endowed with eidetic memories. Eidetic memories are the high visual memories that enable the servant to recall the situations and circumstances that they have experienced. In as much as the theory manages to explain concretely the ability to possess the talents, it suffers the drawback that it fails to explain some forms of talents possessed by savant syndrome persons.
Another argument for the cause of the syndrome is that the autistic persons receive only a limited amount of sensory stimulation a fact that can be explained biologically. Similarly, savant persons experience a high level of isolation from the normal beings. This gives them the ample time to give their full attention to limited situations as compared to the duration normal individuals could give. This explains why autistic individuals possess talents normal people are unable to have. The theory also suffers the disadvantage that it fails to explain all situations of savant syndrome.
The third theory asserts that intelligence is not a single quality. Rather it is a multiple one. Pundits therefore claim that if this real and true then it is possible for a mentally retarded person to possess other qualities that are incompatible with their low intelligence. They further explain that it is possible for an autistic individual to inherit two kinds of gene: one for mental retardation and the other for the special quality. However critics of this theory claim that most families where autistic individuals are born had no such characters before and therefore it is not a matter of genetic inheritance. This theory as well fails to give a complete explanation to the cause of savant syndrome.
Another theory for the explanation of this observation believes that the inability of autistic individuals to think abstractly gives them the ability to concentrate on concrete thinking. "Abstract thinking entails the ability to comprehend things like justice, love, truth and comradeship." Young and Nettelbeck (1995). They therefore give their full attention to concrete ideas e.g. art, history, calendar and calculations. Researches further argue that the retarded mentality could be due to the damage on the part of brain that control language and supports abstract thinking. The theory believes that the part of the brain that is not damaged compensates for the damaged part. This theory is also refuted that some savants have no damage on the brain and therefore not sufficiently giving total argument.
Moreover it is also explained that the talents are as a result of natural compensation. That because these persons lack intelligence in some other areas and must therefore be compensated in the ones they posses. The theory believes that the principles of equity provide that one cannot be endowed with all characters and therefore those lacking some are abundantly blessed in others.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of the syndrome is always given when a person is realized to be having expertise contrasting to his level of intelligence i.e. the extraordinary talents displayed are not what is expected of a normal person of that state. There is no treatment for the disorder as the abilities and talents displayed are desirable and what remains a challenge is how best the talents can be tapped. What remains a worry is how to treat the conditions that are as a result of the conditions; the anomalies. Suggestions and prescription is given that one way of minimizing the disorders that are as a result of the condition is by making the optimal use of the talents that are associated with the syndrome. "What has been proved is that the talents are permanent and does not disappear with time when practiced." Pring and Hermelin (2002). The talents should thus be harnessed for maximum productivity. Again there is proved means of preventing the syndrome.
Summary and Recommendations
It can be categorically stated that disability is not inability. What therefore need to be done is to get the means of supporting those with savant syndrome. Research institution and academies should be constituted to help further the research and harness the talents respectively. These kinds of institutions should as well be charged with the obligation of looking into how best the talents can be tapped in the society. Research institute on the other hand should continue to further research on ways in which the disabilities as a result of the syndrome can be controlled. The government should also be in a position to provide material support to the mentally disabled e.g. the cost of purchase of equipments that are needed by the savants should be tax free to make them further affordable. These incentives will as a result make those with the skills proud to identify with their abilities.
The government as well must not remain behind. It should rise above the discriminatory aspects and support the talents in the best ways possible. The general public also has a role in understanding the diverse characters in the society and in specific become supportive where necessary. "Discrimination and unnecessary isolation to the savant persons should be refrained at all cost..." Derry et al. (635-644), advices. The public should be further sensitized on the need to take individuals with disabilities as part of the society. Other issues that need to be considered is the need to allocate enough funds for the research and the need to have legislation that are aimed to protect the property rights of savant individuals.
In conclusion, it is necessary that we realize that the talents that is possessed by autistic individuals is not an abnormality but a condition that must be protected and tapped in a way that will be useful to the society. The talents must as well be enhanced and improved for them to make the best out of it.
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