Child Prodigies Might Owe Their Genius to Autism

Inspiring 7

When most of us think about children with autism, we think about kids who have trouble communicating, who can't empathize or read social signals, or who even don't like to be touched or make eye contact. We don't generally think about kids who can play Beethoven at 3 years old or paint like Picasso before they can walk. But a new study shows child prodigies, those with unfathomably early creative or intellectual gifts, could owe their genius to being on the autism spectrum. Finally, some good news about autism!

Autism has already been linked to "savantism" -- think of the movie Rain Man -- but being a savant and being a prodigy is different. Savants generally have severe social and intellectual impairments that make a normal life almost impossible, while prodigies don't. Prodigies in the new study showed astronomical attention to detail -- a classic autistic trait. Prodigies also scored high on memory -- they were able to juggle multiple ideas while incorporating new knowledge into their learning, which is another trait on the autism spectrum.

In other words, while many of the prodigies showed the typical traits of the genius, they also showed many typical traits of the autistic. Additionally, autism tended to run in the families of prodigies.

Of course, this doesn't really affect parents who are dealing with kids who have autism and don't show any traits of the prodigy. But it is good news for the study of autism in general. One out of 88 kids in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism, and this study shows that at least some of those kids will end up prodigies.

As our understanding of autism and its related disorder, Asperger's, becomes better, and its good points are studied as well as its not so good, it should become more apparent that autistic kids have their challenges -- but they may also have their incredible talents. I think this is just another way of saying that everyone is different, and we need to open up our minds to varying types of personalities.

Perhaps one day being autistic won't be a cause for insults, but for celebration.

Do you have a kid with autism? Does he or she show any amazing talents?


Image via Woodleywonderworks/Flickr

behavior, autism


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Rhond... RhondaVeggie

Old news. Genius is almost always accompanied by an issue like autism, SPD, or dyslexia. It's like the brain can only handle so much so if you are going to be highly intelligent or musically gifted then your brain needs to drop some social skills or some other processing skill to compensate.


Yup my son who has aspergers, has an amazing memory and astute attention to detail, among other gifts.  When he was 4 months old, I had one of those music players in his crib that played about 4-5 different songs when the baby pushed a button.  Back then we shared a room and I was laying down, and he was laying in his crib listening to his little music player and when the song ended, he would keep pushing that little button over and over again until he got back to the same song. He repeatedly did this routine until he fell asleep, amazing he remembered how many times to hit the button.

Samantha N Kevin

Yup, already knew this. My son is almost 3 and on the spectrum. He's a quirky kid. Has excetional physical skills, but says maybe 6 words at this point. However he has known the abcs since before 2 and could count to 20 and 100 by 10s since then as well. By 2 1/2 he could spell out what he wanted. I know he's gifted. It's a blast watching him grow up!

Lizbeth Sanchez Bueno

TT my son and he is all abouth this article, I may say he is part of the prodigies haha. I love him so much.

Dee McVicker

This is exactly what we dicover over and over again at Exceptional Minds, a working studio in LA and vocational school for young adults on the spectrum. Our students have an amazing abiilty to tend to detail and at the same time, see the big picture. They are incredibly creative and if they love their work, they work hard. .

Emma Pritchard

my son is 4 with ASD and has memorised all the countries in the world, and can tell you exactly where they all are. he has also memorised most of their flags!!

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