* Gold Medal Winner in the Psychology / Mental Health Category of the 2011 IPPY Awards *
* Silver Medal Winner in the 2010 BOTYA Awards Psychology Category *
Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which individuals with developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, have one or more areas of expertise, ability, or brilliance - "islands of genius" - that exist in contrast with their overall limitations. In this fascinating book, Dr. Darold Treffert looks at what we know about this remarkable condition, and at new discoveries that raise interesting questions about the hidden brain potential within us all.
Dr. Treffert explores the phenomena of genetic memory - instances in which individuals somehow "know" things they never learned - and sudden genius or "acquired savantism" - where a neuro-typical person unexpectedly and spectacularly develops savant-like abilities following a head injury or stroke. Showing that these phenomena point convincingly towards a reservoir of untapped potential - an inner savant capacity - within us all, he looks both at how savant skills can be nurtured, and how they can help the person who has them, particularly if that person is on the autism spectrum. A central colour section contains the extraordinary artwork of some of the savants who are mentioned in the book.
Islands of Genius will intrigue anyone who has ever wondered what makes the mind of a savant tick, as well as clinicians, parents, teachers, therapists, and others who care for, and about, individuals with savant syndrome.
Darold Treffert's Islands of Genius provides a fascinating and richly detailed account of the clinical and neuropsychological aspects of savant syndrome, the presence of very unusual abilities in persons with developmental disabilities. Treffert shares his lifetime of interest and learning, through clinical work and research, about persons with savant syndrome in this well-organized, timely, and respectful work... Here is a respectful, humanistic, optimistic book written by a master clinician-scientist who sees the whole person: history, gifts and challenges, environment, relationships. The book is a fascinating read that can be easily accessed by college students, professionals, and people in the general population who are interested in savant syndrome, including parents.
American Journal of Psychiatry
For nearly half a century, Darold Treffert has single-mindedly pursued one focus: unraveling the mystery of the mind of the savant. This book is his third on savant personalities, and his vivid pictures of savant skills are always presented as attributes of real people--not as features of a clinical syndrome (Treffert, 1989, 2006). He views savants as extraordinary people with extraordinary strengths, not extraordinary weaknesses or deficits. This latest work is rich with personal histories of individuals whose unique skills would be difficult to explain in people who are labeled gifted and talented, and would be even more difficult to explain in persons diagnosed as having a disability such as autism.
American Psychological Association
Walk through a bookstore or library these days, and you'll find several dozen books on the workings of your brain. I believe, though, that this one is quite likely the most intriguing of all. Using case studies, reader-friendly medicine, and contagious curiosity, Treffert leads his readers on a tour of one facet of brain science that even Hollywood seems taken with, but about which few books are written... Armchair scientists, parents, educators, and anybody with an interest in brain works will find "Islands of Genius" fascinating and fresh. For you, savoring this book is a true no-brainer.
Darold Treffert's Islands of Genius provides a fascinating and richly detailed account of the clinical and neuropsychological aspects of savant syndrome, the presence of very unusual abilities in persons with developmental disabilities. Treffert shares his lifetime of interest and learning, through clinical work and research, about persons with savant syndrome in this well-organized, timely, and respectful work... Here is a respectful, humanistic, optimistic book written by a master clinician-scientist who sees the whole person: history, gifts and challenges, environment, relationships. The book is a fascinating read that can be easily accessed by college students, professionals, and people in the general population who are interested in savant syndrome, including parents. The author is deeply respectful of the talents of those with savant syndrome and sees these as evidence of great talent to be more fully developed, as a source of satisfaction and meaning for the talented person and a source of betterment of others. He understands people with savant syndrome as part of the whole society--not as separate, interesting "cases" but rather as growing, developing, immensely talented people involved in relationships, loved by others, and demonstrating the brain plasticity and capacity that is available to all of us.
The American Journal of Psychiatry
Darold A. Treffert, M.D. is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. He has worked with savants and researched this rare condition for nearly 50 years, and was a consultant on the award-winning movie Rain Man in which Dustin Hoffman plays the part of an autistic savant. Kim Peek - the inspiration for the film - is just one of the extraordinary individuals Dr. Treffert introduces us to in the book
This is a beautifully written, inspiring and fascinating book by the man who probably knows more than anyone else about savant syndrome - the rare condition in which some individuals with disorders such as autism have one or more areas of ability or brilliance: ''islands of genius''.
This book takes you on a wondrous journey through the mind of savants. Their abilities need to be nurtured and developed. Everyone who is interested in the human mind should read this important book.
Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures
No one in the world can match Darold Treffert's experience and understanding of savant syndromes - he has spent nearly half a century immersed in the subject. And when he writes of the "beautiful" mind of the savant, Treffert shows the openness and generosity of his own mind. Islands of Genius brings us fully up to date with the latest research, and like all of Treffert's work, it is imbued with deep intellectual and emotional understanding. This is an indispensable examination of a remarkable human condition.
Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology & Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center
He never writes of savants as simply curiosities and the tenderness with which he relates their stories and those of their carers could serve as an example to us all.
British Journal of Psychiatry
Few people would or should want to learn to recite Pi to 22,514 decimal places, draw landmarks in breathtaking detail, or remember the contents of 12,000 books. Everyone is different. By refusing to gawp at these feats, preferring instead to focus on the person behind them, Dr Treffert sends out the message that it is the creative, imaginative processes at the root of such abilities that matter most. Only by considering the context of savants' lives can we more fully and properly understand the gifts that they possess.
from the foreword by Daniel Tammet, author of Born On A Blue Day
This reviewer has had a great experience by reading this book and recommend it warmly to all colleagues.
Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association (translated from the Norwegian)