Stephen Wiltshire and Savant Syndrome

Savant syndrome is one of the most mysterious phenomena in the modern world. It represents the condition when the brain damage may reveal the hidden genius. The savant abilities are unique by their nature. The person expresses mastery in particular activities without the necessary knowledge or training. Stephen Wiltshire is an autistic artist who has a remarkable talent for recognizing large amounts of information within the shortest terms.

Although the artist gained popularity and became a well-known person in the modern world of culture, he cannot live independently today because his achievements concern public life and not everyday activities.

Savant syndrome is a health condition when the individual with particular disabilities connected with brain development can have brilliant abilities (Treffert par. 3). In most cases, savant syndrome is observed in people with autism. Every tenth person with autism has some savant abilities. Nevertheless, the mistaken opinion is spread that only people with autism may have such abilities. It is not true as far as savant skills can also appear when one has a damaged central nervous system (Edelson par. 2).

Scholars have found out that the manifestation of savant abilities does not vary significantly. All people who have this syndrome express brilliant abilities in five categories. The first category is music. Playing the piano is the most common cause. Art comprises the second group. Individuals display mastery in drawing, sculpture, or painting. The third group is the calendar calculating. Advanced mathematical skills make the fourth group. Such people can conduct complicated calculations. Finally, spatial and mechanical abilities are the fifth group. Here belong the abilities to measure long distances without the necessary equipment, and the unique memorizing and representing of maps and detailed landscapes (Treffert 1355).

Scientists have measured the incidence of savant syndrome in various groups of people. The results have shown that it is present in people with autism most often. 10% of individuals with autism disorder possess savant abilities. What concerns gender, males are more likely to have savant syndrome. The general ratio is six males per female (Treffert 1354).

The description of the blind Negro Tom by Oliver Sacks precisely represents the manifestation of autism in children. Sacks write that “He resembles any ordinary negro boy 13 years old and is perfectly blind and idiot in everything, but music, language, imitation, and perhaps memory” (230). Since that time, that little boy became a well-known artist. Stephen Wiltshire is reputed for detailed drawings of cityscapes.

The remarkable fact is that he needs only a few minutes to memorize the smallest details and represents them in his works from memory (“Stephen Wiltshire MBE — Biography” par. 1). For instance, his 18th drawing was in New York. He looked at the city from the helicopter only for twenty minutes (“Autistic Artist Stephen Wiltshire Draws Spellbinding 18th Picture of New York from memory” par. 2).

Stephen is engaged in various social activities. He has his gallery, visits different occasions and places, and gives interviews. However, I do not consider that he has enough skills to live independently. Wiltshire still lives with his mother, and that means that she has been taking care of him all his life. It can be rather a challenge for everyone to start an independent life after forty years of living with someone. It can be even more difficult for Stephen. Besides, he needs constant support in case he will not be able to do something of his own.

Works Cited

Autistic Artist Stephen Wiltshire Draws Spellbinding 18th Picture of New York from Memory 2009. Web.

Edelson, Stephen. Research: Autistic Savants. n.d. Web.

Sacks, Oliver. An Anthropologist on Mars. New York: Vintage Books, 1995. Print.

Stephen Wiltshire MBE — Biography. n.d. Web.

Treffert, Darold. Savant Syndrome 2013 — Myths and Realities. n.d. Web.

Treffert, Darold. “The Savant Syndrome: an Extraordinary Condition.” Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society of London 364.1522 (2009): 1351-1357. Print.