Defining the clinical and cognitive phenotype of child savants with autism spectrum disorder

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Bennett, Emily ; Heaton, Pam F. (2017)
  • Publisher: Allied Academies
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: genetic structures | behavioral disciplines and activities | mental disorders

Objective: Whilst savant syndrome is most commonly observed in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it has historically been associated with intellectual impairment, and little is known about the clinical and cognitive characteristics of intellectually able individuals with ASD and savant skills. Methods: Participants with ASD and validated savant skills were compared with age and intelligence matched non-savants with ASD using a range of diagnostic and standardised tests. Results: Although the analysis of the clinical data revealed few differences between the groups, striking differences emerged during cognitive testing. Children with savant skills exhibited highly superior working memory and their scores on tests of analytic skills were also superior to those of non-savants. Conclusion: We propose that obsessionality, focused attention, superior working memory and analytic skills facilitate veridical mapping and pattern perception abilities characteristic in savant syndrome.
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