1. Victoria Baye
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    Victoria Baye Member

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    A Savant?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Victoria Baye, Sep 12, 2011.

    Hey everyone,

    I want to feature a character who figures patterns on a genius level. When I woke up from a dream roughly featuring this character and started fleshing him out on paper, the first thing that popped into my mind was an autistic savant. I know a lot of autistic people and really wanted to feature a character from THEIR point of view, however, I've never felt capable of portraying this character in a believable way. Anyway, I've just read a book where a savant was heavily featured, and I decided to at least start researching this character.

    If someone (this man happens to live in a Dystopian future) was incredible enough at figuring out patterns to be raised in a lab (what happens in my future), it's my understanding that he wouldn't necessarily HAVE to be autistic, since apparently savant syndrome does exist sans other effects, though rare. However, I don't want to portray another "normal genius," I want to portray, as a hero, a type of person that tends to get treated as "less significant" by society, because of their "unfortunate disability" (seeing as my parents thought that I was autistic when younger, this strikes a chord with me. If I "missed out" on the diagnose by the tiny margin that I did, why am I treated so much differently than the other people that I know with autism?)


    So, I have a few questions:

    Are there books that either portray Autistic people as MC, or provide commentary on Autism, that anyone would recommend? I would like to read a mixture of both.

    Also, has anyone done the same thing as I am and written about a character with Autism?

    And finally, is exemplary pattern-recognition even a possible thing to have savant-like abilities with?


    Thanks! :)
     
  2. Quorum1
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    Quorum1 Member

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    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is written from the perspective of a person with autism who is a mathemetical genius, it is a prize-winning novel and extremely good for getting into the head of a person with autism. Also one of Jodi Picoult's recents House Rules features a character with autism. There is also a movie called The Black Balloon, which I have not seen, but also has a character with autism.

    I have not written about a character with autism yet, but will one day. I worked with children with autism and it's personal passion of mine.

    Yes, pattern recognition could be a savant skill, in fact pretty much anything can be. There was a movie called Mercury Rising, which had a boy with autism who could recognise patterns - he was being used as a code breaker. It's not a very realistic portrayal account of autism though, so I would give that one a miss (unless you like vintage Bruce Willis :p).
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    add the movie/screenplay 'rain man' to that list...
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I have a 27 year old daughter with autism. The idea of a "savant" is somewhat distorted in fiction. It comes from the fact that the brain of a person with autism has not developed in the same way that a typically developed person's does. Specifically, it impacts the sensory perceptions ("Rain Man" illustrates this extremely well - first with the scene driving over the bridge, where the sound of the tires on the grating of the bridge is intensified, and then in the scene where they are entering the casino, and the noise and flashing lights seem overwhelming), forcing the autistic person to withdraw from reality in order to bring order to his/her world. As a reaction, the brain develops splinter skills - narrow areas of expertise to compensate for lack of development elsewhere. My daughter's splinter skill is being able to visualize calendars. If I ask her, "What day was August 20, 1997?" she will reply "Wednesday" in no more time than it takes her to hear and understand the question (I looked it up; she doesn't have to). Unfortunately, these skills rarely have broader application because there are no appropriate related skills to go with them.

    Again, "Rain Man" gave an excellent example - Ray was able to do complex mathematical calculations instantaneously but couldn't understand the value of money. In my daughter's case, my wife and I used to joke that she could get a job as someone's appointment secretary, but the reality is that she lacks the social skills and ability to attend to task to do such a job. She could tell you what day October 15 was, but could not make a record of an appointment for that date or record who wanted it.

    The notion of patterns resonates as a possible splinter skill because people with autism are trying to bring a sense of order to the chaos their senses present to them. Children with autism often engage in repetitive motions (when my daughter was very little, she used to love turning light switches on and off, on and off...drove us crazy) and modes of speaking ("Rain Man" again - Ray hears a phrase on the radio and repeats it over and over). They would be fascinated by patterns. But being able to discern the meaning of a pattern and convey that meaning to others - that would likely be well beyond a typical person with autism.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  5. Victoria Baye
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    Victoria Baye Member

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    Thank you guys so much!!

    I can't wait to get started on research now... Once again, thanks, I really appreciate it! :D
     

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