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Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant Hardcover – April 15, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

"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

"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 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

"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

Book Description

Fascinating and richly detailed exploration of how savant skills can be nurtured and how professionals can help the person who has them, particularly if that person is on the autistic spectrum
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Pub; 1 edition (April 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849058105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849058100
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is a collection of information about savants. Darold Treffert first encountered savants in the early 1960s when he started working with mentally disabled children at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute. Of the 30 patients assigned to him, 4 of them had remarkable abilities in contrast to their general developmental limitations. Treffert developed a deep interest in savant syndrome and became one of the world's leading experts on the topic. In this book, Treffert presents a collection of information about savant syndrome, describing the nature of special and preserved ability amongst brain-damaged individuals. The book is divided into 5 sections: The Mind of the Savant (technical descriptions of savant syndrome), The World of the Savant (profiles of famous savants), Significant New Dimensions to Savant Syndrome (acquired savant skills and savant-like skills in neurotypical individuals), Training the Talent (pedagogical techniques for savants--essays contributed by other authors), and Our Journey Has Just Begun (future research concerning savant skills). The book includes a selection of photos depicting artwork done by savants, a list of references cited, and a list of resources for further reading.

I found the book quite informative and well worth reading. Treffert makes it very clear that savant skills are most commonly found with autistic individuals, but only one in 10 autistic individuals has some savant skills, and people with other types of developmental disabilities can also have savant skills. Not only that, but savant skills may occasionally appear after head injuries; they may even appear spontaneously in neurotypical individuals without injuries.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The savant condition has always fascinated me and this book is wonderful. It explains many of the aspects of the savant, including sudden and acquired conditions. The author has done a terrific job of explaining and chronicling his work with uplifting stories of the different savants he has dealt with. The book is long but lends itself to being read in segments, picking it up at different times and reading one or more of the chapters. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered or was curious about the savant condition. They really are amazing people with diverse and exceptional talents.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After reading an uncorrected proof copy of "Islands of Genius" three times, I went to my local library to request they get a copy of the book. All public libraries should have a copy of this book. Because it is an education. It is also an inspiration. And it is one of the most fascinating books I have ever, ever read.

What Dr. Treffert does primarily in "Islands of Genius" is explore the world of savants. He has worked with and researched servants since 1962. Not only does he share his 48 years of interaction, observations and research with the reader, he also tells the individual stories of over 15 well known savants--including Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for the "Rain Man". (The book is dedicated to Kim Peek, who died last December, and his father, Fran Peek.) Moreover, there are three chapters in the book written by teachers of special needs children, describing their methods for teaching art, music and math. Also, there is an appendix listing 15 books about savant syndrome and specific savants, as well as 11 books written by savants.

Next, Dr. Treffert explores acquired savant behavior, sudden savant behavior, and "neurotypical persons with savant-like skills". I must confess, I found those topics even more interesting than the savants! Individuals who acquire savant like behavior do so after an illness or injury that affects the central nervous system. He tells the story of a 10-year-old boy hit in the head by a baseball, who wakes up knowing how to perform calendar calculations. (If you don't know what calendar calculation is, as I did not, you are in for a wild read!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I need to preface this review by pointing out that the copy of Islands I read was marked as a "Bound Galley-Not for Sale". I hope that marking indicates that the manuscript will still be edited prior to being released to the public because it desperately needs major attention by a competent editor.

The subject matter is fascinating and the author is clearly an authority on savant syndrome and autism. However, not only is the writing a bit flat, but there is a tremendous amount of repetition. At times it feels like the author took a break in writing for a few months and then started again while forgetting he had already used certain phrases and/or told certain stories or specific history. As a result, you feel like you're watching a movie that you've already seen a few times and one in which the dialog was not that scintillating the first time around.

It's near impossible to guess at how this book will read once an editor restructures it but it does have enough potential to get to four or even five stars with the proper care.
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