Bright Splinters of the Mind
A Personal Story of Research with Autistic Savants
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The extraordinary talents of some people with autism are well-documented, yet little is understood about the nature of their gifts. Drawing on 20 years of research, Beate Hermelin describes not just what autistic savants do, but how they do it. During her studies she and her collaborators examined savants alongside neurotypical individuals talented in the same domain, as well as people with the same level of intelligence as the savants but with no special abilities. In her fascinating and highly informative book she describes her investigations into the nature of the talents of savants who are gifted at poetry, foreign language acquisition, the visual arts, music, and calendar and numerical calculations. The work of a scholar but immensely readable, Bright Splinters of the Mind is not only a thorough exploration of autistic gifts, it is also a book which reaches radical conclusions on the very nature of talent and its relationship to intelligence.
- Published: Apr 15 2001
- Pages: 192
- 231 x 158mm
- ISBN: 9781853029325
Any book with a foreword by Michael Rutter and reviewed on the Amazon web site by Oliver Sacks comes with a promise and this one certainly lives up to expectations. It is a very unusual book in which the author offers us an account of her rigorous research in a form that reads as easily as a novel.
Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice
The book will be of interest to two specific audiences. First, savant persons, clinicians, parents, undergraduates and any non-specialist with an interest in these fascinating aspects of autism will be interested in this book. At the other extreme, researchers with a specific interest in special abilities will also read this book with pleasure, as it provides valuable illustrations of a broad range of savant abilities.
I do recommend this book to art therapists, especially therapists working with the learning disabled and the autistic.
Contemporary Psychology APA
Hermelin admirably attains the purpose of her research report to help the reader develop an “increased understanding of the mental strategies that seem to be employed by talented autistic individuals in order to make their given potentials realizable”(pp177). For this reason alone her book is well worth reading. There is a bonus, too, for she also includes useful images of paintings, photographs and drawings. These figures not only allow the reader an opportunity to follow Hermelin's arguments in a concrete manner, but also allow the reader to take pleasure in the expertise of the artists that created them. However the most important aspect of Hermelin's book is surely the stories of these remarkable individuals called Savants and their awesome abilities to create structure and personal satisfaction from abstractions that most of us never explore.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
This slim, exhilarating, and beautifully written book is worth its weight in gold. It portrays the confluence of clear-headed science put to use in the study of the most fascinating psychological phenomena, with the joys and creativity embodied in the career of one of the great pioneers of experimental studies of individuals with autism. It primary focus is on a small number of islets of special abilities existing in a sea of great developmental challenges – as witnessed in the so-called 'autistic savants'. But its scope is much wider. It embraces the history of experimentation in autism, the mystery of natural talents and of highly circumscribed prodigious feats, and the ever-evolving scientific battlefield of competing hypotheses attempting to capture the cognitive profiles seen in autism.
British Journal of Occupational Therapy
This book gives an overview of the special talents of people who have autism.
British Journal of Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists will find this book a useful insight and a valuable opportunity to gain an understanding of the meaning of these skills for people with autism. This understanding will inform and enhance clinical practice and enable our intervention programmes to harness the occupational talents of these individuals.
British Journal of Clinical Psychology
In this delightful book, [Hermelin] provides beautiful illustrations of the products of savant minds, who despite clear evidence of learning disability, can function at a superior level in one domain…the result is a book full of erudition and fascination, a woman who can see both the detail and the larger picture... This book stimulates new ideas and pushes forward the science of the mind into the new century.
Hermelin's erudite account of this research is inspiring. Through an experimental approach and appropriate control groups, she has fashioned a robust methodological framework for such studies. Her work is also innovative and stimulating in that it draws on an appreciation of the abilities and strategies exploited by many of us in our efforts to acquire knowledge or undertake creative activities. Bright Splinters of the Mind is particularly welcome because it identifies characteristics not by analyzing the weaknesses of individuals with autism but rather by focusing on some of their very real strengths.
European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Beate Hermelin, the author of this outstanding book, has been working to establish the nature of these cognitive processes for many years and, in this book, she presents her findings in accessible form.
Hermelin's is a highly readable book. She goes well beyond merely presenting a scientific account. Rather, she conveys something about who these people really are. She weaves a tapestry of their personal lives, especially their difficulties in confronting life as we normally know it. The book works well at all levels. Anyone who has interacted with autistic individuals will appreciate the magnitude of Hermelin's contribution. Her findings are a giant step in unravelling the treasures of our minds.
The Teacher Trainer
The book is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It is on a subject that seems to fascinate many of us. How are some individuals able to perform the most marvelous feats such as producing extraordinarily accurate drawings of complex buildings seen only briefly by the artist, sing complete arias from memory after one visit to the opera or tell you on which day of the week a particular date will fall ? The book is also immensely readable because of its clarity of expression, its creatively devised experiments, its human face and the dignity accorded to its subjects.