Scattered throughout the normal population are people who display highly developed special mental skills. We are surprised and awed when this occurs. When it occurs in children, we have coined a phrase to describe such individuals: the child prodigy. We know very little about prodigies (e.g., incidence rate, sex ratios). When prodigious abilities occur in individuals who have not developed normally (the developmentally disabled), we employ a rather derogatory misnomer: the idiot savant. Most of the otherwise mentally handicapped individuals who have developed special skills are not so disabled that the term idiot would be applicable, even in its once legitimate usage to mean the most profoundly retarded. In our own usage we shall omit the term idiot, and simply use savant, which is not appropriate either, but serves as a compromise with tradition.


Autistic Child Special Skill Digit Span Autistic Individual Musical Ability 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Rimland
    • 1
  • A. Lewis Hill
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Child Behavior ResearchSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Basic Research in Mental RetardationStaten IslandUSA

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