Special Needs Savants

Special Needs Savants

in Mental Health by

A special needs savant is a fascinating thing. Most individuals with special needs are often seen as only having a disability that affects their cognitive or motor development. But special needs savants exist, and some have come to achieve awards or recognition that is truly remarkable for anyone—special needs or not.

Some individuals with special needs have perfect pitch, allowing them to play or sing a song throughout their life after hearing a song only one time. Others have strong associative memories and are able to dictate complex facts in a matter of seconds. Others have artistic abilities, and can draw or paint amazingly beautiful work like those of renowned painters.

The following are three special needs savants with various talents and skills.

Kim Peek

The movie Rain Main brought national recognition to special needs savants, and this movie was based on one specific individual, Kim Peek. Kim Peek was born with severe brain damage, and his doctor told Kim’s father that he would never learn how to walk, let alone learn how to speak, write, or learn anything else. The doctor advised Kim’s father to institutionalize Kim, but he disregarded the doctor’s orders.

Although Kim’s motor development was low, and although his IQ test scores were significantly low, Kim Peek has achieved major accomplishments. He has an exceptional gift for reading that has astounded people to this day. Kim can read two pages at one time—in a total of about three seconds—and out of the more than 12,000 books he’s read in his life, he can remember every single thing from every single book.

His gift also extends to music. Kim remembers every piece of music he has ever heard, no matter if it how frequently. He can also tell others the day of the week for any date in history.

Leslie Lemke

At birth, Leslie Lemke had so many birth defects that doctors had to remove both of his eyes. His mother gave him up for adoption, at six months old, he was adopted by a nurse named May Lemke.

Throughout his childhood, Leslie experienced many disabilities and difficulties. He didn’t stand until he was 12 and didn’t walk until he was 15. He also had to be taught how to swallow.

When Leslie was 16, his mother woke up to find him playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in the middle of the night. Leslie had only heard the song once during that day on a television commercial. From then on, he was able to play any piece of music on the piano after hearing it just one time.

Iris Grace

Iris Grace was born with autism, and like many autistic children, she was non-verbal despite years of therapy. At the age of three, Iris Grace began to express herself through painting, and she has sold paintings all over the world. Now, at only 5 years old, her paintings are being compared to Monet. Just because someone is non-verbal, doesn’t mean that they will never speak. This year, Iris began to speak using a program called Gemiini (gemiini.org) and for the first time in her life, she is communicating through words. This doesn’t seem to have affected her painting ability, so hopefully she will have the best of both worlds.