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#311667 - Mon Jun 26 2006 11:28 AM The Real "Rain Men"
Gatsby722 Offline
Pure Diamond

Registered: Fri May 18 2001
Posts: 123698
Loc: Canton Ohio USA              
I caught "60 Minutes" on CBS last night and was glad I did as a fascinating report was on. I suspect that many, if not the majority, of us remember the movie "Rain Man" (and Dustin Hoffman's engaging portrayal of a savant) and I suppose, too, that the fact that these folks really exist is nothing new. However, the stories last night got my interest ~ it began with the children. One, in particular, was so brain damaged that he was unable to dress himself, unable to assure if he had ever gone swimming or not (he had - there was a pool in his back yard), unable to recognize the diference between two and ten. He was also blind and totally lacking in reasonable social skills. Unless you put him behind a piano, that is. He'd developed an odd familiarity with it at the age of just three and, now as a pre-teen, he's essentially a virtuoso in many ways. The story then went on to explore a few other cases that were quite similiar ~ one looking at a man in his mid-20s who can play jazz piano like is hard to believe. He, too, has not yet figured out one egg from a dozen of them but what he can do on that piano bench is startling, to say the least. The whole story/recap is here and, while I've heard of various savants having significant abilities in various areas that defy explanation, I wonder what there is about the piano that opens that part of the mind for these people. Certainly the piano is no "magical" thing but it really does seem to have some feature that finds them - and not just in very very isolated cases. Naturally, the report concluded nothing because it really couldn't, but it raised some most interesting questions. If you get a minute, browse the link. I'd be curious to hear thoughts/theories and so forth. My thought is that if this 'trigger' could ever be figured out (which would yield a potentially better understanding of the brain and its power) the human condition could become far more a manageable asset than just a mystery as it currently stands. Sorry . I find this stuff fascinating.

"The best teacher is not the one who knows most but the one who is most capable of reducing knowledge to that simple compound of the obvious and wonderful." ... H. L. Mencken

#311668 - Mon Jun 26 2006 12:58 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: Gatsby722]
skunkee Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Thu Oct 16 2003
Posts: 8913
Loc: Burlington Ontario Canada  
I used to work at a large facility for developmentaly delayed adults, and there was one man there who had an amazing ability with birthdates. He never remembered a name, but never forgot a birthdate. And if you told him your birthdate, he could calculate, in a couple of seconds, what day of the week your birthday would fall on for any given year. He was never wrong.
There was also another young, autistic man who could play a piano so beautifully it would make you weep, but only when he felt like it. Other times he would bang away like a two year old.
Editor: Movies/Celebrities/Crosswords

"To insult someone we call him 'bestial'. For deliberate cruelty and nature, 'human' might be the greater insult." - Isaac Asimov

#311669 - Mon Jun 26 2006 01:40 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: skunkee]
picqero Offline

Registered: Tue Dec 28 2004
Posts: 2813
Loc: Hertfordshire<br>England UK
I'm afraid you've got it wrong Gats! The real rain men are the Wimbledon tennis players. South East England has been suffering severe water restraints for months, with bans on hosepipe and lawn sprinkler use, and daily sermons from everywhere on the need to limit water usage. Car washing, watering plants, etc, can only be done legally with watering cans, and people are even using washing up water to flush toilets. Last week was almost entirely sunny, and the week-end was just glorious, but the first day of Wimbledon brought steady rain nearly all day, and most of Sunday night too!
We really needed the rain, so 'Praise the Lord for Wimbledon', and those tennis playing 'rain men'!

#311670 - Mon Jun 26 2006 01:40 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: skunkee]
cinnam0n Offline

Registered: Tue Nov 02 2004
Posts: 6699
Loc: Pennsylvania USA
Boy, gats, you aren't alone. That stuff fascinates me, too. I wish I had seen the show on Sunday night - maybe they'll replay it.

#311671 - Mon Jun 26 2006 04:41 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: Gatsby722]
sue943 Offline


Registered: Sun Dec 19 1999
Posts: 35626
Loc: Jersey Channel Islands        
That reminds me of a television programme I watched on television back in 1987, BBC QED documentary The Foolish Wise Ones. No, my memory is not that good, I searched and found what I was looking for, I hit it immediately. The programme focused on people with autism who had the most amazing powers, one was a tremendous artist, another played the piano and one could tell you the day of the week for any given date, in seconds. Amazing.
Many a child has been spoiled because you can't spank a Grandma!

#311672 - Mon Jun 26 2006 05:00 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: sue943]
Taesma Offline

Registered: Fri Jun 20 2003
Posts: 1179
Loc: Bay Area California USA      
I saw this too, Gatsby. Amazing! I loved the girl who taught herself the flute in, what was it? 5 months? And was playing the great jazz improv stuff. Wow.
"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." ~ Jerry Seinfeld

#311673 - Mon Jun 26 2006 05:14 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: Taesma]
Bruyere Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Sat Feb 10 2001
Posts: 18378
Loc: California USA
On of my dad's cousins suffered some sort of handicap mentally, but was able to spot trains and planes and tell you the exact model and year etc...and knew the schedules.
He was totally unaware of things like the birds and the bees, yet, was able to give you information on other things with the greatest of ease. He is still working though he's seventy and living on his own though it wasn't easy for him.
I was born under a wandering star.

#311674 - Mon Jun 26 2006 06:54 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: Gatsby722]
vendome Offline

Registered: Sun May 21 2000
Posts: 1778
Loc: Body: PA USA Heart: Paris   
This is a fascinating and sad topic. I remember reading an article quite some time ago that linked music with math and savants. If you listen to Baroque music (Mozart, Handel, Bach) there is a math quality to the harmonies and counter-point where, for example, sopranos, altos, tenors and basses all sing the same notes but at different times. There is structure, uniformity and a 'completeness' to each work just like there is in math.

It also appears that most savants 'gifts' are statistically or mathmatically oriented, like performing complex multiplication or division problems faster than a calculator. Or knowing the day of the week that October l, 1789 fell on.

I've wondered if perhaps Mozart was a bit of a savant. His hand-written scores are known for their lack of corrections/additions/deletions. He 'heard' the completed work in his mind and transposed the completed score to paper. Music composition came to him easily and effortlessly; he didn't have to work at composition. What he had to work on were basic social skills and manners, of which he had very little. Certainly his behavior was not as dramatic and unusual as most of today's savants, but strange enough to make it interesting.

Edited by vendome (Mon Jun 26 2006 06:58 PM)
I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
Yogi Berra

#311675 - Mon Jun 26 2006 10:13 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: sue943]
picqero Offline

Registered: Tue Dec 28 2004
Posts: 2813
Loc: Hertfordshire<br>England UK

That reminds me of a television programme I watched on television back in 1987, BBC QED documentary The Foolish Wise Ones. No, my memory is not that good, I searched and found what I was looking for, I hit it immediately. The programme focused on people with autism who had the most amazing powers, one was a tremendous artist, another played the piano and one could tell you the day of the week for any given date, in seconds. Amazing.

I also recall seeing this fascinating programme. The artist was an 11 year old, black child, who outwardly looked perfectly normal, and seemed to be able to have quite normal conversations. His artistry though was amazing, and there's a film about him called 'The Boy who draws Buildings'. At one stage he was taken up in a helicopter over London, and afterwards told to draw what he'd seen. He then drew some city landscapes which were perfect in every detail, and had perfect distance perspective. The young pianist could play perfectly anything after hearing it only once - with all the 'fiddly bits' as well!
These seemingly gifted people are medically referred to as 'idiot savants' because they have a very low IQ, though it might seem more logical to call them 'child prodigies', or 'gifted'.

#311676 - Mon Jun 26 2006 10:48 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: picqero]
wajo Offline

Registered: Mon Nov 11 2002
Posts: 271
Loc: Tasmania Australia          
My 13yo son is autistic. He doesn't have savant level talents, but his excellent drawing, computer skills and sense of direction are completely out line with the difficulties he has in other areas. Some of the first clues that he wasn't a run of the mill kid came when he was a toddler and could identify the alphabet and do complicated jigsaws from memory long before he ever said 'mummy'. Life has been interesting ever since.

#311677 - Tue Jun 27 2006 12:56 AM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: wajo]
ktstew Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Tue Jan 18 2005
Posts: 8717
Loc: Arkansas USA
I suspect someone close to me has a slight form of what is known as Asperger's syndrome - which is a very high functioning form of autism. In many ways it is as ambiguous as full blown autism - due to the degrees in which it occurs , which vary from severe to 'almost falling off the radar' in terms of general symptoms. Those symptoms include -
Extreme sensitivity to touch , smell and sound - sometimes to the point of real discomfort.
- A sense of ' not understanding the social contract' not getting other people's ironic jokes - pretty much functioning in a black and white world of facts. Though often these folks have high levels of intelligence, they take everything literally and often fail to understand irony or sarcasm. And for a teenager, whose friends daily bathe in the sea of sarcasm, not understanding their jokes and buzzwords can be a disaster.
Many times these individuals are excited and focused on an obscure hobby or field of study - math, computers or baroque music. As it's been mentioned before in this thread, perhaps these preferred talents and skills are connected to their inate abilty to process mathmatically related material. In other words - maybe these areas are the only ones they understand and feel comfortable with...statistics, numbers or musical notes which have a high level of mathmatical precision.

I am troubled these days, because I know there is a problem, yet a friend who works in this field tells me it might not be wise to seek a diagnosis for my loved one, for several reasons. Since she is an over achiever, makes phenomenal grades has a few close friends and is slowly learning to feel good about herself - all the progress might be undone by pronouncing her 'this or that'. Not to mention the stigma that would follow her to the job interviews in a few years. In a world full of would be employers who might equate Asperger's with 'retarded' or ' crazy' is not something I am willing for her to face. Life has been rocky enough already for her and our family, and I am not willing to risk making her life any harder because I need a 'diagnosis' of some kind, when chances are good she can eventually function and thrive without it.

Edited by ktstew (Tue Jun 27 2006 09:30 AM)
A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is just putting on its shoes - Mark Twain

#311678 - Thu Jul 06 2006 11:29 PM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: ktstew]
robbieh Offline

Registered: Mon Jun 27 2005
Posts: 274
Loc: Coachella California USA
I have a son with schizophrenia (childhood onset) who has the same ability that skunkee described. He can tell you the day of the week on which you were born, if you give him the date. And he is never, ever wrong. He tells me that he memorized the entire calendar, going back 100 years, when he was around ten. When I saw the movie "Rain Man" I felt as if I was looking at a pretty good portayal of my kid, who is in his thirties now. Another pecularity of his is that he cannot recognize or remember people's faces, not even his sisters'. He can tell who a person his by their voice only, even if he's known the person forever. (And there's nothing wrong with his vision.) He's a great person, just different.

#311679 - Fri Jul 07 2006 12:33 AM Re: The Real "Rain Men" [Re: robbieh]
mandelbrotset Offline

Registered: Sun Aug 11 2002
Posts: 230
Loc: Riverside Chicago Illinois USA
Here's a really odd "talent" that I found in a person with a developmental disability. He was part of a group that was brought to my local YMCA for some type of activity. When I walked in the door, he ran up to me and greeted me warmly, calling me by my first name, although I had never before met him and there was no way that he could have learned my name. He acted as if we were long lost friends. I've never been able to forget this unexplainable occurrence.
"Patterns are set in one place and time, to be followed to the end of all years to come". (Andre Norton)


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