About Darold Treffert MD

Dr. Treffert completed both medical school and a psychiatric residency at the University of Wisconsin where he has been a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry. Following his training he developed the Child-Adolescent Unit at Winnebago Mental Health Institute. It was there he met his first autistic savant in 1962 and has been engaged in research on savant syndrome since that time, exploring the unique window into the brain, memory and creativity that this remarkable condition provides. Dr. Treffert has published two books on savant syndrome. Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome has been published in ten languages. His most recent book Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant was published in April, 2010. He has been a contributor to numerous articles in professional journals and has participated in many broadcast and documentary television programs including those in the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Korea, South Africa, Germany, England and many other countries. In his efforts to raise public understanding about autism and savant syndrome he has regularly appeared on programs such as 60 Minutes, Oprah, Today, CBS Evening News and many others. Dr. Treffert was a consultant to the award-winning movie Rain Man which made “autistic savant” household terms and he maintains a very internationally respected website at www.savantsyndrome.com hosted by the Wisconsin Medical Society which has kept him in touch with many persons around the world with savant syndrome and their families. Dr. Treffert has been a member of the medical staff of St. Agnes Hospital since 1963. In April 2016, Agnesian HealthCare opened the Treffert Center, which seeks to preserve, make available and expand the legacy of Dr. Treffert. The center can be accessed online at www.treffertcenter.com . Dr. Treffert is the Research Director at the center.
Author Archive | Darold Treffert MD

Oval Souls on a Round Planet

What’s the shape of your soul, psychological soul that is? When seeing new patients I would always check their vital signs: pulse, blood pressure, respiration, temperature and shape of their psychological soul. I learned about the different shapes of psychological souls from a patient of mine.  She was a very bright young adult woman who […]

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Accidental Genius: A little Rain Man within us all?

Jason Padgett was an ordinary person managing a futon and furniture store in Washington State. In September 2002, he was the victim of a brutal mugging in which he sustained a severe concussion. While an MRI showed no gross changes, when he awoke he was experiencing some new, vivid, synesthetic imagery. He began to draw […]

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pretty girl with many books at school

Children who read early or speak late: separating ‘autistic like’ behaviors from ‘autism’

Children who read early (hyperlexia) or speak late (Einstein Syndrome) have something in common.  Both are often mistaken for autism, and much to relief of many parents, both have a good outcome. There are three kinds of hyperlexia:  Hyperlexia 1 consists of bright, neurotypical children who simply read early.  Watching  a child read books out […]

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An Island of Intactness

My first introduction to autism was a rather jarring one.  It was my first day on my child psychiatry rotation.  The Department was in a house on the University Hospitals campus in Madison.  As I approached the house I heard a very loud “thump!, thump!, thump!” sound which literally rattled the rafters of the house. […]

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Autism speaks – literally

Just because a person with autism cannot speak doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. The availability of more and more technologically advanced assisted typing and speaking devices has released a treasure of until now imprisoned thoughts and insight in some children and adults with autism. I get many “I have a son or daughter […]

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What we learned from Temple Grandin, PhD

Marian University and Agnesian HealthCare sponsored the ninth annual Treffert  lecture on May 20 with Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University who, as she herself says, “happens to be autistic.” She has designed the majority of animal handling facilities worldwide, while at the same time being […]

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Welcome to the Treffert Center: A place of happiness, help and hope

Welcome to the first and only savant syndrome institute in the world.  There is no such other facility elsewhere.  It is a first and will be foremost. I am immensely humbled, and proud, to have such a center in Fond du Lac and have my name attached to it. In bringing this dream to reality […]

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Growing older with autism – ‘aging out’

The good news is that a whole network of services has been developed for children with autism through the school system, and other public and private resources, including the ABBA program through Agnesian HealthCare and the Treffert Center. The bad news is that such a network of services usually does not exist once the child […]

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Lessons from listening

Standing conspicuously and proudly among the medical books on my office shelf are some children’s books. “What’s a grown doctor doing reading children’s books?,” you ask. Let me explain. I learned many things in medical school, but two lessons have served me best. I remember the revered, silver-haired surgeon teaching us doctors to be that […]

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Can children “outgrow” autism?

Recent studies report that 7-9% of children with a documented early autistic syndrome disorder (ASD) have no symptoms of the disorder on follow-up later in childhood or adolescence.  That is good news. The pertinent question is how to account for it? Is it possible to simply “outgrow” autism? Was the initial diagnosis wrong?  Did some […]

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