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

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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Outgrowing Autism? A Closer Look at Children Who Read Early or Speak Late

The headlines read “New study suggests autism can be outgrown”, or “outgrowing autism: a doctor’s surprise and wonder.” The stories are based on studies reporting 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 […]

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The autism “epidemic” in perspective

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name. And in medicine that means “the first step in treatment is to make the correct diagnosis.” With respect to autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), early identification produces better outcomes; the earlier the better. But that makes accurate diagnosis in early childhood all the more […]

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Savant syndrome: What’s in it for us?

The extraordinary musical, art or mathematical skills that persons with savant syndrome show are spectacular in their own right.  The most well-known savant of course is Raymond Babbit, played so well by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man. But beneath the surface of these exceptional talents and minds are clues to better understanding intelligence, creativity and […]

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Dr. Treffert

Savant Syndrome: Rain Man re-visited

The world’s best known autistic savant is Raymond Babbitt as so marvelously portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man.  But Raymond Babbitt was a fictional character, albeit very accurately depicted. I have been collecting examples of ‘real-life’ savants for a number of years now and published a report on 319 such individuals in […]

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Accidental Genius: An Exploration

In an earlier blog (here) I discussed how the acquired savant syndrome hints at buried potential within us all.  Acquired savant syndrome is the rare, but real, phenomenon in which an ordinary person suffers a head injury or other brain incident such as stroke or dementia followed by the sudden emergence, sometimes at a prodigious […]

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Dr. Treffert

Hyperlexia: Children Who Read Early

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from a wise and seasoned professor in medical school was, “The first step in treatment is to make the correct diagnosis.”Nowhere in medicine at present is that sage advice more applicable than in making the diagnosis of “autism.” While Autistic Disorder certainly does exist (I met my […]

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You’ve got your connections

It is astounding to me that with 7.2 billion people on earth,  no two faces are exactly alike. They all have a nose, eyes, lips, chin, teeth, cheekbones and foreheads, but how those parts are particularly connected makes each face unique. The same can be said about the brain. While each person has a cortex, […]

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