I cannot tell you how often, after I’ve explained that Travis is autistic, it’s followed by an exclamation of: “OMG! He must be, like, a genius or something!”
At this point the Lionheart is usually drooling a little while spinning the wheels of a toy car. In other words, not looking very much like a genius.
You know how after Steven Spielberg made Jaws, ever since the Great White shark has been branded an indiscriminate killer of swimmers, divers and drunken teens on spring break holidays? Now, when they’re not being turned into puppy dogs of their former selves by the shark cage diving tour operators in the Cape, they’re being hunted into extinction to make shark fin soup.
I blame Rain Man.
If you were born after 1988 you probably have no idea what I’m referring to so a quick recap: It's a rollicking tale that stars Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant with a gift for card-reading.
Even though it’s based on a true story, it has forever linked the words “autism” and “savant”.
Just like only one-in-ten Great White sharks has ever even encountered a human, never much snacked on one, less than one-in-ten children with autism are savants. They write symphonies, can recite all the lines of Star Trek, memorise the schedules of the London Underground, paint like Michelangelo... Anything to do with memory, music and art. Just those three areas.
The other nine-out-of-ten are like Travis the Lionheart, who is insanely obsessed with anything that spins, but is definitely not Einstein.
Also, only 50% of savants have autism.
I’m writing about the Huge Savant Misconception today to remind you that it’s the last day for registering for the Walk for Autism event that’s happening on 26 March around Zoo Lake, Johannesburg. It only costs R50 to enter, plus you can order a wicked cool “I’m not naughty, I’m autistic!” T-shirt as well. Or you could just wear something lime green.
With a child with autism being born EVERY HOUR, the chances are excellent that you and your children (who are called neurotypicals or NTs by the autism community - fun fact) will at some point encounter one. It could be in the grocery store or in your kid’s class, as South Africa does not have nearly enough facilities to accommodate all of these children in ‘special’ schools.
Come and walk with the Lionhearts around Zoo Lake! No doubt it will be the biggest gathering of real savants the city has ever seen.