A Longitudinal Study of an Autistic Savant
By Lorna Selfe
Psychology Press – 2011 – 272 pages
Psychology Press – 2011 – 272 pages
This book re-examines the case of Nadia, discovered as a child aged six, who had been drawing with phenomenal skill and visual realism from the age of three, despite having autism and severe learning difficulties. The original research was published in 1977 and caused great international interest. Nadia Revisited updates her story and reconsiders the theories that endeavour to explain her extraordinary talent.
As well as summarising the central issues from the original case study and presenting her remarkable drawings, the book explains Nadia’s subsequent development and present situation in light of the recent research on autistic spectrum disorders and representational drawing in children. The book also considers the phenomenon of savant syndrome: the condition in which those with autism or other learning disabilities have areas of unusual talent that contrast dramatically with their general functioning.
Lorna Selfe uses this single case study to discuss theories of developmental psychology and considers the possible links between prodigious talent and underlying neurological dysfunction. The book is especially valuable for students and teachers of developmental psychology and neuropsychology, education and special education, as well as art and art education. Parents of autistic children or those with related disorders, learning difficulties or special needs will also be interested in the discussions presented in this book.
"This book is essential reading for anyone striving to understand the beautiful otherness of the autistic mind. Lorna Selfe's original description of Nadia and her wonderful drawings captivated readers everywhere. This follow-up volume not only updates Nadia’s story, but shows how the study and science of autism and of exceptional talent has developed." – Francesca Happé, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK
"The case of Nadia is unique in the history of autism and in the history of outsider art. Nadia’s exuberantly prolific drawings in early childhood remain a mystery as well as an incredible achievement. This book sees the author who first discovered Nadia’s abilities unravel the story and consider the exceptional case history within the context of the latest research on autism and talent." – Uta Frith, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UK
"This book is completely unique; it contains a wealth of description, and applies the latest cognitive neuroscience research to our understanding of autism and savantism. There are few opportunities for a psychologist to have followed an autistic savant across their lifetime over 30 years to see how their condition changes, and readers will be fascinated with this new volume." – Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology and Director of the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, UK
"Since in most savants the special skills continue to develop and accelerate, Nadia's case raises not only the question of where did her special art skills come from as a child, but also the equally important question of why did they disappear? Dr Selfe provides a comprehensive and intriguing exploration of both questions, now with the benefit of a 30+ year follow up, providing more 'grist for the mill' in trying to better unravel the mystery and mosaic that is savant syndrome." – Darold A. Treffert M.D., Wisconsin Medical Society, USA
1. Introduction 2. Nadia Then and Now 3. Nadia's Drawings 4. Nadia and Representational Drawing 5. Nadia and Autistic Spectrum Disorder 6. Savant Syndrome 7. Theories of Savant Syndrome 8. Gifted Children: Precocious Artists 9. The Challenge of Nadia
Lorna Selfe is a child psychologist with extensive experience of working with children and families in Local Authority and NHS settings. she has published several books on various aspects of special needs. She was Principal Educational Psychologist for Herefordshire.