I have had the opportunity to meet a few people with autism during my life. The first person I met who had autism was Tom. Tom didn’t have the social skills to do well in school but goodness, he was smart. Tom was my partner for a week in a 7th grade class and I was amazed at how intelligent he was. Tom knew everything about the naval fleet of the United States. Want to know how many aircraft carriers the United States has, Tom could tell you. Want to know the size of the U.S. naval fleet in the Pacific, Tom could tell you. Tom, just like Sherlock Holmes, fascinated me. We all know that people that are on the spectrum are normally well-versed in something (Tom was well-versed in the Navy) but Sherlock Holmes is well-versed in many things. Sherlock Holmes has a great observation skills, which makes him a great detective. As he says, “Observation with me is second nature” and we see this when he identifies Watson as an Afghanistan Veteran upon meeting him for the first time. But on top of being a great detective, he is a master at chemistry and playing the violin, as well as many other things. The weird thing is, is that it doesn’t seem that Sherlock has been properly trained in anything. Most people who are proficient and are masters in something, have had years of education or training. Medical Doctors, for example, have had years of education and years of on the job training. But Sherlock has had none of this. While talking to Dr. Watson about Sherlock, Stamford, the character who introduces Watson to Sherlock states, “No—I have no idea what he intends to go in for. I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is a first-class chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out any systematic medical classes. His studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way knowledge which would astonish his professors”. Sherlock Holmes has never had any formal education regarding his skills, yet he is “first class” in his skills. While doing research, I found out that Sherlock Holmes may be defined an autistic savant. The Autism Research Institute defines autistic savants as, “individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons” (Edelson). According to the Autism Research Institute and their research on autistic savants, there is many forms of savant abilities, but common abilities include; math calculations, memory feats, artistic, and musical abilities. Sherlock has musical abilities( and if I remember right, I think he was good at math too). Many autistic savants who are gifted musically have perfect pitch and can memorize music quite well. Apparently, some autistic savants have the ability to hear a piece of classical music once and play the whole thing back. Sherlock has a great memory for music. While studying Sherlock, Watson writes, “… he could play pieces, and difficult pieces, I knew well, because at my request he has played me some of Mendelssohn’s Lieder, and other favourites”. Sherlock can recite from memory the composer who composed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture”. Can I just say, that’s impressive. The research that I did says nothing about these abilities being learned, they are innate skills. In fact, there is not a medical explanation on why some autistic people have these remarkable skills. One in ten people who have been diagnosed with autism have these savant abilities, and Sherlock Holmes (if he was diagnosed with autism) seems to be one of them.
Edelson, Stephen M. “Research: Autistic Savants.” Autism Research Institute. Autism Research Institute, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. <https://www.autism.com/understanding_savants>.