Fowler, Ashleigh- Analysis 2- Sherlock Holmes isn’t Elementary

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.

Citations

Edelson, Stephen M. “Research: Autistic Savants.” Autism Research Institute. Autism Research Institute, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. <https://www.autism.com/understanding_savants&gt;.

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3 thoughts on “Fowler, Ashleigh- Analysis 2- Sherlock Holmes isn’t Elementary

  1. rachaelnaylortatterson

    I myself know and have met people and students with Autism. Most people that I have met do have some sort of particular interest. This interest leads them to do massive amounts of research on their subject. I know a young boy who is about 11 who loves Macaws and knows everything about them. Previously he was obsessed with the Eiffel tower and every time I would go to babysit him, he was insist we watched one more video about the Eiffel tower. He would become so fixated on these things that he would spend all of his time focusing on them and therefore learning all that he could about them. It would be interesting to actually know Sherlock Holmes because he seems so talented at what he does. To be so talented and smart, but then also quite quirky. I would be like Watson and try to figure him out the minute he assumed Watson came from Afghanistan. How did he know that so soon, I would wonder.
    The young boy that I know differs from Sherlock because I don’t think the intelligence was innate, but rather the fixations he gets are part of who he is. Sherlock has those “extraordinary skills” that most other people do not have. I find it interesting that you found that 1 in 10 people with autism have this autistic savant type. That means that a good percentage of people with autism have some extraordinary skill or talent. I think this really adds to the world around us. I think it is important we have the extremely talented people in the world. Like we talked about Bill Gates, or other great entrepreneurs, these people have contributed greatly to society, without having all the “right social skills” we would expect. Sometimes these savants are the ones plowing the way for new things in the world. Like Sherlock and his new way for testing blood, he found that blood could be tested months after it was fresh and criminal cases could be figured out faster. Sherlock’s musical abilities were extraordinary as well and were not developed by great training, but just from an innate ability for music learning. It is interesting that musical ability and mathematical skills are correlated like you wrote about. There is a lot of correlation with fractions and music as there is a whole note, a half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth…etc. Precision is important as well with notes. Some can hear a song and match it exactly with all of its intricacies because they do well with precise details, like these autistic savants.
    This girl in this video shows her photorealistic pencil drawings to teach and bring awareness about autism. She also says that she is a voice for the voiceless autistic people out there. She is an autistic savant. How wonderful it is for her to share her challenges and strengths she has as an autistic woman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjdXQZRCb4s

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  2. Uyen Nguyen

    Yeah! I’ve ran into the same experience with you. I had a kid in my class named Marcus. Everything that you want to know about Chicago, he could tell you. It all varies from population, when certain buildings were built and who built them, the history of Chicago, etc. I was so fascinated by how much knowledge he was able to obtain. I mean, I could barely remember stuff that I learned in my last class let alone knowing everything about a city and literally everything. I was just blown away. So when I read the text given in class, it reminded me of Marcus instantly. I decided to do a little more research on this and the first term that came up was “Savant Syndrome” which was interesting to me since I’ve never heard of it being referred to it as this. According to Darold Treffert, a writer on the Wisconsin Medical Society, it says that there are two groups that have this. There is a fifty percent of people who have this ability are autistic and the other fifty percent are people with other Developmental disabilities. Another interesting fact I saw was that ten percent of autistic persons are savants. However, I think current studies show that it’s more common to find that now. The article goes on talking about how there are different spectrums of this skill ranging from “splinter skills to prodigious savants” (Treffert). Treffert explains that “the most common are what are called “splinter skills” such as obsessive preoccupation with and memorization of sports trivia, license plates, or things as obscure as vacuum cleaner motor sounds” (Treffert). He describes “prodigious savants” as “whose skills are so spectacular they would be conspicuous even if they were to occur in a non-handicapped person” (Treffert). I also came across another interesting article called, “10 Most Fascinating Savants in the World.” If you ever have the time and you’re interested, I recommend taking a look at it because it’s mind blowing! There’s a boy on there named, Stephen Wiltshire who is mute but also diagnosed with autism that can draw detailed landscapes after seeing the picture just once! There’s a video on there that shows him drawing a 33 ft panorama of Tokyo. Like Sherlock Holmes, there were some that had amazing talent in music! Like you said, it ranges from mathematical abilities, musical talents , etc. Sherlock Holmes kind of reminds me of Spencer Reid from the show Criminal Minds. Spencer Reid is a detective as well who is kind of socially awkward but is a genius! He has a photographic memory, he can read at an above average pace, and he communicates the team through different monologues. This lead to me wondering what causes the autistic savant and how does it happen. According to Linda Marsa, from Spectrum News, it’s still unclear as to how and why it happens however, “[there has been some] evidence suggests that savants may have experienced an undetected injury to the left hemisphere of their brain in utero or in infancy, triggering compensatory recruitment in the right brain that unleashes unusual abilities” (Marsa). After reading these articles, I too agree that Sherlock Holmes seem to be autistic.

    Marsa, L. (2016, January 16). Extraordinary minds: The link between savantism and autism | Spectrum. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from https://spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/extraordinary-minds-the-link-between-savantism-and-autism/
    Santoso, A., Wannabe, S., 10, K., Harmon, J., & D. (2008, September 5). 10 Most Fascinating Savants in the World. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from http://www.neatorama.com/2008/09/05/10-most-fascinating-savants-in-the-world/
    Treffert, D. M. (n.d.). The Autistic Savant. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/the-autistic-savant/

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  3. thaxtonl

    Ashleigh,

    I agree with your idea on not knowing much about Sherlock Holmes, but being fascinated by him. I had never considered Sherlock to be autistic or have autism in general. Of course, when I had read Sherlock Holmes in the past, I wasn’t as exposed to the autistic realm, so I didn’t make any proper connections. I always regarded Sherlock as eccentric, but he was intelligent! He could solve these complicated mysteries. He always got to the bottom of it all—it might take him a minute, but there was no fear that Sherlock wouldn’t close the case.

    My brother, who has high-functioning Asperger’s, is really bright. He excelled all throughout high school and community college, and even now in culinary school. His only obstacle, truly, is his interactions with others in social settings. Because of this, he had to let go of certain job opportunities that required a social presence from him—constant texting or email communication, for example. I see the same in Sherlock, because he displays certain behavior that could be considered that of an autistic ritual—an important one that require his attention, putting others on the backburner. For example, Sherlock plays his violin when he needs to think. He also keeps a constant dialogue in his mind that Watson describes Sherlock as often “[chattering] away to himself under his breath … keeping up a running fire of exclamations [and] groans.” (16) This can be viewed as eccentric, or out of ordinary for others. For some, it may interfere with how he interacts with others socially.

    I’m interested in how you categorize Sherlock as an autistic savant. I never thought of that before, and your argument makes me want to agree with you. I was always amazed on how individuals could remember such “insignificant” facts or little details down to the day of the week in the 1950s. Sherlock does know a lot about music, which is what I generally think about with savants. Those who can play the piano extraordinarily well, yet lack in communicating with others. Doing a close read of “A Study in Scarlet” made me pay close attention to how much of the story Sherlock spends on himself and his “rituals” or habits. I do agree in your explanation of how Sherlock wasn’t trained to be a detective—it was something that came naturally to him. I find the same response to other autistic savants—most of them learned piano by ear (how???) and teach themselves the notes by ear. It leaves me feeling quite ineffective in things I know I can do well.

    I also appreciate how we observe Sherlock’s tendencies through another character. This, for me, pushes out stereotypes that the narrator may have about Sherlock. Watson merely describes it as if were commonplace for him. “Sherlock is this mastermind, this all-knowing expert about everything”, when, in fact, part of it could be attributed to autism. Reading Sherlock as an autistic character feels “right” at the end of the story—he feels more real. Sherlock is not superhuman with an endless knowledge of all things, he merely has autism, something that many other real people have.

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