Sunday, May 31, 2009

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet

Tammet is a young gay man who has Asperger's Syndrome. Born in 1979, he grew up the oldest of 9 children and credits his supportive family as well as his first lover, Neil, for helping him to overcome the obstacles presented by autism and to learn how to live independently.

Autism may affect 3.4 out of 1000 children, according to a recent American study. Few people on the autism spectrum, however, are as high-functioning as Tammet. He is one of only 50 people in the world who can be called an autistic savant. His brain power is phenomenal. He sees numbers as shapes, colours and textures and can perform amazing calculations in his head. He also sees the patterns and relationships between words and can learn a new language in as little as one week's time.

In 2004, Tammet broke a European record by reciting pi from memory to 22,514 decimal places. It was a feat of stamina as well, taking a little over 5 hours. He undertook the challenge in order to raise money and awareness for epilepsy, which he had as a child.

Doctors and scientists consider Tammet to be a gold mine of information about the way our brains work because he is able to articulate what is happening inside his head. I found his memoir fascinating as well as touching. Since reading the book, I've gone to his website. He now lives in Avignon, France, with a man named Jerome. His newest book is called Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind.

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