The Prodigy's Cousin

The Prodigy's Cousin

The Family Link Between Autism and Extraordinary Talent

Book - 2016?
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We all know the autistic genius stereotypes. The absentminded professor with untied shoelaces. The geeky Silicon Valley programmer who writes bullet­proof code but can't get a date. But there is another set of (tiny) geniuses whom you would never add to those ranks--child prodigies. We mostly know them as the chatty and charming tykes who liven up day­time TV with violin solos and engaging banter. These kids aren't autistic, and there has never been any kind of scientific connection between autism and prodigy.

Until now.

Over the course of her career, psychologist Joanne Ruthsatz has quietly assembled the largest-ever research sample of these children. Their accomplishments are epic. One could reproduce radio tunes by ear on a toy guitar at two years old. Another was a thirteen-year-old cooking sensation. And what Ruthsatz's investigation revealed is noth­ing short of astonishing. Though the prodigies aren't autistic, many have autistic family members. Each prodigy has an extraordinary memory and a keen eye for detail--well-known but often-overlooked strengths associated with autism.

Ruthsatz and her daughter and coauthor, Kim­berly Stephens, now propose a startling possibility: What if the abilities of child prodigies stem from a genetic link with autism? And could prodigies-- children who have many of the strengths of autism but few of the challenges--be the key to a long-awaited autism breakthrough?

In The Prodigy's Cousin , Ruthsatz and Stephens narrate the poignant stories of the children they have studied, including that of a two-year-old who loved to spell words like "algorithm" and "confeder­ation," a six-year-old painter who churned out mas­terpieces faster than her parents could hang them, and a typically developing thirteen-year-old who smacked his head against a church floor and woke up a music prodigy.

This inspiring tale of extraordinary children, indomitable parents, and a researcher's unorthodox hunch is essential reading for anyone interested in the brain and human potential. Ruthsatz and Stephens take us from the prodigies' homes to the depths of the autism archives to the cutting edge of genetics research, all while upending our under­standing of what makes exceptional talent possible.

Publisher: New York, New York :, Current,, [2016?]
ISBN: 9781617230189
Characteristics: x, 273 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Stephens, Kimberly - Author


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Jun 05, 2017

********* 100-Starred Review ********
This book has most egregiously been referred to as a // pop psychology \\ book - - to be expected in today's atmosphere when a Real Scientist, doing Real Science, would have to stand out as a genuine maverick!
This is both an extraordinarily well researched and extraordinarily well written book! A prodigious achievement!
What the scientist, Dr. Ruthsatz, has done is to seek out the connection between autism and prodigy, and as an aside of my own, the occurrences of childhood brain-affecting infections have appeared historically among geniuses across the spectrum [think Nicola Tesla] and again we see such appearances among the subjects found and studied. She asked the Next Question - - something little done today, whether in scientific investigation or other types!
[It possibly appears that in some if not many cases, child prodigies appear, then infection followed by autism appears, then hopefully, with extreme effort on behalf of the parents, the child // grows \\ out of said autism, or given the natural neuroplasticity of the human brain, perhaps the infection, or damage done by said infection, is finally remedied???? Or perhaps a natural evolutionary stage????]
[General FYI: During the 1980s there was some truly fascinating research being done on viruses and their effects on human evolution, i.e., transfer and transmission of DNA by them, et cetera. Most unfortunately, Reagan in his bizarre religious fervor killed that government-financed research.]


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