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Autism and Culture: Adele, Project Lifesaver, and Prodigies

First up in our weekly recap of autism in culture, international pop star Adele recently brought the dreams of a 12-year-old girl named Emily Tammam with autism to life when she brought her on stage to perform her favorite song. And how did this 12 year-old get so lucky? By simply standing in front of the Manchester venue prior to the show with a sign that read, “It’s my dream to sing with Adele.” The star saw the sign and eventually brought the young girl on stage to sing “Someone Like You.”


“Adele was very nice to do that, she clearly didn’t have to do it,” Emily’s father said. “Emily said she wants to show people that have disabilities or mental issues they can still do mainstream things like singing. T


In other news, residents of Roseville, MN are recovering from a recent scare that left the community in paralysis. Roseville firefighters were paged about noon Sunday to help find the 10-year-old boy, who had wandered away from his caregiver in the area of Larpentuer Ave and Dale St in Roseville. Fortunately, the department administrates Ramsey County’s ‘Project Lifesaver’ program, which uses radio tracking technology to find missing people with special needs.


In this particular case, the young boy had been fitted with a bracelet that ultimately led searchers to his area and brought him back in contact with his worried father. The area where the child disappeared is heavily wooded, and filled with holding ponds that could prove deadly. A perimeter was set up, and first responders used radio tracking devices to locate the boy, who was found safe in a heavily wooded area four blocks from where he disappeared.


Finally, in a piece of news that has been getting plenty of attention this year so far, a new book by psychologist Joanne Ruthstatz entitled The Prodigy’s Cousin attempts to further understand the relationship between autism and so-called prodigies, individuals who excel at a certain talent to such a degree as to elevate them upon all others. Building on 14 years of research by Ruthsatz, the authors examine multiple case studies of families that demonstrate the potential association between autism and prodigy and follow a trail of scientific studies that support this theory.


However, it should be noted that prodigies differ in one key area from savants, who also display extraordinary abilities: they do not have autism. So what is the connection between savants, prodigies, and autism? Ruthsatz thought it was possible that autism might have something to do with these extreme abilities, since some autistic individuals have strengths in certain areas, like pattern recognition and attention to detail. Her book explores this thesis and makes a compelling argument in the process.