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Autistic Savants Part 2 – The Rainman Twins

September 18th, 2014  |  Published in FEATURE, SCIENCE

The Rainman Twins

It’s been a while since we added to the Science section. Today, I searched “Autistic Savants” and came upon Florence (Flo) and Katherine (Kay) Lyman, identical twins in their late fifties from New Jersey. They have been dubbed the Rainman Twins and had a documentary made about them in 2011. They demonstrate an extraordinary ability to calculate dates and retain a vast collection of details about seemingly everything that has happened to them in their entire lives from what they have seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and touched.

Flo and Kay are the only known autistic savant twins in the world and are two of 100 savants worldwide as of the date this program was made. While it is certainly special to be an autistic savant, what makes the two ladies even moreso is how they are not stereotypically autistic. They are social, talkative, outgoing, bubbly. They are comfortable with making jokes and expressing opinions. They also enjoy going out to see live bands.

Despite having talents many of us would love to have at our disposal, life has not been easy for the twins. In this episode of Extraordinary People, we learn about how it was growing up in the 1960s when attempts to understand their world were never made, their abilities went unrecognized and misunderstood, and their parents remained ashamed of their differences hiding and sheltering them from the public.

Savant Syndrome remains a mystery in many respects. We find out that no one knows how exactly the twins are able to calculate so accurately and quickly days and dates.

Fascinating is their obsession with the game show $100,000 Pyramid and idolization of host Dick Clark; equally so, their extensive statistical record keeping and cataloguing of colours and wardrobes of numerous TV personalities. “It exercises your brain…And it makes it smell like rubber,” quips one of them.

An endearing pair, Flo and Kay inspire affection among those around them. The program tries to end without us feeling too afraid for their futures. I’m not sure how they support themselves, but it is my hope that they will receive what they need to (a) guide them towards putting their talents to good use and (b) maintain their glowing optimism about the world: “We smile all the time. We smile when we think about the future and what we’re going to do.”

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