Teen with Savant Autism Finds Tranquility in Music

By @Len_IBTimes on

A music teacher has found a way for New Zealand teen Julian McLaren to find an activity that would relax him in a world that usually seemed strange and enable him to sit in harmony with other kids, Kapi-Mana News reports.

Fourteen year old Julian is an autistic child with savant syndrome. He has perfect pitch, perfect rhythm and a powerful memory, and he is more than just excellent in playing the piano, but the rest of the things in this world are far from easy for him.

The Academy Award winning movie Rain Man has popularized the term savant, but scientists are quick to point out that not all savants are autistic, and vice versa. Savant syndrome was first properly described by Dr. J. Langdon Down, the same man who educated the world on Down's syndrome.

Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which a person exhibits developmental delays, but at the same time shows an extraordinary talent in something usually linked to powerful memory. Thus, savants tend to focus on a single talent to sharpen it over time.

Julian's talent in music is phenomenal for his music teacher Liz Sneyd.

"He has such huge talents and strength," Ms Sneyd says. "Some things it will take me five or six years to teach to an average student, Julian can pick up in about five seconds."

Julian's father Stuart McLaren also notes that all of his anxieties disappear when he sits to play the piano.

"It all seems to melt away," Mr McLaren says, noting everything else was difficult for Julian.

"He does struggle. He really does have a hard struggle with everyday life," Mr McLaren says.

Julian's musical talent was discovered only late last year, when he began violin lessons with Ms Sneyd, who found out by chance that he could replicate pieces from memory or just by hearing them once -despite the fact that he had never been in a piano lesson.

Julian now plays the piano with Ms Sneyd's orchestra, the Wellington-based Virtuoso Strings.

Ms Sneyd says Julian has such an uncanny timing, that a conductor is not needed by Virtuoso Strings.

"We call him the human metronome," Ms Sneyd says.

Julian's rhythm is not mechanical, Ms Sneyd notes, adding that his playing has helped other kids to understand that they are not different from one another.

"He feels the music as well. It's like a paradox," she says.

"I think it's really good for the other kids. What you understand and get to know, you're not afraid of. When kids play music with Julian there's that common ground. They become much more accepting of differences," she says, adding, "I think we've only scratched the surface of what he's capable of."

Julia has also shown interest in cello and flute, according to Ms Sneyd.

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