The Rainman has a Disability Superpower. Karmic law dictates that every mental birth defect has a compensating benefit. Like taking flaws on an RPG character, there is always an intelligence point payback, and usually a special skill, too. Some Rain Men are friendless creepy freaks, others are lovable weirdos. Rain Men are always equipped with supernatural skills.
These skills are usually mental and often geeky. At the low end are super keen observation, memory and calculation. At the high end are telekinesis and hacking into the world's computational substrate. In the namesake film, the skills are near-instantaneous observation and counting that makes Dustin Hoffman's character a nightmare for a decent casino.
Would-be kidnappers and other baddies will think the Rain Man makes an easy target, on account of his not-intimidating frame. But these hidden skills will come to the fore in the hour of need.
In Real Life, autism is a complex brain development disorder associated with interaction/communication problems and restricted repetitious behavior. Extreme cases can be disabling, but the negative medical view of autism is highly controversial in some quarters. Autism is seen by many autistics (including some people with Asperger syndrome, or "Aspies") as more akin to a different viewpoint and way of life. Savant skills are rare, although repetitious behavior does tend to result in autistics acquiring some unusual skills through practice. But none of that makes good television, does it?
Oh, and savant skills aren't always associated with autism to begin with. The person "Rain Man" was based on, a savant named Kim Peek, was probably not autistic, but had FG syndrome, an X-linked genetic disorder that causes serious physical and mental abnormalities in the affected.
See also Science-Related Memetic Disorder, for a truly exaggerated take on the subject; Absent-Minded Professor and TV Genius, for somewhat milder takes; Crazy Awesome, for when their effectiveness depends on their abnormal behaviour; Genius Ditz when the disability is just plain stupidity, and Neurodiversity Is Supernatural for if the character's "gift" is a superpower. Can overlap with High-Functioning Autism.
A subtrope of Idiot Savant.
If you are looking for the film called Rain Man, it is here.
- Rain Man is, naturally, the Trope Namer, being severely mentally impaired but having superhuman counting abilities.
- Kazan from Cube is a textbook example, incapable of forming complete sentences but able to do complex mathematics in his head. Some of his lines come from Rain Man.
- The midget lady in The Best Offer, whose superhuman skill is her Photographic Memory.
- Jimmy, the titular Wizard in The Wizard, is an Instant Expert in every video game he plays. He's even able to locate the World 1 Warp Whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3 on his first try in the middle of an intense competition.
- Discussed in Tropic Thunder when Kirk Lazarus back-handedly praises Tugg Speedman's courage for being willing to "go full retard" in the Oscar Bait film-within-a-film Simple Jack, noting that most commercially and critically successful Hollywood portrayals of mental disability give the Inspirationally Disadvantaged lead some compensating advantage and citing Rain Man and Forrest Gump as examples and the critical flop I Am Sam as a counterexample.
- The trope was discussed by author Luke Jackson, who wrote about his experience with ASD in Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome. In addition to mentioning Rain Man, he also mentions seeing TV programs about real life people on the autistic spectrum with exceptional talents:
- "I don't know about any of you AS readers, but I found those programs depressing. It seems I have got the nerdiness and the freakishness but none of the genius!"
- Unseen Academicals: Mister Nutt. Very book intelligent, remembers an amazing amount of what he's read, but his social skills are lacking, and the new or unexpected can make him freeze up. Much of this is due to the horrible circumstances of his early life.
- We might as well nickname this trope "Stephen King's Magic People With Mental Conditions."
- The Stand: M.O.O.N., that spells "Magic People With Mental Conditions"... The sort that ward off evil interdimensional apocalyptic overlords. They also tend to be secretly wise characters who have Karmic Protection against the villain.
- The autistic kid in The Regulators is a telepath.
- The intellectual disabled "Duddits" from Dreamcatcher has a telepathic connection to his friends and is able to help fend off the alien invasion. In the movie he was "off" because he actually was an alien... apparently.
- The intellectual disabled custodians in Kingdom Hospital have a connection to "the Old Kingdom," the spectral otherworld.
- And don't forget John Coffey, the big black guy with not a lot of learning who can heal people...
- The Dark Tower, Although Sheemie Ruiz is mentally deficient, he turns out to be a powerful Breaker and can teleport people.
- Blackwolf, the Batman Expy from Soon I Will Be Invincible, gets his observational skills and planning powers from a form of high-functioning autism.
- Pick a Dean Koontz novel, any Dean Koontz novel... nine times out of ten there will be a mentally handicapped character of some sort who has extraordinary gifts, up to and including psychic powers...
- A Wizard Alone, the sixth book in the Young Wizards series, centered around an autistic character who was portrayed as locked up in his own head on account of being autistic (which is a very inaccurate portrayal of what it is like), but was taking advantage of this writers' error to lock up the Big Bad in there with him. A little off in that being autistic didn't seem to give him a lot, otherwise, and was basically treated as something awful that'd been sicced on him by the Forces of Entropy and a metaphor for people closing themselves off because of a trauma such as grief. In the end he pushes it off on
Satan is everywherethe Lone Power and becomes a normal wizard, apart from his special ability to be two places at once, which is caused by being a conduit for holy power. Which is unrelated to the autism, incidentally, or at least not said to be related. Something like that.
- The Millennium Trilogy: Lisbeth Salander is a combination of The Rain Man, Dark Action Girl, and a healthy serving of Broken Bird. She's incredibly withdrawn and doesn't get on well with others (to the point where she was legally declared mentally incompetent), but she has a Photographic Memory and extraordinary talents for hacking and working with machinery and can dig up practically any information about someone given enough time. In the books she is speculated to have Asperger Syndrome, but she doesn't really fit the definition given the calculated ruthlessness and flexible independence. The author himself, in talks with his editor, stated that he saw her more as a borderline sociopath with an incredibly bad upbringing, which would fit better, or how he envisioned a modern Pippi Longstocking might turn out after growing up in the Swedish bureaucratic system as an orphan with an Ambiguous Disorder.
- Friendly of Best Served Cold (followup novel to The First Law) is a bit odd, taciturn, and, well, Ax-Crazy, but he's also excellent with numbers. He gets hung up on counting especially, such as the fact that there are eight letters in "counting," and that two times eight is sixteen which is the square root of two hundred fifty-six which...
- It's been speculated that Jeremy Clockson in Thief of Time is autistic. He's also a brilliant clockmaker who instinctively knows what time it is. In fact, he knows it so deeply that he gets really upset if he sees a clock that's wrong.
- In My Godawful Life by Michael Kelly, a parody of Misery Lit, Euphemia has Asperger's and Tourette's Syndromes although it's also implied that she fakes them as an excuse for her lack of empathy but also serves as a walking dictionary, thesaurus, A to Z, clock, calendar, episode guide for Doctor Who and Star Trek, and is a prodigy in a variety of disciplines including maths, physics and Latin.
- Mass Effect: Ascension has Gillian Grayson, a high-functioning autistic preteen with extremely high biotic potential (gravity manipulation/telekinesis). Early on while she's doing schoolwork she only occasionally types in an answer, but it's always the right one. However, she does seem to be somewhat realistically portrayed - physical contact is alternately not felt and painful, she doesn't understand other kids, she doesn't always respond to someone speaking. Kahlee Sanders, taking care of her, thinks that going off the Cerberus medication she was taking and being in an environment suit among suited-up quarians contribute significantly to her disability becoming somewhat less severe by the end of the book. She shows some emotion and more curiosity about things happening around her, and with the suit insulating her from the outside world, physical contact doesn't overload her senses.
- One of The Baby-Sitters Club's clients was an Autistic girl who couldn't talk unless she was asked to name a date or if singing was part of the music she heard (she was a piano savant). At one point her sitter discovers that a neighborhood boy was charging other children to see the freaky savant girl.
- Little Pete from Gone. He is a five-year-old and severely autistic. In Diana's Random Power Ranking system, muggles are 0, most mutants are 1-3, The Hero and the Big Bad are 4, and Little Pete is 10.
- Genetic scientist Anton of Ender's Shadow says he was inspired by Rainman-like savants, who showed him the human brain could be far smarter than it typically was. But that intelligence always comes with a cost: in the case of the children he genetically enhances in utero, it's a drastically reduced lifespan.
- Neuro Tribes gives a few Real Life examples of this trope, such as two severely autistic twin brothers who can discover 8-digit prime numbers in their heads.
- St. Elsewhere: In the series finale, the entire series is revealed to be the figment of an autistic teenager's imagination; a tiny building set inside a snow globe served as the hospital where the main action was set.
- Parenthood: Max Braverman, the 8-year-old son of Adam and Kristina Braverman, has Asperger's. Several episodes have featured characters on the autism spectrum or issues related to the disorder.
- Game shows: Several game show-related talk boards have members who are on the autism spectrum, and affected to varying degrees.
- While not directly noted as such, a subject of the 1979 game show The Guiness Game (where contestants won cash prizes for correctly guessing whether a world's record would be broken) was a child who could instantly figure in his head a ridiculously complicated mathematical equation. (The kid came up with the incorrect answer.)
- In Stephen King's Rose Red, Annie Wheaton is too autistic to really speak to anyone, but she is also telekinetic and telepathic. See also Literature, above.
- In Burn Notice:
- The schizophrenic Spencer sees patterns in everything, which helps him find Michael and alert him to a woman who's selling coded messages to enemy agents. Unfortunately, he also sees messages sent on beams of light from aliens and that the enemy agents are evil aliens seeking to destroy the universe, which makes him hard to work with. Spencer receives a happy ending when Barry gets him a cryptography job and he gets on some anti-psychotics.
- Averted with Dougie in a later episode. He has no particular abilities, he's just a good (but 'slow') guy who's a Pet the Dog moment for his drug dealer cousin and the target of a violent criminal seeking to use him. Fiona has a Mama Bear moment on his behalf.
- "It's a gift... and a curse."
- Sttotlemeyer even refers to it as his "Rain Man thing" in one episode.
- Detective Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent is awkward and stutters but has an exceptional attention to detail and problem solving skills.
- He also faced down against an Aspie who was able to arrange murders so that no one would ever notice a pattern. He was so good that Goren and Eames only caught him because someone else made a mistake.
- That, and he would unconsciously arrange things in a certain pattern, including the "random" dump sites.
- Lampshaded with Joey in Friends, when Chandler comments that Joey can't add five hundred and five hundred in his head, but when you put him near a woman he becomes the Rainman.
- Haywire from Prison Break, who supposedly has a "schizoaffective disorder with bipolar tendencies," not only has a perfect photographic memory, but has no need for sleep. A Television Without Pity recapper noted "I love it when being mentally disabled really means you have superpowers."
- Averted by Eureka. Kevin's supernatural powers are due not to his autism but to absorbing the Akashic Field.
Carter: "What is... November 3rd, 1957?"Kevin: "Tuesday."Carter: "Pretty sure it was a Thursday."Kevin: "Nope. Tuesday."Carter: "Whatever. Still gonna look it up."
- However, his ability to name the day of the week for any given date is a classical view of an autistic superpower. And then they pull this:
- Which nobody ever did: November 3rd, 1957 was a Sunday, according to both Linux' cal(1) function and The Other Wiki.
- Many fans speculate that Chloe O'Brian in 24 has Asperger's, though it's never been confirmed by TPTB.
- Spinelli on General Hospital is so good with computers that the Port Charles Mob...convinces him to work for them. At one point, Matt Hunter wants to test him for autism, but he refuses, telling him he is Spinelli, and no further explanation is needed.
- Airwolf: A boy with Down Syndrome has the ability to accurately draw something for memory. His father, an aircraft designer, gets kidnapped by people who appear to be working for a certain non-democratic state. He is able to draw the outside of the house, thus allowing Airwolf's image recognition system to find it.
- River Tam from Firefly, though in her case she started out just fine (better than fine), until her fourteenth birthday, when she was convinced to go to the Academy. From there, things got worse.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit once featured a little girl with Williams Syndrome. She made the perfect witness because 1) she literally had no concept of lying, and 2) she had really, really good hearing. (She was also completely adorable.)
- FlashForward (2009) used the 'prattling savant' variety of this trope with Gabriel.
- Fringe has an episode about a mentally challenged individual (forget if they mentioned the cause) who is given IQ steroids to the point of being able to predict outcomes and create Rube Goldberg deathtraps.
- An episode of In Plain Sight had a bookie's accountant who had Aspergers. She was the perfect witness because she couldn't lie, but she was the worst protected witness because it was impossible for her maintain a new identity. On top of that she still believed her boss was her friend and tried to visit him during the trial, which nearly got her killed.
- An episode of Without a Trace had an autistic boy go missing. The parents were asked if he had any special abilities. They outright say "You mean like Rainman? No!" Although, he does do some pretty detailed drawings and can recite all the eras of the geologic time scale.
- Abed from Community. Lampshaded after Abed has managed to sit perfectly still for twenty-six hours waiting in a room simply because Annie asked him to:
Professor Duncan: It's you! It's your fault!
Annie: But... you told me to bring subjects!
Professor Duncan: Yeah, subjects! Not Rain Man!
- There's another direct reference in one episode in a blink-and-you'll-mis-it moment: Jeff spills a bag of bagels and Abed notes how many have fallen on the floor at a glance. This echoes a scene in Rainman when Raymond first demonstrates his savant abilities by doing the same with toothpicks. Though it's actually a Stealth Pun once you realize Abed counts 13. As in, a baker's dozen, the most likely number.
- Jerry Espenson on Boston Legal; he has Asperger's Syndrome and is also one of the most brilliant lawyers at the firm.
- Gary Bell from Alphas, an autistic who can read and process wireless signals faster than a computer. In one episode someone refers to him as "Rain Man", a reference he doesn't get because his mother won't allow him to watch that movie.
- Indeed, part of Alphas' premise is that most Alphas have at least a shade of this, the same altered brain chemistry which provides their unique abilities making them prone to thematically related mental disorders. The Ghost's manipulative powers, which he uses to carry out elaborately planned assassinations using mind-controlled stooges, clearly suffers from considerable OCD, mapping out every aspect of his life with the same precision he plans assassinations—to the point that he considers four minute's tardiness an offense punishable by death.
- There's also Anna, who was diagnosed with Low Functioning Autism but actually has a different atypical brain disorder, whose Alpha ability allows her to understand any language— even though she herself can only speak a language of her own devising made up mostly by the sounds made by stroking a brush. Once she has her tablet computer which translates what she's saying, she is revealed to be highly intelligent and one of the leaders of Red Flag
- Skylar's ability to disassemble machines and create new technology comes at the cost of her apparently doing it compulsively, as well as having difficulty with other people. The only person she gets along with at all is Nina. Skylar's daughter shares the compulsive issue, but in regards to math and encryption.
- The FOX series Touch seems to be all about this, seeing as it focuses on the father of a severely autistic child (he's even nonverbal) who serves as a conduit for the patterns of the universe.
- WWE had Eugene, Eric Bischoff's "special" nephew, whose savant skill just happened to be Professional Wrestling. Later they introduced Jesse and his cousin Festus, the latter of which seems to be heavily autistic, but "wakes up" whenever he hears the ring bell and becomes a superb powerhouse wrestler, only to go back off to his own little world when the bell rings again at the end of the match.
- These were both played for laughs, with the best usage being when John Morrison and The Miz more or less herded "stupid" Festus into the ring with a bell, and proceeded to ring it over and over to watch him snap back and forth, with Morrison at one point leaving Festus in "battle" mode to watch him chase Miz around the ring. It must be noted the fellow who plays Festus is REALLY dedicated to the character.
- Throughout professional wrestling history, there have been "missing link" characters — wrestlers with limited language skills and apparently little or no independent cognitive ability, but whenever they enter the ring, they unleash a full fury on their hapless opponents. One of the most famous "missing link" types was George "the Animal" Steele, whose neanderthal character's vocabulary consisted of "duh," "uh," and a few other assorted words, never in sentences of more than a couple words. William James Meyers — actually a highly intelligent man who taught high school physical education in Detroit, and wrestled part-time — perfected the George Steele character over time, and enjoyed his most popular run (as a sympathetic babyface) from 1985-1988 in the WWF.
- WWE, as part of its civic duties, once teamed with supermodel Jenny McCarthy (one of many celebrities who have children on the autism spectrum) and her Generation Rescue to promote autism awareness on the August 2 (taped July 28), 2008 installment of WWE Saturday Night's Main Event. The show drew a meager 1.4 rating, almost justified given McCarthy's irresponsible pushing of the discredited "vaccinations lead to autism" lie.
- In Clive Barker's Jericho, Cpl. Simone Cole has the ability to hack into reality itself by the magic of autistic weirdness and high mathematics.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has the "Idiot Savant" background, which gives you a huge boost to intelligence and gambling, at the expense of social abilities including the 'stupid' dialogue trees.
- Max from Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse: He has no long term memory, the attention span of a fly and no social skills, but he has latent psychic powers which are linked to Toys.
- Sandal from Dragon Age: Origins is a natural at enchantments (enhancing weapons with magical properties), but has virtually no communication skills, typically only saying words like, "Hello" and "Enchantment". His adoptive father mentions that he was actually called a savant by the people at the Ferelden Circle, since typically takes years of practice before someone can fold lyrium properly into enchantments and very few people can do so safely.
- This skill also serves a Running Gag where the player can find him in the middle of a room filled with darkspawn corpses and covered in blood, with absolutely no explanation of how he killed them all aside from "Enchantment!".
Hawke: How did you do this?
Hawke: [Points to a frozen Ogre] And how did you do that?!
Sandal: Not Enchantment!
- This skill also serves a Running Gag where the player can find him in the middle of a room filled with darkspawn corpses and covered in blood, with absolutely no explanation of how he killed them all aside from "Enchantment!".
- In the Overlord mission of Mass Effect 2, Doctor Archer's autistic brother David is a math whiz and also turns out to be capable of both understanding and perfectly mimicking the otherwise-indecipherable signals used in geth communication, to the point where he can issue them orders. The plot hits the bad end of cynicism and Doctor Archer is all too willing to abuse this talent with paper-thin justifications for the way David has to be treated to weaponize it. The contraption looks like something worse than you'd see in The Matrix, and just about the only thing David can say afterwards is "QUIET! MAKE IT STOP!"
Doctor Archer: David might even enjoy it...
- AMY is an autistic girl who has telekinetic powers. The two are related on a meta level: Lana (the main character, Amy's social worker) cannot leave Amy lest she be infected with the zombie virus, and she also acts as a Living Emotional Crutch for Amy (something autistic people commonly have). Because of the aforementioned zombie immunity, Amy forms the basis of an Escort Mission, and real life autistic people will often need to be taken by the hand, and may wander off after being told to stay somewhere (which Amy also does).
- Symmetra from Overwatch is confirmed as an autistic person and was gifted with an unique ability to bend light to her own imagination, which is why the Vishkar Corporation plucked her out of her childhood poverty life and trained her to be an architect using their Hard Light technology. Her being on the autistic spectrum (including lack of social skills and developing a Super OCD and obsession on order) used to bother her, but over time she learned to utilize her differences to do things her co-workers couldn't. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Vishkar is one bad bad corporation that probably used Symmetra's talents for dubious ends, something that she suspected and doubted that they really are doing things for the greater good as they claimed, but due to their indoctrination on her and obsession on order (which Vishkar is technically bringing onto others), she cannot turn away from the organization.
- In Red vs. Blue, Caboose, the lovable idiot who never quite figured out that not everyone offering orange juice and a cookie has his best interests in mind, is the only character strong enough to lift the bomb Tex has prepared to blow up O'Malley's base. The other Blues describe this as "God's way of compensating" for the fact that Caboose lacks the capacity to do basic addition. And if he ever does get legitimately angry...
Caboose: I'm thinking about kittens... guh... kittens covered with spikes! That makes me angry! YEEAAAARRRRGH! My name is Michael J. Caboose and I hate babies.
- Last Res0rt's Daisy Archanis is an autistic Mad Scientist; while the only real 'power' she's demonstrated so far are some kickass deduction skills that helped her figure out Jigsaw was a vampire before anyone else AND discreetly inform Jigsaw of this by exploiting Jigsaw's new thought-reading skills in order to avoid breaking The Masquerade, bonus materials imply that her autistic facets are actually a symptom of being a Light Child and thus having the potential for supernatural powers (albeit lacking the training to use them).
- Noah in El Goonish Shive has an number of Aspergers-like traits, including having absolutely no idea how social conversations are supposed to work. Knowing the series, however, it's more likely he'll turn out to be an alien or other-worldly being who just doesn't get human culture. It's very heavily hinted (his connection to Damien, how he sees Grace, the fact he was seen when talking about a sixth experimental chimera (OK, in shadow, but his hair is far to unique to miss) that he has at least some connection to Grace and the other Chimera prior to being adopted by Raven.
- Jiro Sasaki from Ruby's World. Somewhat subverted in that he was a literal example in his youth, but his autistic brain has been complemented by the Super Soldier process to which he was subjected. His body and brain are augmented by nanotech, so his talents can be applied to pretty much anything... except understanding other human beings.
- In Questionable Content, Hannelore's OCD and germ phobia make her see Marigold's room as a "challenge". In addition, OCD-fueled counting makes her a great drummer as soon as she learns how to use the drums, since she sees it as "counting with your whole body".
- A Running Gag in the Batman episode of After Hours is Michael accusing the others of having Aspergers, and testing it by tossing some sugar packets and demanding that they guess how many there are. At the end of the episode a waiter walks by, glances at them, and asks who put 31 sugar packets on the floor.
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: The 1979 episode "The Mainstream," where a young boy named Dennis, with a "mild form of intellectual disablity" — the depiction is consistent with autism-like characteristics — shows off his talents at his school's art, and teaching the gang and his classmates that he can rise above his apparent disability.
- The Sewer Urchin from The Tick. On ground level, he is generally considered ineffectual and unpopular (particularly because of his smell), but in his home territory of the sewers, he's one of The City's most effective superheroes. As an added bonus, he actually sounds and acts like Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man.
- The Simpsons: Several episodes where Homer meets autistic characters, including:
- "Stark Raving Dad" — Homer is mistakenly(?) sent to a mental institution, where he meets a man who can figure out complicated mathematical problems in his mind (although the question Homer asks is "what is 5 plus 9").
- "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)" — Homer gets a job as a blackjack dealer at Mr. Burns' casino, and two men resembling Charlie and Raymond Babbit from Rain Man are at the blackjack table. Homer is impressed by Raymond's card-counting abilities ... until "Raymond" hears a roulette wheel spinning and starts mimicking the opening spiel of Wheel of Fortune; Homer tries to restrain "Raymond", who begins to panic and beat the palm of his hand against his head... after which Homer begins to do the same!
- Marty Balin, a founding member of the rock group Jefferson Airplane (later Jefferson Starship and still later, just Starship), has a mild form of autism and led the group through its first two successful incarnations, first as a psychedelic rock group (backing fellow member Grace Slick on songs like "Somebody to Love") and later as more of an easy-listening group (singing lead on "Miracles" and "Count on Me") before taking on a successful solo career (recall 1981's "Hearts"); he also married and had two children.
- Jason McElwain, a high school basketball manager for Greece Athena High School in Rochester, New York, became a celebrated figure in 2006 after he was allowed to suit up for a final game, played the last four minutes ... and promptly scored 20 points (six three-pointers and another just inside the arc) to give Greece Athena a 79-43 win over division rival Spencerport. Later in the year, ESPN awarded McElwain an ESPY Award in the "Best Sports Moment" category in recognition of his 20-point game.
- Nikola Tesla. Probable OCD, possibly Non-Verbal Learning Disability, definitely not autism or Aspergers. If you take it a bit farther, you could say that his visions were a result of synesthesia. He probably wasn't a savant, because he was quite good at social interaction. Tesla's problem was lack of understanding by other people, being too far ahead of his time to be appreciated as the genius he was, and lack of funding, which stopped him from accomplishing more.
- Henry Cavendish, at least according to Oliver Sacks again, not confirmed. Others regard him as simply being shy, though several of his acquaintances dispute this, saying he was hardly able to interact with people at all.
- Of course, posthumous diagnoses like these need to be taken with many grains of salt. While there has been for some time a fad for "diagnosing" famous dead (and even living) people with high-functioning autism, and other disorders, the grounds for this are often highly dubious, and may fail to take into account the wide range of personalities.
- Many geniuses are minor inversions of this trope — having a high IQ tends to make it difficult to relate to regular people, and being a genius in a specific field often makes one ignore other aspects of their life. It's not uncommon for a great researcher, artist, or inventor to be inept at pretty much everything else they do, without it being a mental disorder.
- The Danish company 'Specialisterne' — and its American counterpart Aspiritech — has made a business out of hiring high-functioning 'Aspies' and taking advantage of their attention to detail and ability to instantly recognize any inconsistencies in a larger system — for software-testing purposes. Turns out that particular skill-set makes it a lot easier to hunt down bugs and glitches.
- People with Asperger's Syndrome do not necessarily possess a 'magic skill' but they tend to actually enjoy actions other may consider dull, which in conjunction with their flattened affect allows them to maintain high level of concentration for extended periods of time and makes them less prone to frustration (unless they have OCD and work in a chaotic environment). This trait is not 'special,' just less common among neurotypical people.
- Stephen Wiltshire, a diagnosed autistic who didn't even speak until the age of nine, but has incredible memory and artistic abilities. He can draw any target from memory after one look at it — including, once, a complete London cityscape after a single 15-minute helicopter ride.
- Daniel Tammet, who unlike most savants "learned enough social skills to function in society" and (most intriguing for scientists) can actually describe his mental state. In the linked documentary ("The Boy With The Incredible Brain" in the UK and "Brain Man" in the US), he recites pi to 500 places and even meets the real Rainman and counts cards in Vegas. Spoiler: he gets a triple Black Jack when he splits what would've been three 7s. Incredibly, he claims that when doing complex arithmetic all he's doing is describing the "landscapes" created by his synesthesia.
- People with OCPD make great scientists, doctors and engineers because of the precision required. Not bad at building and maintaining wikis, either.
- Maui-based surfer Clay Marzo has Asperger's, and is so obsessively focused on surfing that when there's no surf he gets so upset that everyone steers clear of him. On the plus side his skills got him a sponsorship. On the minus side he's not exactly their best spokesperson.
Interviewer: What's your opinion on the board shorts?
Marzo: Well, they kind of ride up in the back, and I don't like some of the colors. (pause) Oh, was I supposed to say what I liked about them?
- Derek Paravicini (in part 3), a blind and clearly autistic man who happens to be a piano savant (he met his teacher when he shoved him off the bench and began banging the keys). Not only can he play any kind of song or music style on his piano, he can instantly "remix" a song if someone gives him the title, style, and key. Incidentally, he also happens to be Camilla Parker-Bowles' nephew.
- Neurologist Oliver Sacks met autistic twins who would later become the inspiration for the Rainman character. Instead of just being good at counting, however, they could, as they described, see primes. The toothpick scene in Rainman was actually taken from a similar incident in real life, but with matches. After seing the matches fall, the twins instantly count to 111, then say 37 three times, which Sacks noted is a prime number, and that 3 * 37 = 111. Sacks recorded another incident where he would communicate with the twins by using primes, as part of a game they developed between the two. Unfortunately, they were both "treated" to operate without each other to fulfill a role in society, which Sacks noted took away everything unique and special about them. Sacks's entire documentation of the twins can be found in the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
- Sacks himself suffered from prosopagnosia (face blindness), and as of 2010 lost vision in his right eye, which might help him relate to his patients.
- Synesthesia has been mentioned a couple times already, but one of the experiments that proved that such people really do see letters and numbers as different colors is a test involving picking out specific letters from a large rectangle of similar-looking letters. People with grapheme-color synesthesia do this much more quickly than people without — after all, how hard is it to pick out all the blue letters?
- That only works on people with that specific type of synesthesia, though grapheme-color is the most common reported form. Synesthesia can pair any two senses, sometimes more. The other wiki has more information for those interested in learning more.
- Alphabet refrigerator magnets have been linked to people perceiving letters as certain colors, so it's not necessarily any form of synesthesia that causes this.
- On the other hand, a person with grapheme-color synesthesia may have delays in picking out certain letters (and have a childhood frustration with alphabet refrigerator magnets) if the letters are depicted in the "wrong" color.
- In one of his books, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould describes a young man named Jesse who's a Savant: he would be considered intellectual disabled in nearly every area of development, except that he has incredible instictive skill with day-date calculation. Give him any date in the future or past, and he can instantly tell you what day of the week it was/will be. At the end, Gould reveals that Jesse is his own son.
- Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri is this. The franchise's existence stems largely from his love of collecting things, which might as well explain the Loads and Loads of Characters (not to mention a certain trope-naming phrase).