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Getting Whacked In the Head Can Make You a Savant, But Who Wants To Get Whacked In the Head?

Acme-anvilBy Dan Olmsted

In 2002, a furniture salesman named Jason Padgett was viciously attacked outside a karaoke bar in Tacoma, Washington. As a result, he became a math genius and was able to visualize complex geometric and physics concepts.

“The injury, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of his brain that makes everything in his world appear to have a mathematical structure,” reported Tanya Lewis on livescience.com.

"I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life" — from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain, Padgett told her. "It's just really beautiful."

It may be beautiful, but how many of us would choose being beaten within an inch of our life in order to gain what, in another context, could be called savant skills? (Padgett says it's worth it, even though he developed, interestingly enough, PTSD, OCD and social anxiety. I'd rather skip the whole thing, and I'd certainly like a vote before the hammer came down on me.)

I’ve been collecting stories like this for a while, in which being a savant is associated with damage of one kind or another, and now seems a useful time to put a few together. With the rise of Neurotribes and the overall normalization of autism in which Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang theory – a physics whiz with obvious autistic traits – is supposed to be funny, you would think that the modern world of computers and phones and flying machines essentially depended on autistic savants who just love calculating things in seconds so the rest of us can gape.

And yet, what a truncated world they so often end up inhabiting – if autism is a brain injury, which I believe it is, then savant skills are a rare side effect that are hardly worth the trouble. I believe we, and they, would get along just fine without this kind of collateral damage masquerading as a gift.  I mean, in the context of a raging epidemic of human-induced suffering, who really cares if cows have a calmer trip to the slaughterhouse?


It’s wild the number of times that I come across metal, and not the kind you get clobbered with outside a karaoke club, in connection with savant skills and autism. Exposure to toxic metals, both from without in the form of family or workplace exposure, and within in the form of vaccine ingredients, just about cry out “Guilty!”

A few months ago I picked up a book about an autistic savant, Jacob Barnett from the Midwest, who reputedly has an IQ higher than Einstein and has done interesting work on the Big Bang as a child, scrawling equations on the windows of his home. The reason I did so was that I had seen so many connections between metals and savant skills, I suspected I would find them again. I did.

“Jake was an ordinary baby, having an ordinary babyhood,” his mother writes in The Spark. “Then he began to withdraw from us, and with that additional diagnosis of Asperger’s, any hope of normalcy disappeared.”

His mom, Kristine, doesn’t question the why of this regression, but I was fascinated to learn that “Grandpa John Henry was an incredible man, not only a machinist, an engineer, and an inventor but also an expert craftsman and carpenter. … a machinist on the floor of Westinghouse’s tool and die plant, as his father had before him.

“He couldn’t help but noticing inefficiencies in the process known as annealing. To drill a hole in steel, workers had to hear the metal to soften it to the point where a tood could pierce it… but Grandpa John had a partner eventually solved the puzzle by inventing a new set of tools and a new process that allowed workers to drill hard steel, which revolutionized steel manufacturing.”

They spent countless hours together. After retiring, he kept up his work. “When we were not at the church site, we were by his side in the superb mess of his garage workshop.”

To my mind, this kind of evidence of maternal exposure to metals is a powerful and repeated clue. We found those same clues in the first 11 cases of autism reported in 1943 by Leo Kanner. The father of Case 2 was a plant pathologist experimenting with ethyl mercury dust when his son was born (and doubtless tracked it home on his clothes); the mother of another case was a public health pediatrician promoting the thimerosal-containing diphtheria shot.  Case 1, Donald T., had savant skills; he lived (and still lives) in a house built the first year that ethyl mercury containing lumber treatments were pioneered nearby.

Metals, namely mercury, explain the rise of autism, so there’s no surprise they are often evident in the background of autistic savants.

Consider Britain’s Daniel Tammet, who memorized Pi to 22,514 digits and learned Icelandic in a week to appear on a talk show there, and has Asperger’s. When his mother went into labor, his father – “his clothes still caked in oil and grease from his sheet metal work” – rushed her to the hospital.

I’m also thinking of the father of Child 11 in Andy Wakefield’s case series. The father grew up in his family’s business in California – electroplating, in which metals like aluminum are plated onto each other. If you’re looking for an anecdote to illustrate how a background load of metals could open the way for the MMR to trigger brain damage, look no further. (Another father of a child in the case series was a plumber in England – nothing in common with a businessman in California other than exposure to metals.)

And I’m thinking of the early autism case cited by Bernie Rimland whose father was a “plater,” no further elaboration given.

And I’m thinking of Eric Gladen, who after being poisoned with ethyl mercury by a tetanus shot as an adult describes, in his movie Trace Amounts, how he suddenly became able to read the blueprints that went with his job as an engineer in a fraction of the time it took before. He could conceive large projects in one fell swoop.

Of course, he was intensely miserable, in fact suicidal. On the whole, I’m guessing, he would prefer not to have been whacked in the head with vaccine damage.

And I’m betting a few million other people and their families would agree.


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.



This troubles me greatly:



I care that cows (cattle, mostly steer) don't go to the slaughterhouse at all, or live the lives of horror that they do before being slaughtered. And I find Temple Grandin's response (to their natural fear of being slaughtered), disconcerting.

And, interestingly, my daughter took a real extra jump toward normalcy when we became vegan.


That was what was wrong with FLINT!

Flint had a bad rep.


Certainly would not advise this as a DIY project. A friend of mine got in a bar brawl, ending with him getting hit in the head with a beer bottle. Every day since, he suffered seizures until his death 3 weeks ago. 20 years ago or so I read about a man who had OCD so bad he couldn't function, so decided to "end it all" so shot himself in the head with a .22 rifle. Instead of dying, he cured himself of OCD and was able to get a job.
Most brain injuries do not end well.


My sister has a grandson whom I have wondered about in terms of autism spectrum. He was, of course, fully vaccinated; had raging infections; worried his family over his late talking, and talks sometimes with this almost theatrical accent. She told me the other day that he recited verbatim a play with all the different parts--he only had one small part to speak but he had memorized all the other parts which he recited for her. Still, he has severe anxiety and they are holding him back a year before he goes to school because of it. Maybe one day we will be able to chemically induce genius or even better restore normalcy if we want to have that. It does seem many spectrum kids are super smart and socially awkward. Then, there are those that didn't luck out at all--have all the anxieties, all the allergies, and are stuck with dyslexia and multiple problems with schooling...add ataxia in. So it doesn't always work out with the super gifts.

Bob Moffitt

@ Greg .. regarding Sliberman's "feigned forceful presentation"

"Funny how he never seems to field questions, and especially from critics".

These charlatans have all learned from the Master of Deceit .. Paul Offit .. NEVER allow yourself to be questioned .. NEVER.....

go Rand

A bit off topic but...

has the "Flu mist" or "non-mercury flu shots" arrived to the typical outlets ?

Seems that all that is out there is the mercury FU shot for infants and toddlers...

A bit quiet with the media on the flu season this year. Some years, nearly every local newscast has something to say about the worthless flu vaccine.


Watched yesterday a video of Sliberman giving a speech. Supposedly, the 'autism epidemic' can be explained by the 'perfect storm' of Kanner getting autism wrong, Wakefield's 'fraud', and 'Rainman' telling the world about autism. Watching Sliberman's feigned forcefull presentation, I couldn't help but get the sense that even he knows that he is full of it. Funny how he never seems to field questions, and especially from critics.

Bob Moffitt

@ Twyla .. I don't think just beating your head against a wall is going to make you a savant ... otherwise .. those 250-300 pound pro-football players .. during their ten or fifteen pro-football careers .. having repeatedly .. violently .. slammed their helmet covered heads into each other .. would all be savants.

On the other hand .. some "metals" .. such as the extraordinarily high levels of "lead" found in the drinking water of Flint Michigan .. has caused the World Health Organization to report that "lead" affects children's brain development, resulting in reduced IQ, behavioral changes, anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immuno-toxicity and toxicity to reproductive organs .. stating .. the neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.

There is a class action suit ongoing against those in the City of Flint who failed to protect the city's water supply from contamination with lead .. seeking to hold those personally responsible for the contamination that caused inhumane damage to innocent children of Flint as potential criminals.

An what of the WHO .. who recognizes the serious consequences of drinking water contaminated with lead .. but .. none-the-less ... refuses to remove all mercury from vaccines .. which are injected directly .. which the permission of WHO .. into children all around the world?

We live in a world gone completely mad......

Stand Up!

Dan, excellent article ..thank you.

I've had very similar and unpleasant discussions with certain family members, particularly those with a medical background, who choose to see or interpret these unusual tendencies--savant tendencies--as something to be celebrated rather than recognized for the neurologic damage and dysfunction that underscores this type of behavioral expression. I echo Dr. Boyd Haley's comments regarding medical training--that allopathic physicians lack a fundamental understanding of toxicity and the cumulative effects of chronic exposure to toxic agents like heavy metals. It's even more evident in their prescribing habits as they rationalize and trivialize the negative toxic effects of the pharmaceuticals they prescribe.


I've been beating my head against a wall for years, but haven't become a savant. Darn.


Ohh, And Dan:

My Family and I - loved the title of your article this morning.

Thanks for being such a advocate and such a talent.



I guess if you have an irreversible brain injury you just got to do the best you can with it. Those lucky enough to suvive a brain injury still have the right to still exist.

I think people would be far more tolerant if they understood that it is brain injuries and not just born that way.

And maybe reference to what Jenny said - we could chain the devil back down in the earth.


I've often pondered this myself. "Drug Store Disability" is an interesting piece that illustrates this as well.

a reader

I agree that metals play a huge role in some cases of autism. I could feel my neurological symptoms going down inch by inch with chelation and lots of saunas.
I just read an interesting article about how much minerals have declined in our food--30 to 40 percent, I think--in one generation. This apparently has something to do with the effects of climate change on the soil and pesticide use. It is my belief that minerals are either lessened by heavy metal exposure or help the body to eliminate them.
Legislators are now in the process of trying to attach the so called DARK act to a bill to ban states from requiring GMO labeling. This means that even states that have passed laws requiring labeling will not be able to enforce their own laws. Republicans supposedly believe in states rights except they apparently believe even more in campaign donations from Monsanto. I have not been able to find even one with the courage to vote for labeling even though studies show that 90 percent of the population wants it. How does this relate to autism? GMOs allow much more pesticide to be used on vegetables and fruits. This will soon end up in the soil and lower mineral levels further, I would think.
I believe this is a very important issue for every single citizen. The time to act is NOW. You can get more information from the Environmental Working Group or Food and Watch Watch. Please call your legislators to voice your strong support for GMO labeling and/or donate to the fight against handing over our food supply to Monsanto.


Philosophically, maybe the devil rules the underground world for a reason. Maybe that which comes from deep in the ground in its organic form needs to just stay there, or else all hell breaks loose. Maybe at some point in human history in an instinctual way humans understood that. Metals, carbon, oil, etc etc etc. Mining comes with a heavy price, doesn't it?

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