Assessing musical skills in autistic children who are not savants.
Descriptions of autistic musical savants suggest that they possess extraordinary skills within the domain. However, until recently little was known about the musical skills and potential of individuals with autism who are not savants. The results from these more recent studies investigating music perception, cognition and learning in musically untrained children with autism have revealed a pattern of abilities that are either enhanced or spared. For example, increased sensitivity to musical pitch and timbre is frequently observed, and studies investigating perception of musical structure and emotions have consistently failed to reveal deficits in autism. While the phenomenon of the savant syndrome is of considerable theoretical interest, it may have led to an under-consideration of the potential talents and skills of that vast majority of autistic individuals, who do not meet savant criteria. Data from empirical studies show that many autistic children possess musical potential that can and should be developed.