On a warm summer night in June of 1980, Leslie Lemke gave a piano concert in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. That concert was my introduction to an extraordinary man and his surprising talent.
Leslie’s talent stems from a rare but remarkable condition called savant syndrome in which a person with an underlying disability such as autism or other central nervous system illness or injury also has some extraordinary ability that stands in stark contrast to their overall handicap.
I’ve been engaged in savant syndrome research since 1962, writing and publishing widely on the subject, participating in numerous broadcast and documentary productions, even consulting for the movie Rain Man. Today I’m a research consultant on autism at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac. But I was working in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health when I got to know Leslie and his incredible story.