Rain Man, Autistic Savant

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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Rain Man, The Movie / Rain Man, Real Life Darold A. Treffert, MD Raymond Babbitt, the main character in the movie RAIN MAN, has become the world's best known savant due to Dustin Hoffman's remarkably accurate and sensitive portrayal of Savant Syndrome in that film. That 1988 movie, in its first 101 days, accomplished more toward bringing Savant Syndrome to public awareness than all the efforts combined of all those interested in this condition the past 101 years following Dr. Down's 1887 description of this disorder. It is a memorable movie about a memorable savant. It won four academy awards, including Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman and Best Picture for 1988. I was pleased to have been a consultant to that film. Because that film has served as the introduction for so many persons to savants, it is worth looking at some of the effort and activity that led to its creation, its authenticity and its success.

The movie is the story of two brothers, Charlie Babbitt and his brother, Raymond Babbitt, an autistic savant. Their father has died leaving 3 million dollars in a trust fund for Raymond's care in the institution where Raymond has spent almost all of his adult life. Charlie wants the money. Charlie traces Raymond to the institution where he lives, discovering once again a brother he did not even remember since he was so young (age 2) when Raymond, then age 18, was placed into long-term care. So young was Charlie at that time that he, in typical childlike manner, called his brother RAIN MAN because that's the way the name Raymond sounded to him. After this for-the-wrong-reasons reunion at the hospital, a six-day cross-country tour ensues from Cincinnati to Los Angeles in a '49 Buick with a variety of adventures wherein some...