the rainman twins

The series exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues this week with the story of Flo and Kay, the world’s only female autistic savant twins. Savantism is a rare condition in which sufferers of developmental disorders, often autism, are capable of acts of genius that far outstrip their expected levels of ability. In Flo and Kay’s case, they each have extraordinary memories for facts and dates. Through interviews with several medical professionals, Extraordinary People: The Rainman Twins attempts to expose the truth behind this oft-misunderstood condition. Describing themselves as “human computers”, Flo and Kay can access their memories and make calculations more efficiently than most people.

Among their many special talents is an ability to compute the day of the week for any date – past or future. For any given day of their lives, they can remember what the weather was like and even what they had for breakfast. According to psychologist Dr David Holmes, Flo and Kay’s wellordered minds are also reflected in their wellordered lives. “The more that they can create order, the more secure they feel,” he says.

An example of how this desire for order has manifested itself in the twins is their obsession with routinely watching television. In particular, they are big fans of Dick Clark. The popular US television personality is an all-American institution, and appears on Flo and Kay’s favourite show, ‘$100,000 Pyramid’. They call him their “personal saviour” and religiously watch every episode of the game show. ‘$100,000 Pyramid’ is packed with facts, figures and trivia, and the twins catalogue all the questions and answers featured. They even record the number of times the buzzer sounds in each episode. So when the programme was taken off the air, the sisters were devastated.

“We prayed for it to come on,” says Flo. “And our mother always used to say, ‘Your prayers are always answered.’ But this time it doesn’t work.” Although it is widely assumed that the twins have savantism, it has never been formally diagnosed – and the condition is not an officially recognised medical disorder. The only thing doctors know for sure is that they have autism. But just how autistic are they?

At 52 years of age, the twins are bubbly and sociable. They are passionate about music, enjoy going to gigs and love to laugh. This means that they do not fit the classic stereotype of autism sufferers. At the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, Dr Nancy Isenberg uses the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) to perform her assessment. She asks Flo and Kay a series of questions about friendships and emotions. As well as listening to their answers, she observes the sisters’ body language. Dr Isenberg concludes that despite Flo and Kay’s outgoing natures, they still possess the standard signs of autism – minimal eye contact, poorly modulated voices and failure to engage in conversation.

Next, Dr Darold Treffert is asked to assess Flo and Kay. Dr Treffert is a leading expert on autistic savantism – he was the consultant on the film ‘Rain Man’ and advised Dustin Hoffman on how to portray his character. After a brief meeting with the sisters, there is no doubt in his mind that they are autistic savants. But Dr Treffert is quick to point out that there is still so much to learn about the disorder. “Until we can account for the savant, we can’t account for brain function overall. Until we can explain the savant, we really can’t explain ourselves,” he concludes.

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    i loved this show

  • Jewls

    Wow.. when i saw this stoy I was very touch. I’m glad they shared their story, It’s nice to see that even throught your diffrence people still care. I hope them the best in life, and I hope they never give up, life is hard!

  • Anonymous

    I just watched the story of Flo and Kay on Discovery Health. They were such adorable little girls! I was also touched by their story and God given talent. Autism has always been a fascinating subject, especially when people with autism have savant abilities.

  • Laura

    I just saw the show here in Nevada. I think it would be a kind gesture on the part of Dick Clark to help these girls, considering how they have adored the man for more than 21 years. He is a very powerful and rich man, what would $50k a year be to him?

  • El

    Great show! I love this field of study – I read about autistic savantism in a science magazine, and since, I’ve been hooked. If you find this interesting, search Kim Peek (the inspiration behind “the Rainman”), or Daniel Tammet, who just gave out his 2nd book and is a mathematical savant. Also try Stephen Wiltshire, also known as “The Human Camera”. Absolutely fascinating! Apparently all the abilities these amazing people can access lie dormant in our own minds, waiting for the right trigger to stimulate it…. every day we discover more about the human mind, but I think we will never fully understand it.

  • Anonymous

    These girls are not what they seem in this documentary. I am best friends with Adrienne, the woman who is called the wife of the brother. She is actually the girlfriend.They torment Adrienne. They have given her a concussion, high blood pressure and she had to have surgery on her foot. Adrienne has other medical problems due to these girls. The girls deliberately torment her. The brother does nothing in support of Adrienne.

    The documentary states that the mother tried to kill the girls. This is totally untrue. The girls were told to say this for dramatic effect. Many other things were also untrue. Also none of these stories were approved by the family.

    I could go on and on, but everyone just needs to know these girls are not autistic savant. They are mentally retarded. Their mother had German Measles when she was pregnant. They are not sweet and innocent. They are vindictive and enjoy causing trouble.

  • Anonymous

    Well, now this is interesting. I’m personally very familiar with autism; my brother has it and there are many people in my immeadiate and extended family who are obviously on the spectrum. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet many people diagnosed with autism; sufficeth to say I’m very familiar with it. It has been my experience that each case of autism is similar in some ways, unique in others. Each case is like a different ‘flavor’ of the same thing. In my eyes these twins are clearly autistic, though of such a different flavor I believe that they may have something else too – not that I’m saying that they’re not autistic because it’s extremely obvious to me that they are, but they may be autistic and something else as well. What that ‘something else’ might be I couldn’t say.

    It also seems obvious to me that your opinion has been formed entirely by listening to Adrienne’s opinion of the matter, and she seems to be one of the people I occasionally encounter who just don’t understand autism no matter how intelligent they are or how clearly it is explained – it just doesn’t make any sense to them. Not that I blame them; it’s a complicated diagnosis to understand, especially in cases with savant characteristics. Such people are prone to misinterpreting autistic behavior simply because they don’t understand what’s going on. Not that I’m saying that she’s lying about being tormented by the twins, but I’m saying that she’s likely misinterpreting it. I’ve seen autistic people torment others not because of vindictiveness but because they genuinely don’t understand other people and enjoy seeing them react in predictable ways to things they do – for similar reason my brother enjoys watching people watch movies because, after seeing it once or twice himself, he can predict how other people will react to the scenes and knows when they’ll laugh, frown, be surprised, etc. with much more certainty that he would at any other time. So while I do believe that they torment your friend as you say, I don’t believe that they do it out of any malicious intent.

  • lucyfair

    Ths is not Adrienne. They are not autistic. I know them and they are not nice girls. PERIOD. They are mean and very bad people. You don’t know them. Unless you live in my shoes……….

    toYou have no clue. Don’t judge.. just to let you know DICK clark has absolutely no contact with them whatsover. HE DOES NOT CARE. ITS ALL ABOUT MONEY!!

  • Lo

    I think they’re adorable. I have an autistic brother too. it’s not easy. some people just aren’t strong enough to take on the special needs of an autistic person. if you’re someone who can’t, just stop talking shit and admit you are not capable of dealing w/people who are different or a bit difficult. weak ass bitches. Flo and Kay’s sister was a Saint.

  • Anonymous

    is this story true or not?

  • Diane

    I’ll admit that documentaries do not completely give you a total picture of anyone. I think when it comes to whether the twins are vindictive and mean it could be a (1) a part of the illness. I had the opportunity to work with a girl who is a new generation authistic, which means she can benefit from the new methods that Jenny McCarthy talks about. There was somesort of shed or closet on the patio at the preschool she attends. It had a padlock on it, the girl tried to undo it. I was near by and she punched me because she was frustrated. (2) When you consider how Kay and Flo were mistreated by others, it is no wonder they acted out. I don’t know Adrienne, but she ahd Tom seemed hesitant before the twins got there to take them in at all. Frank had to spend a lot of time talking them into it. If the twins were mean to Adrienne, it is part of her attitude towards them. (3) As far as Dick Clark goes, sometimes celebrities won’t help or have private meetings with anyone unless they have some one in the business like Dave Wagner who can arrange it. You can’t tell. I was influenced by a 70s celebrity and wrote some books. It has been over a year since I sent them to his agent, and I have yet to hear anything from him. He is not my savior; he is my muse.

  • theresa6069

    i see luccifer aka lucyfair has made it to this page too. you are an ididot. do you know anything about maental retardation or really need to do research before say they are just retarted. taking care of someone with autism can be hard, but dont say these poor women are evil or mean. you are evil and a b##ch.

  • lucyfair

    Flo and Kay’s sister was a drug addict who killed herself. The girls wandered the streets and did what ever they wanted. Adrienne spent all of her time with them when they first came. She took them shopping, out to eat etc. They do not like women and even tormented Frank’s new girlfriend. Frank called them the devil. Call me whatever you like but you have no idea what these girls are capable of. They even hit a dying cat. They are far from adorable.

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering if Flo & Kay still live with Adrienne and the brother or was that man able to help them find a different living arrangement. I think since the Mother is death the son should do what ais best for him.

  • Mia

    Hey, lucyfair, do you really have a clue??
    You say these girls are mean & cruel. Do you have any idea what life is like inside their heads? You say they AREN’T autistic–really? Then you don’t know as much as you say because you mean then, that these girls are acting for the cameras. I don’t think so!! People like Flo & Kay need to have routine and regularity all the time in their life. It’s how they make sense of their world. If their routine doesn’t happen their anxiety level climbs and climbs. Evident when “Pyramid” went off the air. If their anxiety is too much their reactions are very instinctual and that means they will lash out. It doesn’t seem to me that the Brother Tom & Girlfriend Adrienne have any insight (you either). Adrienne seems uncomfortable like the mother was and unconcerned. Seems to me that Brother was content to let Jane & Frank take care all those years while he lived his life. Jane & Frank may not have been the most conservative people, but at least they did look after them. You can see that Frank does have a certain amount concern, but truly it was for Jane that he welcomed them. And they aren’t HIS family. It would be great if they could go back to FLA and live with Frank, because life was better for them there. Going to live in a “community” as Brother & Girlfriend want will surely box them in and they have known freedom for sometime now.
    I hope that they can have their own place with supervision, which is all Tom & Adrienne need to give.

  • Anonymous

    People who didn’t know this family shouldn’t speak as if they have authority on the subject.

    I know this family! Every single one of them, the good, the bad, the ugly.

    Facts that I know. yes, the father “John” was passive, he went to work and came home and went with the flow. But, he was a nice man. His passiveness was his biggest weakness. He always struck me as someone who truly didn’t know what to do. I’m sure he never expected this in life.

    Eva, I loved her, she was always kind to me. I can’t tell you whether or not the oven story is true, although I have heard it before, but I can tell you she was always kind to me and treated me as one of her own.

    Tommy, he always struck me as normal and kind. He never expected to wind up with the twins because Jane made arrangements with her parents to get everything, house, life insurance, etc. Believe me he got nothing and there was nothing left after Janes extravagance. Louis Vuitton purses, built in pools, large RV’s. But, some of you fail to realize that he has not shunned his sisters and is coping the best that him and his girlfriend can.

    Jane, I could write a book on Jane. Jane had a drug and alcohol problem. She could be kind when she wanted to but she was almost always extremely mean. I blame this on the fact that the twins took so much parental attention that she got very little. I watched her swing her cat around by it’s tail. She attempted suicide several times. With all this said, she would this day call me friend, and she would know I spoke the truth.

    I’m leaving her husband Frank out of it. I know him since the day he met Jane. I truly don’t blame him for not wanting to take care of the twins when they have family. I just hope he provided some of the funding that was intended for them by the parents.

    Flo and Kay, they were always kind to me, but I have seen them be mean to their family. I’ve seen them talk back and hit their mother.
    I don’t blame them. All kids have tempers, including them. But, I can verify that their memories are truly that amazing. They could tell me what I wore on any given day and tons of other information.

    You can critize me or praise me, I don’t care, this the truth from someone who knew that family intimately.

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