Autism was once believed to be a condition that would ruin a person’s life, if not seriously limit their possibilities for success. The growing list of celebrities, known or thought to be on the spectrum, would seem to tell us otherwise. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley, famous people with autism are all around us.
A look at the list of celebrities and historical figures listed as autistic makes you wonder if autism doesn’t come with a bit of talent or genius. The man for whom Asperger’s syndrome (a mild form of autism) is named, Hans Asperger, has been quoted as saying, “It seems that for success in science or art, a dash of autism is essential.”
In Hollywood, actress Darryl Hannah played a mermaid in "Splash" and exotic replicant, Pris, in "Blade Runner." Dan Aykroyd, one of the original Saturday Night Live players, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He went on to have a successful movie career, starring in “Ghostbusters,” “The Blues Brothers,”and “Trading Places,” among others.
James Durbin, an “American Idol” finalist, and Scott James, who auditioned for “The X Factor,” are known to have Asperger’s syndrome. James recorded the song, "Through My Eyes,"which has become an anthem for many people with autism.
As autism was not discovered until 1943, and Asperger’s syndrome was not a diagnosis until 1992, it is not possible to accurately diagnose people who lived before that time. Researchers have speculated, due to reports of unusual behaviors and habits of historical figures, that some of them might have had some form of autism.
Albert Einstein, may have had Asperger’s or autism due to, among other things, being a loner, and repeating sentences obsessively (also known as echolalia). Isaac Newton had difficulty with small talk and frequently became so engrossed with his work that he would forget to eat.
Although autism creates issues and difficulties for people on the spectrum, it does not mean a person cannot have a full and successful life.
When an autistic person finds an area of study that interests them, they typically focus on it until they have learned all they can. According to Dr. Temple Grandin, “Who do you think made the first stone spears? The Asperger guy. If you were to get rid of all the autism genetics, there would be no more Silicon Valley. “