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Dan Aykroyd: Another celebrity with Asperger's syndrome

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It’s been a big week for Aspie pride as another celebrity officially comes out with an Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis.

Susan Boyle, “Britain’s Got Talent” competitor and recording artist, announced earlier this week, that she had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, after a lifetime of struggling with self-confidence and stress.

Recently, “Ghostbusters” star and “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Dan Aykroyd, told an interviewer that he has Asperger’s but, “can manage it.”

To those in the Asperger’s community, Aykroyd’s “coming out” was not a shock, but a confirmation. What was interesting to learn was the fact that one of his areas of special interest led him to co-write and star in the blockbuster film, “Ghostbusters.”

Aykroyd shares an interest in the paranormal with his father, Peter Aykroyd and the two co-wrote the book, “A History of Ghosts” and Dan hosted the television series, “Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal.”

It is not unusual for a person with Asperger’s to become a walking encyclopedia in their area of special interest, taking it above and beyond the point of a simple hobby.

On “Saturday Night Live”, one of Aykroyd’s showcased comedic talents was that of celebrity impersonation. His impersonation roles included, Jimmy Carter, Vincent Price and Rod Serling.

A skit in which he plays, master chef, Julia Child, is considered a comedy classic.

Impersonation requires careful attention to detail and intuitively knowing which mannerisms to exaggerate for the best performance. Many people with Asperger's, like Aykroyd, are skilled at finding details that most people overlook.

With this announcement, coming on the heels of Susan Boyle’s diagnosis, there is hope that people will get a better picture of what autism looks like.

It causes difficulties and struggles, but with the right guidance and support, a person with autism or Asperger’s syndrome can become successful in life, beyond learning basic communication skills.

In fact, the superior focus, combined with sharp senses can, actually, enhance a person’s chances for success.

People with autism are not better or worse than neurotypical people, just different. These differences, if nurtured, can lead to career success and new technological and scientific discoveries.

Sometimes, they just make us learn and laugh.



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