Do you know any famous people with Autism? Even though the Autism spectrum covers a vast array of disorders and manifests in different ways, it always helps to know you are not alone.
Whilst it is often a debilitating disease for many people (and their families), there are some high functioning famous people some alive today and some from history who have contributed magnificently to the world in many ways.
Why Is It Not Uncommon For People With Autism To Become Famous?
Do not misunderstand the meaning of this post. We are not saying that famous people mostly have autism. Nor are we saying that people with autism are more likely to become famous!
It is interesting to see some famous people with Autism, share their journey, and note similarities and differences. Also it is important to understand the lesson that it is OK to be different and that sometimes to achieve great things, one needs to be different.
People with Autism see the world in a different way to most people
People with Autism think differently to most people
People with Autism do not feel compelled to conform to societal norms
These characteristics may not be useful if you want to “fit in” with the other kids at school or with the people at your standard job. However it is usually a requirement to achieve something great, to make leaps in progress or make new discoveries.
This is not to say that everyone with autism is a genius
Of course not!
Some people struggle every day to achieve normal tasks of daily living.
Some families suffer terribly just coping with the daily challenges of caring for their loved ones.
However it is also interesting and inspiring to be reminded of what some people with Autism have contributed or achieved.
Famous People With Autism
Here are just a few famous people with Autism- there are plenty more.
If you know of anyone that should be included on this list, please contact us and let us know.
SUSAN BOYLE 1961- present
The first of our famous people with Autism is Susan Boyle. Most people remember her as the shy Scottish introvert who sold more than 14 million albums after appearing on Britain’s Got Talent:
But even more people found Boyle inspiring when she announced she had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis that Boyle said, felt like “a relief.”
Boyle is still learning about autism spectrum disorder and how it affects her, but as long as she keeps singing, people are sure to continue to be inspired by her.
ALBERT EINSTEIN 1879-1955
The second of our famous people with Autism is Albert Einstein. It is incredibly difficult and unreliable to place a diagnosis on someone who is no longer living. However it appears Einstein had some autistic characteristics.
As a child, Einstein was a loner, suffered severe speech delays and repeated sentences to himself obsessively. He became a notoriously confusing lecturer. He had trouble socializing finding small talk difficult. His teachers and even his own parents thought he was mentally retarded.
He became the most famous scientist and mathematician in history and it is likely he was somewhere on the autism spectrum.
DARYL HANNAH 1960-present
Daryl Hannah is a current famous person with autism. She revealed her experiences on the autism spectrum several years ago. She is the famous and beautiful actress in films like Splash, Blade Runner and Steel Magnolias.
She has Asperger’s syndrome.
As a child she rocked back and forward to self soothe. She reveals that bullying ruined her childhood and that she still has debilitating shyness and social awkwardness. Doctors recommended to her mother that she be medicated and sent to an institution. Her mother refused.
Even when she was acting as an adult, she refused to give interviews or attend her own premieres. She has largely left acting now and focuses on environmental activism.
Daryl has been arrested five times since 2006 for protesting against environmentally damaging projects in the United States.
MICHAELANGELO 1475- 1564
Dr. Muhammad Arshad published in the Royal Society of Medicine’s Journal of Medical Biography (June 2004: vol 12, pp 115-120), a convincing paper arguing that Michelangelo was almost certainly autistic. Another leading researcher on the topics, Professor Michael Fitzgerald, agrees.
They cite the artist’s singular interest in his work, erratic mood swings, strict routines, and very poor social skills. He was aloof and a loner. He did not get on with his family, unable to make friends or maintain relationships.
He was obsessed with work and controlling everything- family, time, money. He also struggled with small talk and social cues. Michaelangelo was extremely obsessive and followed repetitive routines. If he did not follow these routines, it would create great frustration and anger.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART 1756-1791
Most scholars agree that musical maestro Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was almost certainly one of the famous people with Autism and somewhere on the spectrum.
Mozart was allegedly extremely sensitive to loud noises, had a notoriously short attention span, and could fly through a cycle of facial expressions within seconds.
He was known to be excessively active. He was unable to carry on an intellectual conversation. He was often impolite and reckless.
Mozart’s letters indicated a presence of echolalia which is a way of communication for some people with autism. Echolalia is the repetition of the speech of others. It is a feature of autism spectrum disorder for many children
In one well-documented incident, a bored Mozart began doing cartwheels and vaults over tables while meowing loudly like a cat.
Such characteristics, all of which were determined through dozens of contemporary notes and letters, are consistent with those with high-functioning autism. There are some who believe Mozart had a combination of Tourette’s syndrome, Autism and OCD. Though again it is difficult to say for sure with any historical figure.
SATOSHI TAIRI 1965-present
Satoshi is the Japanese creator of Nintendo’s multi billion dollar franchise Pokemon and the founder of video game developer Game Freak. Satoshi went from being an odd child collecting bugs to being obsessed with gaming. It was not an easy ride. But now he is one of the famous people with Autism.
He pitched the idea of Pokemon to Nintendo. They were not impressed but eventually decided to give it a go. The 6 year effort developing the games nearly bankrupted everyone involved. Satoshi received no salary relying on support from his father.
Later, not only did Pokemon become a hit, but actually saved Nintendo’s dipping sales. The franchise has gone on to become one of Nintendo’s greats, lasting through six generations of handheld consoles and will probably last through six more.
Satoshi Tajiri is a high-functioning autistic. It may have played to his advantage in that people with autism tend to have fixations and specializations. They get stubborn and do not give up. They also apply intense dedication to a project they are interested in, often to the annoyance of everyone around them. This was an essential characteristic to get this project to be golbal success story it is today.
Autism spectrum traits have been noticed in Steve Jobs,Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Of course, this does not mean they have this disorder. We must be careful about labelling people with a syndrome just because they stand out, have a temper or behave differently.
Justine Musk, Elon Musk’s ex-wife has written publicly about this phenomenon:
“One reason they become the entrepreneurs they become is because they can’t or don’t or won’t fit into the structures and routines of corporate life,” she wrote. “They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork.”
18 years ago, Steve Silberman broke the story of Silicon Valley’s autism ‘epidemic’,
The kids formerly ridiculed as nerds and brainiacs have become the architects of our future. And it’s true that more people today have autism diagnoses than used to be the case. For decades, the estimated prevalence was four or five in every 10,000. Now, the prevalence rate of autism is about one in 68.
Some people on the Autism Spectrum or with Aspergers syndrome find some comfort in knowing others have the same struggles they do. While this does not necessarily relive the light for any one individual, it is helpful to know you are not alone.
It can be inspiring to see that others can still accomplish great things in spite of their challenges or in some cases because of them.
When famous people with Autism or Aspergers syndrome publicly discuss their condition, their diagnosis and how it has affected them, it brings increased awareness, increased understanding in society and hopefully increased tolerance for people’s differences. Eventually this brings with it increased funding and financial support to provide better services at the grass roots level for everyone.