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Published on October 8, 2018

15 Successful People with Autism Who Have Inspired Millions of People

15 Successful People with Autism Who Have Inspired Millions of People

There are those who merely roll over and accept whatever hand fate deals them as the perfect excuse to settle for mediocrity.

Then, there are the other type of people:

The inspirational figures.

The highly successful leaders, innovators and creators.

The heroes who take what other people would see as a limitation and turn it into their superpower, using it to change the world, bring joy to the lives of others and inspire millions of people.

Nowhere will you find a more classic example of these superheroes than among those influential people diagnosed with (or at least showing classic symptoms of) autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Affecting an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States and around 700,000 in the UK, ASD is a term which covers a number of unique conditions, ranging from Aspergers Syndrome to Autistic Disorder or ‘classic autism’, the latter being the typical condition that most people think of when they hear the word ‘autism.’

In between, there are those with Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) or ‘atypical autism,’ which is the term typically used to describe individuals who show some signs of being on the autistic spectrum yet don’t meet the full criteria for a diagnosis of Aspergers or Autistic Disorder.

People with autism can face any number of different challenges in life, including, but by no means limited to:

  • Difficulty in communicating with others
  • Troubles maintaining friendships
  • Obsessive interests
  • Repetitive body movements such as hand flapping or rocking back and forth
  • Delayed speech and language skills.

Still, whatever challenges ASD may have presented the individuals we’re going to meet today, these aren’t the kind of people to let those challenges get in the way of achieving their dreams.

Ready to be inspired?

Let’s dive in and meet the business leaders, intellectuals, artists and other highly successful people with autism who have inspired millions of people.

1. Dr. Temple Grandin

    Professor of Animal Science / Influential autism spokesperson

    No list of inspiring people with autism could truly begin without first mentioning Temple Grandin.

    Mute until the age of three-and-a-half, Dr. Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a young child and was eventually able to speak thanks to the help of a speech therapist.

    Finding her voice, she went on to publish Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a ground-breaking book which is widely regarded as the first real insight into the life and thoughts of someone with autism.

    A prolific writer and speaker not only on the subject of autism but also on animal behaviour, Dr. Grandin is a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado University, where she has been called “the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.”

    In 2010, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world and she was also the subject of a biographical movie starring Emmy Award-winning actress, Claire Danes.

    2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

      Composer

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      Though the first recorded case of autism didn’t occur until two centuries after Mozart’s death, many leading experts have retroactively diagnosed the famous composer as showing signs of Tourettes and Aspergers.

      From his repetitive movements and unusual facial expressions to erratic moods and obsessive thoughts and behaviours, Mozart is likely to have classed as being on the spectrum in his day.

      Still, that did little to hamper his progress or creativity.

      Today, Mozart is regarded as one of the greatest composers the world has ever known, composing over 600 pieces from childhood up to his untimely death at age 35. Many of these works are still regarded as the very epitome of excellence in classical music.

      3. Satoshi Tajiri

        Pokémon inventor

        Satoshi Tajiri may not be the most famous name on our list, but there’s no doubt that you will have heard of his creation.

        Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Tajiri grew up with a love of Nintendo’s Game Boy and a passion for insect collecting. He later went on to combine the two into an innovative new Game Boy release called Pokémon, in which gamers would ‘collect’ unique, fictional creatures and use them to battle against their opponents.

        The games would serve as the nucleus of what would eventually become the most successful media franchise of all time, including games, books, movies, merchandise and more.

        Though Tajiri has confirmed that he lives with Aspergers on numerous occasions, he also says that he prefers to let his work speak for itself. Having created a franchise reported to be worth $15 billion, who could blame him?

        4. Emily Dickinson

          Writer and poet

          Reclusive writer Emily Dickisnon is often regarded as one of the great all-time poets.

          While much has been made of her epilepsy, a lesser-known fact is that she was likely to be on the spectrum.

          In Writers on the spectrum: how autism and Asperger syndrome have influenced literary writing, writer Julie Brown accredits many of Dickinson’s famously ‘quirky’ behaviours and characteristics to autism.

          5. Anthony Ianni

            National Championship winning basketball player

            When Anthony Ianni was first diagnosed with PDD-NOS, doctors told his parents that the condition ultimately meant he would never achieve much in his life.

            According to those doctors, Ianni would barely graduate from high school, never go to college, and certainly never become an athlete.

            Fortunately, the basketball fan simply didn’t accept this prediction, instead using it as motivation to push himself onto greater things.

            Eventually, he went on to become the first person with autism to ever play First Division basketball, winning the NCAA National Championship with the Michigan Spartans in 2000.

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            Today, Ianni is a popular motivational speaker who encourages young people with autism to let nothing hold them back when it comes to achieving their dreams.

            6. Sir Anthony Hopkins

              Actor

              The Oscar-winning star of The Silence of the Lambs and many other classic movies, Sir Anthony Hopkins has spoken openly about being diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s.

              In one interview, he said that being on the spectrum means that, despite genuinely liking people, he doesn’t have many friends or go to parties.

              Regardless, Sir Anthony has become an actor beloved by millions, and one of the most successful actors of his generation.

              7. Albert Einstein

                Theoretical Physicist

                If there’s anyone on today’s list of hugely successful people with autism who really needs no introduction, Einstein is undoubtedly it.

                We all know that he developed the theory of relativity. We all know that he came up with E = MC2, dubbed “the world’s most famous equation.” Most of us even known that he’s widely regarded as one of -if not the- most influential scientists of his -or any- generation.

                Yet not everyone knows that Einstein also met many of the criteria for autism.

                Like Temple Grandin, he didn’t speak until he was three years old. Then, unlike other children who develop their speech gradually, he immediately began speaking in complete sentences.

                Elsewhere, his inflexible insistence on set routines and ‘sameness’ not to mention his difficulty around other people also lead many behavioural analysts today to believe that Einstein would have been diagnosed as having ASD had he been tested in his lifetime.

                8. Dani Bowman

                  Writer, artist and motivational speaker

                  Unlike others who waited until adulthood to inspire others, Dani Bowman has been motivating fellow young people on the autism spectrum from a young age.

                  A talented illustrator and animator, Bowman launched her own company, DaniMation Entertainment, at just 11 years-old and began working professionally in the animation industry three years later.

                  A passionate autism advocate and public speaker, she is very active in inspiring those with ASD and with disabilities to use their full potential, follow their dreams and achieve their goals.

                  9. Andy Warhol

                    Artist

                    As famous for his eccentricity as he is for painting cans of soup, Andy Warhol was never diagnosed with autism in his lifetime.

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                    However, like Mozart, Einstein and several others, many leading experts agree that the famous pop artist displayed many of the characteristics and behaviours synonymous with an autism diagnosis.

                    Known for being socially inept and often struggling to recognise his friends, Warhol would also use very few words in speech and was also adamant about routine and uniformity in his life.

                    Most experts suggest that Warhol had Asperger’s, though of course, this never stopped him becoming one of the most iconic artists of his age.

                    10. Daryl Hannah

                      Actress

                      Well-known for starring in 1980s blockbuster movies like Blade Runner, Wall Street and Steel Magnolias, actress Daryl Hannah has spoken in interviews about how her diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome derailed her career.

                      In the past, she has spoken about how she felt “socially awkward and uncomfortable,” at premieres and events, and how the behaviour caused by her Asperger’s left her “practically blacklisted” from the movie industry.

                      Not one to accept defeat, Hannah continued to succeed despite her struggles, appearing in the critically acclaimed Kill Bill movies as well as many other popular films and theatre shows.

                      11. Dan Aykroyd

                        Actor, comedian, musician

                        Canadian performer Dan Aykroyd has been open about being diagnosed with Tourettes and Asperger’s, with the former being treated as a young child.

                        Taking the obsessive traits of autism and using them to his full advantage, Aykroyd says that obsessing over things like ghosts helped him create the Ghostbuster’s movie.

                        12. Susan Boyle

                          Singer

                          When a shy, awkward-looking, middle-aged Scottish woman shuffled onto the stage on UK TV show Britain’s Got Talent, few were ready to give her a chance and many even ridiculed her.

                          Then, she opened her mouth, silencing her naysayers and stunning the audience with her incredible voice.

                          That one TV appearance launched Susan Boyle’s career, a career which saw her sell over 14 million albums, play sold out concerts and amass an army of loyal followers.

                          All of this happened while living with Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis that the singer says came as a “relief” as it helped her understand and make sense of her uniqueness.

                          13. Clay Marzo

                            Surfer

                            Like Anthony Ianni, Clay Marzo proved that being on the autism spectrum is no barrier to athletic or sporting prowess.

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                            Despite being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Marzo carved out a name for himself as one of the most influential and innovative stars in the world of championship surfing.

                            After winning swimming competitions as a child, he achieved third place in the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Nationals at aged 11 which led to him signing a professional contract with he Quicksilver team.

                            Four years later, he became the first surfer to ever achieve two perfect 10s in NSSA history, also taking the national championship in the same year.

                            Never allowing Asperger’s to hold him back, Marzo has starred in the documentary film “Clay Marzo: Just Add Water,” talking about his incredible achievements and his experience with Asperger’s.”

                            Today, he volunteers with Surfers Healing, a charity which teaches young people with autism how to surf.

                            14. Tony DeBlois

                              Musician

                              Despite being blind from birth, jazz musician Tony DeBlois began learning the piano aged just two-years old.

                              Showing a natural propensity for the instrument, DeBlois would soon reveal that his talents didn’t just begin and and end with the piano.

                              Diagnosed with autism, he went on to master more than 20 instruments and can play as many as 8,000 pieces of music from memory alone.

                              DeBlois has released multiple albums, toured the world performing concerts, and was even the subject of a made-for-TV movie about his life.

                              15. Dr. Vernon Smith

                                Nobel Prize-winning Professor of Economics

                                Last but by no means least, we finish with a perfect example of someone who truly does see autism as their superpower.

                                Dr. Vernon Smith is a pioneering economics professor largely credited with the invention of experimental economics.

                                This creation led to him winning the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002.

                                Open about his Asperger’s Syndrome, Dr. Smith has said that much of his success is due to his autism.

                                “I don’t feel any social pressure to do things the way other people are doing them, professionally,” he once told an interviewer. “So I have been more open to different ways of looking at a lot of the problems in economics.”

                                No Holding Back: The Autistic Superheroes Proving Nothing Is Impossible

                                Whether they’re changing the world as we know it, entertaining us in our favourite movies, books, and poems, or overcoming the odds to become champions in their field, what all of these hugely successful people with autism show is that being on the spectrum needn’t be a barrier to success.

                                Everyone from Albert Einstein to Sir Anthony Hopkins has shown us that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, we can always overcome them to achieve our dreams.

                                If nothing else, that’s something all of us can surely find inspiring, regardless as to whether or not we’re on the spectrum.

                                Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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                                Chris Skoyles

                                Writer, coach, and trainee counsellor specialising in mental health and addiction.

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                                Published on October 18, 2018

                                Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

                                Why Am I so Depressed Lately? 4 Things That Are Secretly Baffling You

                                You can be feeling depressed without even knowing why. There’re different types of depressions and not all of them have an obvious cause that you can easily identify.

                                Our hectic life makes things go so fast that we don’t even realize we’re doing things that leave us feeling depressed. Or maybe we’ve gotten so used to our everyday life that we can’t notice what we’re doing doesn’t make us happy.

                                If you wonder why you’re feeling so depressed but can’t quite put your finger on why, then take a look at the list we’ve made over things that are secretly baffling you.

                                1. Isolation

                                Research shows that a lack of social connection can lead to a depression.[1] There are different types of isolation. If you’re not spending much time around people, but never had any problem with being alone before, this can still lead to a depression.

                                Even if you used to be happy with spending time on your own, this might change over time and could lead to you being depressed without knowing why.

                                Some people spend a lot of time around people at work or during social gatherings, but they can still feel alone and depressed. It’s possible to be around people, but still lack a social connection with them.

                                If you’re feeling depressed, then take a look at your social connections and consider how many people you really have around you. If you picked up the phone now and would call to ask for some help or just a normal honest conversation – how many could you call?

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                                It’s never too late to change things. If you’ve isolated yourself from good friends or family, try to reach out and see if things can be rebuilt. You can also try to engage yourself in a new activity where you’ll be able to meet some new people.

                                2. You can’t find meaning or purpose

                                It’s not only philosophers that spend time thinking about life and the meaning of it. When you were younger, you probably spent some time trying to figure out what you wanted out of life and what would give your life meaning. But as you’ve grown older, you’re just too busy with life that you forget all about it.

                                It can be hard to pin point your depression to a lack of meaning in your life. You can have a good family and a good job, but still walk around feeling depressed every day because deep down you have lost that connection with your original purpose and what you wanted in life.

                                Everyone finds meaning in different things. Some find it through work, relationships, helping others, learning or through creativity.

                                Take a step back and look at your life. What makes you happy? Do you remember what you originally felt was your purpose in life and are you living according to that still?

                                Maybe ten years ago, you thought you would find meaning in having a specific job, but now you realize that it’s not really what you want. Or maybe you went in another direction than you intended to, but you don’t feel fulfilled now.

                                It’s never too late to change things. Here’s the proof. Take some times to really look at your life and see if you can figure out some things that might look great on the surface, but is secretly suffocation you every day and ultimately making you unhappy and depressed.

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                                Ask a close friend or your family if they can help you see something you can’t, or just discuss it with a life coach.

                                3. Suppressed emotions

                                Everyone has primary and secondary feelings. The primary ones are feelings like sadness, anger or anxiety. The secondary feelings are the self-reflecting feelings we have about the primary feelings.

                                We may get sad about something, and then our secondary feeling will react to that sadness with a response. Maybe it will tell you that you shouldn’t feel sad, because it’s not a big deal. Or maybe you should feel something else because that emotion isn’t appropriate for that situation.

                                If we feel like our emotions aren’t right, then we’ll suppress them and that can lead to depression. Humans are the only ones that are able to get upset about being upset. We have another dimension to our brain that allows self-reflection.

                                Depending on how you grow up, we might be taught different values and were told that you shouldn’t be feeling certain emotions. It could be a teacher who told you only girls cry. It could come from some family values that you shouldn’t show others your anxiety or inner struggles.

                                These values have a way of sticking to us. If you get some primary feelings that don’t align with what you believe in, your secondary feelings will start to tear you apart from the inside and tell you that you shouldn’t allow yourself those emotions.

                                It can be hard to deal with suppressed emotions because you’re fighting against yourself; but it can be done.

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                                Start by figuring out why you’re upset about different stuff. Are you beating yourself up over stuff that aren’t even bad? Are you depressed but then tell yourself that you’re weak and you should just stop feeling so?

                                These suppressed emotions need to be dealt with out in the open. Try to take a look at yourself and see what you’re feeling and give yourself permission to feel these things. This might be enough for some and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. But if you need help with this, seek out a therapist.

                                4. A critical inner voice

                                If you’ve ever been bullied or seen anyone be bullied on a daily basis, then you know how much this can take a toll on you and destroy your mood.

                                Now imagine this voice isn’t coming from the outside but is actually coming from yourself every day…

                                No one intentionally tries to pick on themselves, but a lot of us do it unconsciously. Maybe it started after a few mistakes or failures, or maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.

                                It probably feels nothing at the very beginning, but if you slowly develop a critical inner voice and verbally attack yourself from the inside every single day, you’ll certainly end up feeling depressed.

                                It can be hard to recognize and diagnose this kind of depression because you can’t see how hard you are on yourself, and in this particular case – neither can the people around you.

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                                Start noticing your thoughts and how you view yourself closely. Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself and feel really bad if you don’t live up to the expectations? Are you being over-critical all the time but have gotten so used to it that you don’t see it?

                                A critical inner voice can easily lead to depression. If you’re feeling depressed but can’t figure out why – then this might be the reason.

                                If you’re struggling with this, you can start out by writing down everything that runs in your head for one day, and then take a look at what you’ve written. Would you speak like that to someone else?

                                But sometimes, you do need another pair of eyes to help you. If your depression goes on and you can’t get rid of yourself, you should consider finding a therapist.

                                The bottom line

                                Depression is a mental sickness, so it’s important to take it serious and handle it. If you were really sick with the flu or had some back pain, you wouldn’t just ignore it and hope it went away. The same applies to depression. It won’t just go away unless you decide to deal with it.

                                Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                [1]Psychology Today: Connect To Thrive

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