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15 Successful People with Autism Who Have Inspired Millions of People

15 Successful People with Autism Who Have Inspired Millions of People
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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.

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                                Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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                                Chris Skoyles

                                Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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                                Last Updated on April 16, 2021

                                How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life

                                How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life
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                                When we talk about forgiveness, it’s often regarding others — forgiving your elementary school bully or the coworker who took credit for your work idea. Unfortunately, we often forget about one very important person who is also worthy of forgiveness: ourselves.

                                Forgiveness is difficult in its own right. However, when we have to face the reality of forgiving ourselves, it can quickly become a (seemingly) impossible feat.

                                With that being said, learning how to forgive yourself and move forward from trauma, regret, or remorse can help contribute to a healthier, happier life.

                                So how to forgive yourself?

                                Here are some helpful reminders and thoughts to use on your journey towards inner peace and happiness.

                                Fighting Through Obstacles (Even When It Seems Impossible)

                                Moving on from a debilitating life event such as a car accident or escaping a toxic relationship is not only physically draining but mentally draining as well. It’s also fair to say that we feel these effects long after said trauma or event is over, making it even more difficult to move forward.

                                Moreover, it’s important to recognize that sometimes there are other barriers to treatment, besides ourselves.

                                As Duquesne Nursing points out, many patients who are seeking mental health treatment end up facing a variety of obstacles when trying to receive proper treatment.[1]

                                Some of these include:

                                • Too costly or no health insurance coverage
                                • Lack of awareness of the severity of the disorder
                                • Feeling hopeless about treatment prospects
                                • Concerns about confidentiality
                                • Social stigma

                                It’s also worth noting that these factors can be especially difficult or prevalent if you happen to live in a rural community due to the lack of available resources and medical professionals in smaller populated areas.

                                However, it’s important to recognize that there are still mental health options you can (and should) utilize despite these barriers.[2]

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                                Forgiveness is a battle that doesn’t have to be taken on alone, no matter where you live. Moreover, many people find healing through numerous methods such as reading, talking, or writing. Ultimately, your path towards a happier life can be paved with whatever works best for you.

                                If you do happen to find yourself in a position that prevents you from visiting a mental health professional, consider these options in the meantime:

                                Group Therapy

                                While group therapy is not as anonymous as a private session, checking your local community center for support groups can at the very least provide you with a connection to others dealing with similar difficulties as you. You also might find that you flourish in a group setting.

                                Local University Hospitals

                                As Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist, tells NBC News,

                                “Most qualified training hospitals have a department of psychiatry and outpatient psychology program that offers low-fee sliding scale psychotherapy.”[3]

                                It’s worth visiting one nearby to see exactly what they can offer you and if it’s right for you.

                                Develop Self-Care Strategies

                                Forgiveness itself is self-care, but it’s also an ongoing battle. Developing useful strategies to recenter your mind, body, and spirit can help you get through some of those tough moments.

                                Whether it’s learning how to meditate, working to be more mindful, or developing a relaxing nighttime routine, these practices can help ease your pain and help you refocus after an especially rough day.

                                Forgiveness and the subsequent journey towards happiness is definitely an emotional roller coaster. Professional help should always be your first priority, but again, it isn’t necessarily available.

                                While it can make you feel hopeless at times, know that there are always alternatives that can help you, no matter what curve balls get thrown your way.

                                The Pressures (And Regrets) Within the Workplace

                                Once you are able to find help on your forgiveness journey, the next challenge will be applying what you’ve learned about yourself, your pain, and how you’re going to grow from it.

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                                Work can be one of the more triggering factors in your life. A lot of regret or trauma often stems from a toxic work environment, perhaps a failed project, or the general feeling of making the wrong decision at the last second.

                                Furthermore, regret and remorse can happen within any career at any level. From office jobs to those in the medical field, learning how to forgive yourself has a unique set of challenges — it’s different for everyone.

                                Our forgiveness (or lack thereof) can be the result of various incidents, meaning it’s difficult to explain your feelings, anxieties, and pain to others.

                                For doctors, it might be the struggle to reconcile with a “never event”, or an error made during surgery.[4] For veterans, it can be the trauma of losing fellow soldiers and friends while on active duty. For those in offices, it could be dealing with the fallout (gossip, isolation, bullying) after filing a sexual harassment case. The list goes on.

                                There is also the very likely circumstance that you just no longer enjoy your job or career, meaning there’s a chance it’s simply not meant for you. But that doesn’t make you a failure, it just means you’re destined for something else.

                                Holding Yourself Back Might Be the Problem

                                Furthermore, holding yourself back from that something else could be the thing standing in your way of a happier life, inside and outside of work.

                                As USC Applied Psychology aptly explains,

                                “Passion not only drives you to enjoy your work but helps in overcoming obstacles in the workplace as well. Anytime you hit a bump in the road or begin to doubt your abilities, remember the positive effects of the work you are doing.”[5]

                                In life, we only get so many chances to follow our happiness and our dreams. Granted, we might lose sight of that goal at times, and that’s when those dark feelings can begin to creep in. But ultimately, our lives can only get better if we forgive our mistakes and learn from them.

                                Life is all about trial and error, and it’s okay if you don’t get it right the first, second, or third try. The most important thing is to never give up or stop trying because you’re afraid of regret or making a mistake.

                                Growth comes in all forms, and that includes forgiveness.

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                                Besides, it is never too late to start over. Here’s the proof.

                                Finding Forgiveness Amidst Grief

                                When we lose a loved one — a parent, an ex-partner, even a pet — it can be tempting to put some blame on yourself. Part of the grieving process should include mourning the loss and moving forward, with them forever in your heart.

                                However, when we fall into the trap of blame and regret, we end up robbing ourselves of the chance to appreciate our time, memories, and experiences we had with our loved ones who have passed.

                                This makes the loss of them even harder to bear. It’s a difficult cycle to break and can lead to some serious mental health issues, like depression and anxiety.

                                Moreover, forgiving yourself in the face of death is without a doubt tough. It’s okay to be a work in process, especially considering that the loss of a loved one is an event that will stick with you forever.

                                Of course, that’s all the more reason to begin learning how to forgive yourself and move forward. Acknowledging and accepting your mistakes doesn’t make you unworthy of forgiveness.

                                Losing a pet to a car accident or house fire doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad owner. Your dog or cat loved you dearly, and although their untimely death is unfortunate and heartbreaking, the best way to honor your pet is to own your mistake, learn from it, and forgive yourself.

                                When dealing with the loss of a loved one due to addiction or suicide, it’s important to remove yourself from the situation as a factor in their death. Sometimes, we simply cannot stop people from making their own choices, no matter how bad the consequences are.

                                Furthermore, many of us desperately want our loved one(s) to get better, to seek help, but if they don’t that’s not on you.

                                While it might feel like you’re betraying those who have passed away by trying to forgive yourself and move on, you’re actually doing what’s necessary to take care of your mental and physical health. You deserve to be healthy and although it may take a while, you deserve to be happy as well.

                                Things You Can Do After a Loss

                                Practicing important grief strategies is one way you can begin coping with death and begin the forgiveness process. The American Psychological Association (APA) tell us,

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                                “Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Research shows that most people can recover from a loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits.”[6]

                                They go on to list so methods worth implementing after a loss:

                                • Talk about the death of your loved one. Instead of isolating yourself or denying the death outright, speak about your loss with your support system. This can help you process the loss and begin moving forward.
                                • Accept your feelings. All of your feelings are valid and it’s okay to feel them. You aren’t weak or guilty because of your emotions.
                                • Take care of yourself and your family. You can grieve for those who have passed while also making sure to take care of the living.
                                • Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Helping others has been shown to make us feel better and by sharing your stories you can form new, lasting bonds with others affected by a loss.
                                • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. APA recommends, “donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby, or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you to honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you.”[7]

                                While the grieving process might be messy, complicated, and certainly frustrating at times, if you can learn how to forgive yourself, you will only grow stronger. Remember good can come from even the darkest of times.

                                Final Thoughts

                                When we force ourselves to hold onto the past — past mistakes, regrets, pain — we end up missing out on a lot of the positive things life has to offer. It’s important to keep in mind that you are not alone and it’s okay to hurt and reflect on certain aspects within your life.

                                However, it isn’t worth losing valuable time, relationships, health, and emotional energy over. Instead, amid grief or remorse, as difficult as it might be, working towards inner peace will ultimately serve you much better.[8]

                                Moreover, a person who is at peace with themselves will reap some benefits, such as:

                                • Increased acceptance of yourself and self-actualization
                                • Increased emotional maturity
                                • The ability to live in and enjoy the present more
                                • A deeper capacity for love (towards others and yourself)
                                • A better sense of inner strength and power
                                • More patience and compassion
                                • Increased self-esteem
                                • Freedom from stress and anxieties
                                • A stronger sense of inner happiness
                                • A better understanding of forgiveness

                                Achieving inner peace, especially in the face of difficulties and trauma, takes a lot of work and practice. However, the rewards are certainly worth the effort as you begin to grow as an individual, learn forgiveness towards others and yourself, and begin viewing life through a more positive lens.

                                You don’t need to forget your past experiences; rather, use them as a vehicle towards a greater, healthier life. You are worthy and your past doesn’t define you. It simply molds you.

                                Once you understand and can come to terms with that, the possibilities of happiness will open up and you can begin moving forward in life.

                                It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

                                Learn How to Forgive Yourself

                                Featured photo credit: Havilah Galaxy via unsplash.com

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                                Reference

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