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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

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

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

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                                Last Updated on December 10, 2019

                                How to Be Patient and Take Charge of Your Life

                                How to Be Patient and Take Charge of Your Life

                                When I googled the meaning of patience, it said:

                                “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”

                                I have always struggled to be patient in my life. Even though I know that when I am able to be patient, I always get a better result. Being patient is quite a simple concept to apply but for some reason, it can be so difficult to put into practice.

                                Practising patience helps you to better manage the curveballs that life throws at you. Patience also brings calmness, optimism, hope and confidence to your life.

                                “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” — John Quincy Adams

                                The key message is quite clear – when you practise patience, you are more likely to lead a successful and happy life.

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                                In this article, you will learn why being patient is good for you, and how to be patient to take better control of your life.

                                Why Being Patient Is Good for You

                                Patience is a great way to exercise self-control. When you are patient you are more likely to take charge of your life.

                                Here are three key benefits (there are many more) that practising the art of patience can bring to your life:

                                Better Decision Making

                                By learning patience, you will become better at making decisions. Patience gives you breathing space and therefore you are more comfortable with taking the time to assess difficult situations and reflect on how you wish to proceed.

                                You also develop more self- confidence and know that if you rush into making a decision it will not end well for you. The chance of making a big mistake is higher if your decision is made in haste.

                                A Well Balanced Life

                                By becoming more patient, you will greatly reduce the stress in your life.

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                                Because you are more self-aware, you have a better understanding of what makes you happy and you will tend to focus on doing the things that bring you joy. The result of this is that you become more aware of how to live your life in balance rather than constantly have to fight fires.

                                Better Relationships

                                By becoming more patient, you are more understanding, open and flexible towards others’ mistakes and shortcomings. As a result, you are able to build stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

                                Patience does not come easily to many of us, especially when we live in a world of constant disruption and change. Patience is a mindset and it is not something that comes overnight. If you truly want to be a more patient person, you do have to be prepared to do the work. Embracing patience in your life is part of a life journey and therefor you must be willing to be in it for the long haul.

                                If you can accept that you are okay with stepping out of your comfort zone and that developing a patient perspective will not come instantly, then you are ready to embrace patience into your life.

                                So what can you do to become more patient and take control of your life?

                                How to Be More Patient

                                Outlined below are 3 practical techniques you can apply right now into your life that will help you be more patient and take charge of your life.

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                                1. Understand What Triggers Your Feelings Of Impatience

                                The opposite of patience is impatience. Everyone has experienced the feeling of impatience many times in life – in fact, you can’t escape it!

                                For you to become more patient, it is important that you understand what triggers your feelings of impatience. What is it that you think about or feel right before you lose it? Once you know what triggers you, then you can work on using calming exercises to help you better manage those feelings of impatience when they start to build up.

                                Making yourself wait before you react, and practising deep breathing exercises are great techniques to help you manage those surging feelings of impatience. Counting to 100 under your breath is another technique to help you WAIT before you react.

                                2. Stop Doing Things That Are Not Important

                                We can get easily distracted and stressed when we are doing things that are not really important and are taking up a huge amount of time. One way of removing stress is to stop doing things that create more stress for you.

                                Take a few minutes out at the end of your day and reflect on the tasks you have done. Write these tasks down and then write down the tasks you have to do tomorrow.

                                Patience is about having a more positive and reflective perspective in life, so look at each of these tasks and decide which are top priorities for tomorrow and which tasks can wait for a few days. Then go do the important tasks. If you consistently practise this technique, you will slowly take back control over your life.

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                                3. Work on Changing Your Attitude

                                A person who is patient is able to assess situations from a more positive perspective. They tend to accept a difficult situation as it is and will not fight it or avoid it. They will work with it and try to work on a solution that will enable them to move forward.

                                Patience is all about perspective and how you look at situations. If you miss your bus or are running late for a meeting and stuck in traffic, you have the choice about how you react. A patient person will work on putting a positive spin to the situation and try to reduce the tension that potentially could potentially build up.

                                Having a more impatient perspective on life is not going to serve you well. Impatience will block you from living life where you are in control.

                                Techniques that you could use that will help you have a more positive outlook on life are:

                                • Visualization. Try to step ahead of the problem. Visualize yourself facing the problem and how you dealt with it and achieved positive outcomes.
                                • Get active and choose activities that will help you release the stress and tension you are feeling. There are many things you can do such as yoga, walking, breathing exercises, and meditation etc. Choose activities that bring you peace of mind and commit to doing these activities on a regular basis.

                                Final Thoughts

                                Practising patience in your life will enable you to have more freedom of choice and as a result, have more control of your life.

                                If you commit to the journey of living a patient life, the rewards that you will reap will be unbelievable. Who wouldn’t want to live a flourishing life where you are in charge?

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                                Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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