Celebrities have the unique power of raising awareness about various health issues and causes simply by being open and honest about the things that affect them. By realizing that famous people, both current and in history, suffer from the same conditions that affect the general population, two things happen. First, these people become more attainably human by revealing parts of themselves that aren’t immediately recognizable. And second, a greater understanding of disorders such as autism is reached by realizing how common it really is.
Autism is a general term for a group of disorders that affect brain development. It is characterized by difficulties in social interactions, communication, and repetitive behaviors. The autism spectrum includes a wide range of disorders that present varying degrees of difficulties for the person affected.
There are high-functioning autistic patients, as well as some who require assisted care for their entire lives. Because of this large "umbrella," there are lots of people whose autism might surprise you. Here is a list of ten famous people who live with some form of autism:
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart reportedly had repeated facial expressions and unintentional constant motion of his hands and feet. Also, his hearing was very sensitive, and his social skills were very impolite with frequent mood changes. Today, historians and other experts have looked at these traits and concluded that Mozart would have likely been on the autistic spectrum.
- James Durbin
Durbin was an American Idol contestant who was very open about having Asperger's syndrome, a disorder that was recently added to the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. He also had Tourettes, a disorder that is often linked with autism. Despite his struggles, Durbin did very well on the show and released an album in 2011.
- Tim Burton
Though the famous director has no formal diagnosis, he and his wife Helena Bonham Carter have self-diagnosed Burton after doing their own research. Burton realized that he identifies greatly with many of the symptoms of autism individuals. For example, he spent most of his childhood very withdrawn, is extremely intelligent but lacks some basic social skills, intensely focuses on his interests, notices commonly overlooked details, and prefers to live alone.
While some of these traits that are commonly associated with autism might hold him back in some aspects of his life, they are also very useful when working on a project. One could argue that this is what has made him able to create such memorable movies.
Burton now claims that his film "Edward Scissorhands" is somewhat autobiographical, elaborating on the way he felt during childhood. Since his diagnosis has not been officially confirmed, it has been debated whether or not Burton really is autistic. The general consensus, especially from other people with autism, is that the overwhelming evidence connecting his behavior patterns to symptoms of autism is hard to argue with.
- Courtney Love
As a singer, songwriter, and actress, Love has been very successful over the last few decades and has made quite a name for herself. She was diagnosed with “mild autism” as a child. Love's disorder is believed to have played a part in erratic behavioral issues in her youth.
- Temple Grandin
Diagnosed with autism at age two, Grandin suffered from very poor conversational skills for much for her young adult life. She identified greatly with distressed animals because of her condition and has revolutionized the way animals are treated, especially in slaughter houses. There was a movie made about her discoveries in 2010. When discussing her autism, Grandin said, “The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic, because you keep learning, you keep learning how to behave. It’s like being in a play; I’m always in a play.”
- Dan Aykroyd
Actor comedian, screenwriter, and singer Dan Aykroyd was diagnosed with Tourette’s as a child and Asperger’s syndrome . He had admitted to having obsessions with ghosts and policeman, which is common for people diagnosed with Asperger’s. These obsessions served as inspiration for the film "Ghostbusters."
- Susan Boyle
On the show Britain’s Got Talent, Boyle shocked everyone with her incredible voice. She wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome until recently, and said it gave her relief to know there was a specific diagnosis for the symptoms she has experienced her entire life.
- Daryl Hannah
A starring actress in movies like "Spash," "Blade Runner," and "Steel Magnolias," Hannah was diagnosed with autism as a child and was intensely shy. Acting opened up a new world for her, but she still never liked being the center of attention; she refused to give interviews and didn’t attend her own movie premieres.
- Albert Einstein
When historians and autism experts have looked back on Einstein’s life, they have found many characteristics that are consistent with autistic individuals. For example, he had difficulty with social interactions, had tactile sensitivity, was extremely intelligent but had difficulty expressing himself through language, and had trouble learning in school.
Researchers have concluded that an autism diagnosis for Einstein would explain a lot of things, such as his extreme intelligence in contrast to his poor school performance and inability to find a job. Also, even though he went on to get married and have three children, he reportedly avoided physical contact with his children, a trait that is common among people with autism.
- Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick was the well-known director of iconic films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "A Clockwork Orange." He was born in the 1920s, when no diagnosis for autism existed. However, after his death, specialists have looked at his poor social skills, narrow and obsessive interests, literal thinking, and inflexibility as likely clues that Kubrick suffered from a disorder on the autism spectrum.