There are many famous people throughout history that have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder among celebrities have been recorded from public statements or personal reports, some of which may have surfaced following an individual’s death. The fact that many famous public figures and celebrities have had to cope with autism spectrum disorder proves that it can affect anyone – regardless of social status, financial earnings, or innate talents.
Autism is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by severe impairment in social skills. Common symptoms of autism include: communication problems, social withdrawal, obsessive interests, and repetitive behaviors. The diagnoses of autism occur along a “spectrum” – meaning symptomatic severity is subject to significant individual variation.
That said, it is important to realize that just because an individual has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder does not mean that they’re automatically subject to lifelong, permanent helplessness. Many famous people have channeled their talents and worked hard to achieve success in spite of their disorder. If you have autism spectrum disorder, it may be helpful to realize that you are not alone in your diagnosis – even famous people struggle with it.
Famous People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (List): Autistic Celebrities
Below is a list of famous people and celebrities (in alphabetical order) that have been diagnosed specifically with autism spectrum disorder. Understand that some of these celebrities are considered to be “high functioning” in that they exhibit enhanced cognitive performance (and usually have IQs over 70), while others are “lower functioning” in that they exhibit greater cognitive impairment. Also understand that certain individuals are considered autistic savants in that they are prodigious in one niche (art, music, mathematics, memorization, etc.).
Alexis Wineman: In 2012, Alexis Wineman was winner of the “Miss Montana” pageant competition. After receiving the title of “Miss Montana,” she went on to participate in the 2013 Miss America beauty pageant. She went on to win the “America’s Choice” award at Miss America.
Her appearance on “Miss America” was considered groundbreaking in that she was the first individual with autism to compete. Not only is she aesthetically beautiful, she managed to portray inner beauty and courage throughout the “Miss Montana” and “Miss America” competitions. It has since been reported that she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 11.
In addition to her success in beauty competitions, she managed to get a high school diploma and enter Huntingdon College (in Alabama). Her appearance as “Miss Montana” and “Miss America” generated an increase in autism awareness. Interestingly enough, her older sister Danielle Wineman would later win “Miss Montana” in 2015.
Amelia Baggs: This is a famous blogger who is well-known for writing about autism at the website: ballastexistenz.wordpress.com. She is unable to verbally communicate and is considered to have low functioning autism. Baggs has created YouTube videos to help increase public awareness of autism and promote autism rights.
One such video entitled “In My Language” portrays the inner dialogue and rationale behind various behaviors associated with autism. Although she doesn’t verbally communicate, she has been a guest blogger for CNN – answering questions from those who are curious about autism spectrum disorder. In addition to her diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, Baggs suffers from a multitude of other illnesses including: bipolar disorder, dissociative disorder, schizophrenia, and gastroparesis.
Bhumi Jensen: Also known as “Poom,” he was the grandson of King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was named after his grandfather (the king) “Bhumibol” with the abbreviated version of “Bhumi.” Bhumi was also widely recognized as being the sun of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya (the king’s daughter).
At a young age Bhumi Jensen was diagnosed with autism. Due to the fact that he was considered a member of the royal family, his diagnosis lead to a substantial increase in autism awareness throughout Thailand. Despite the fact that he had autism and developmental difficulties, he managed to attend college at Kasetsart University Laboratory School – based in Bangkok.
Unfortunately, Bhumi Jensen was a victim of the 2004 tsunami that struck Thailand and ended up drowning. In the aftermath of his death, the king Bhumibol and other members of the royal family held a funeral on his behalf. Additionally, the “Khun Poom Foundation” was established in honor of his life with the intention of helping children with autism (and other forms of learning impairment).
Birger Sellin: He is considered the first completely non-verbal individual with autism to become a published author in Germany. His first book entitled, “I Don’t Want to Be Inside Me Anymore: Messages from an Autistic Mind” was published in 1993. Following its publication, the book has raised significant awareness of autism spectrum disorders and been translated into numerous other languages.
It was initially thought that non-verbal individuals with autism were unable to communicate – even in the form of writing. Outsiders suspected that using typed communication still wouldn’t allow those diagnosed with autism to accurately convey their thoughts. Sellin was able to write with the help of his mother, and as a result – many critics claim that his book was written mostly by his mother without much of his actual input.
Since the publication of Sellin’s book, it is now accepted that individuals with non-verbal forms of autism are still able to communicate in the form of typing. In fact, many are able to write with significant clarity – just as well as individuals without an autism diagnosis. He is widely regarded as a pioneer for autistic writers.
Caiseal Mór: This is a renowned Australian author and musician. He is famous for his fantasy novels and known for his musical recordings. He has recorded over 12 albums thus far and has more in the works. Mór was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was a child, and had kept his diagnosis a secret from the general public until he published his autobiography in 2007 entitled “A Blessing and a Curse; Autism and Me.”
Christopher Knowles: This is an American poet and painter from New York City. It is thought that he has been diagnosed as having mild brain damage and some speculate that he has autism spectrum disorder (though this hasn’t been confirmed). His work was discovered by Robert Wilson, who was initially fascinated with his repetitive and pattern rhythms of poetry.
As a result of gaining attention from Robert Wilson, he was cast as a 13-year old to feature in a variety of productions, perhaps most notably “Einstein on the Beach.” In addition to his unique poetic talent, his is considered a skilled painter. Most of Knowles’ paintings were created using a typewriter and colored ink – resulting in patterns emerging from letters and numbers.
His paintings have gone on to get featured at the Museum of Modern Art and are often referenced as “typings” or “typed designs.” Knowles made numerous contributions to the world of poetry and art – most of which may have been enhanced by his unique characteristics and autistic style.
Derek Paravicini: This is an autistic savant from London who is regarded as a musical prodigy. He was born 25 weeks prematurely and experienced complete visual blindness as a result of oxygen therapy administered following his premature birth. In addition to rendering him fully blind, the oxygen therapy also impeded brain development – contributing to learning disabilities.
Although he cannot see, struggles with learning, and has autism – Derek Paravicini is blessed with absolute pitch. He is able to fully replay an entire song or musical piece after hearing it just once. From the age of 2 he was playing music on a keyboard piano given to him by his grandmother, and as a result of his talent, his parents enrolled him in a music program at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind (based in London).
At this school he would receive daily piano lessons, and by age 7 he was putting on concerts. Two years after his first concert (at age 9) he was putting on larger-scale public concerts and was skilled enough to play with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra. More would learn about his story as an autistic musical prodigy following his feature on the British TV show “Wogan” and appearance in documentary “Musical Savants.”
He has since managed to put out a music album in 2006 entitled “Echoes of the Sounds” and was the subject of the biography entitled “In the Key of Genius” (written by Adam Ockelford). He later gained more mainstream attention following his feature on the shows: “60 Minutes,” “Extraordinary People,” “Musical Minds” (of the NOVA series), and “Superhumans.” There are few people as skilled and accomplished as Derek Paravicini at their respective crafts.
Donna Williams: This is a well-known Australian author who is also a talented singer, songwriter, screenwriter, and sculptor. When she was just 2 years of age, others thought she was “psychotic” and was initially thought to be deaf. Later she was properly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and has since attempted to correct many neurophysiological abnormalities associated with the condition.
She has published 4 autobiographies including: “Nobody Nowhere” (1992), “Somebody Somewhere” (1994), “Like Colour to the Blind” (1998), and “Everyday Heaven” (2004). In addition, she has appeared on several TV documentaries and has created the website auties.org to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder with self-employment. Additionally, she is considered a talented public speaker, autism consultant, and teacher.
Frankie MacDonald: This is a famous Canadian weatherman who is well known for his entertaining weather forecasts, particularly on his YouTube channel “dogsandwolves.” His weather forecasts [and other YouTube videos] have generated in excess of 10 million unique views. While most of his videos consist of comedy-infused weather forecasts, he has created other non-weather-related comedy videos such as “Guy Tries to Eat 50 Hot Dogs at Once.”
Frankie has upwards of 50,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, manages a Twitter account, and runs a blog. Although he has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he hasn’t let his diagnosis hinder his goal to become a weatherman. Several of his forecasts have been featured on Canada’s Weather Network website, BuzzFeed, and even the popular comedy show “Tosh.0.”
Freddie Odom: Douglas Fred Odom, Jr. has been an actor, author, teacher, and politician – making him a jack-of-all-trades. As of 2010, Freddie was elected to serve on the Bluffton City Council and eventually would be elected Mayor of Bluffton, Georgia. Prior to his successful career as a politician, he was an actor that appeared in the play “Sister Queens” and also as a cast member in the play “Swamp Gravy.”
He was also featured in the magazine “Southwest Georgia Living” (2012 issue) in which they included a write-up on “Swamp Gravy.” In the article, he acknowledged that he had been diagnosed with autism. Freddie is considered the first openly autistic elected government official in the United States.
In 2014, Freddie wrote an autobiography entitled “They Can Kill Me, But They Can’t Eat Me.” Throughout the book he shares stories from his upbringing and discusses some struggles associated with autism. Freddie is considered a very high-functioning, productive member of society that has achieved more with autism than most people without the diagnosis.
Henriett Seth F.: This is a Hungarian autistic savant who exhibited talent as a writer, poet, artist, and musician. She became famous when her book entitled “Closed Into Myself with Autism” was published in 2005. Throughout her childhood, she was initially drawn to music, but stopped musical creations at age 13 and channeled her efforts towards writing.
From age 13 to 25, she focused on writing, but eventually gave that up in order to pursue painting. Various unpublished poetic works that she created include: “Autumn,” “A dream in a cage,” “Something easy to write and sweet,” and “There in the distance.” In 2001, she won an International Literature Competition and International Alliance of Hungarian Writers award.
Her paintings were displayed at the House of Arts and Brody Sandor Public Library (in Eger, Hungary). Furthermore, she was featured in a variety of TV documentaries, including “The Rain Girl” and a video series created by an autism research group in Hungary. In addition to dealing with autism, Henriett Seth F. endured a myriad of other health issues including: heart disorders, eye disorders, and orthopedic diseases – and remains an inspirational woman.
Hikari Ōe: This is a Japanese composer who happens to have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Hikari Ōe comes from a highly-talented family and is the son of Kenzaburō Ōe and Yukari Ikeuchi (the sister of Juzo Itami). Following his birth, medical professionals attempted to persuade his parents to let him die.
In addition to autism spectrum disorder, he has epilepsy, limited vision, and lacks physical coordination. However, his parents realized that he had great auditory skills and was musically inclined. His parents recruited a piano teacher to teach him musical notation and composition.
Hikari Ōe became so skilled at creating chamber music that his first CD went platinum – selling over 1 million copies within just a few years of its release. In addition to contributing brilliant music to the world, he was the inspiration for some of his father’s literary works. In particular, the book “A Personal Matter” published in 1964 went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature – and was based on the trials and tribulations associated with raising Hikari Ōe.
Jacob Barnett: Also known as “Jake,” this is a physics student regarded as a child prodigy. A memoir written by his mother revealed that he had been formally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. He had been homeschooled by his parents and by age 15 was accepted to a one-year master’s degree program at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario.
He is considered the youngest student to have ever been accepted into the program. By 2014, he had fully completed the program and is now considered a doctoral student at the Perimeter Institute. It is clear that Jake has continued to excel in academia and will likely continue to flourish in regards to educational development.
James Henry Pullen: Nicknamed the “Genius of Earlswood Asylum,” James Henry Pullen was an autistic savant from England. From a young age he was thought to be fully deaf, mute, and cognitive impairment. Though he was not actually deaf, he struggled with learning – managing to learn just one word (“mother”) by the age of 7.
Throughout his childhood, Pullen took interest in carving small ships from firewood – and would draw pictures of them once carved. By age 15 he had been transported to Earlswood Asylum and was unable to verbally communicate. In addition to his lack of verbal communication abilities, he was also unable to write – so he used physical gestures to convey messages.
During his time at Earlswood Asylum, he was taught the crafts of carpentry and cabinet making to support himself – both of which he excelled at. His true passion was art, and as a result, he would reportedly draw in the asylum’s workshop throughout the day and odd hours of the night. Some of his artwork captured the attention of Queen Victoria and the current Prince of Wales (Edward VIII).
Perhaps his most prominent piece of art was a 10-foot replica of the ship “SS Great Eastern” – which took him 7 years to complete. Following his death, a collection of his works (including the ship) are displayed at the Langdon Down Centre Museum. Pullen is considered among the greatest artists of his time (particularly in the building of model ships).
James Hobley: He is a famous ballet dancer from England that is perhaps most recognized from his appearance on the show “Britain’s Got Talent.” Though he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, his passion was dancing. From a young age he studied ballet and freestyle disco – and won many dance competitions by the time he was just 8 years of age.
He was featured in the documentary “Autism, Disco and Me” which was featured on BBC. Hobley ended up getting 8th place on the 2011 season of Britain’s Got Talent. The judges on the show were quoted describing his performance as “inspirational.”
Jason McElwain: Nicknamed “J-Mac,” Jason McElwain is an individual that was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. However, he didn’t let any part of his diagnosis hold him back from becoming a high school athlete. Although he didn’t make the varsity basketball team, the coach asked him to be the official manager for the Greece Athena High School Team.
His story was eventually featured across many national news programs when the coach decided to put him in the final 4 minutes of a game. In the last 4 minutes of a game, McElwain managed to score 20 points – a significant amount for any high school basketball player in such a short duration. In addition to his story of closing out a basketball game gaining major mainstream attention, he has also managed to run a marathon – a feat most people only dream about.
Though he struggled significantly with socialization throughout high school, he continued to follow his passions – one of which was basketball. Through basketball, he managed to gain more social skills to the extent that he is now considered a public speaker – appearing on Gatorade commercials, the show “The Talk,” and CBS Evening News. He has since written a book (The Game of My Life), has appeared in films, managed to get his high school diploma, and even won an ESPY Award for the “Best Moment in Sports” in 2006.
Jessica-Jane Applegate: This is a well-known British swimmer who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. In 2012 she qualified for the summer Paralympics and ended up winning a gold medal. In the process of winning, she set a world Paralympic record in the S14 200 meter freestyle race. Although she had faced tribulations associated with autism spectrum disorder, she found significant enjoyment in swimming.
As a young teenager, she had set records in a variety of other international swimming tournaments. Applegate managed to win the gold medal in the 2012 British Swimming Championship for the 200 meter freestyle, and went on to claim three medals (one of which was gold) in the 2013 IPC World Championships. She remains among the most talented Paralympic swimmers of all time.
Jim Sinclair: This is an autism rights activist who helped form the organization Autism Network International (ANI) in 1992. Due to his autism spectrum disorder, it was reported that Sinclair was unable to verbally communicate until age 12. By the late 1990s, Sinclair had managed to get a college degree and enroll in graduate school at Syracuse University for rehabilitation counseling.
He has written the popular essay “Don’t Mourn for Us,” which expresses his thoughts and feelings against the idea of “curing” autism. Sinclair has been supportive of organizing international autistic speakers and has collaborated with Donna Williams, another famous person with autism.
John Hall: This is an author and CEO of Greenwood & Hall, a publicly traded company that specializes in development of cloud-based educational technology. Among his most notable literary contributions is the book “Am I Still Autistic?” which was published in 2011. Despite the fact that he has been diagnosed with severe autism and slight mental retardation, Hall is considered an extremely high performer.
He began his adult life working full-time at a telephone answering service company while simultaneously attending college at Pepperdine University. Hall would eventually graduate from Pepperdine with a master’s degree in Business Administration and would later attain his doctorate in Education from University of Southern California. Hall is an example of a top performer that has succeeded in spite of his neurodevelopmental disability.
Jonathan Jayne: Although not a popular celebrity, many know Jonathan Jayne from audition his appearance on season 6 of the TV show “American Idol.” He was considered a Special Olympics participant and upon the start of his audition, he was heavily criticized and mocked by judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson. Towards the end of his audition, the judges came to the realization that he had a developmental disorder (autism) and eased their harsh criticism.
Though he wasn’t regarded as being a talented enough singer to advance to the next stage of the show, his appearance garnered mainstream attention and raised autism awareness. The extent of Jonathan’s fame is limited to his brief stint on American Idol. That said, people remember him for his courage to test his singing ability on mainstream television.
Jonathan Lerman: This is an autistic savant from New York who is considered famous for his works as an artist. As a result of his neurodevelopmental abnormalities, he reportedly has an IQ of 53. When Lerman was just 10 years of age, he began creating artwork in the form of charcoal-drawn faces.
The faces he initially drew were a mix of individuals that he knew, as well as people that he imagined. His drawings would eventually be featured at New York City’s KS Art Gallery in a solo exhibition. In addition to his acclaimed talent as an artist, Lerman appeared on the MTV show “True Life” for the episode “I Have Autism.”
Leslie Lemke: Leslie Lemke was an autistic savant who was best known for his musical talent. He was born prematurely in 1952, and endured a variety of health issues including: brain damage, cerebral palsy, and glaucoma. Following birth his eyes were completely removed and he was rendered fully blind.
Due to his numerous health issues, he was put up for adoption and was taken in by May Lemke when he was 6 months old. Initially she was unable to feed him and had to force food down his throat. His neurodevelopmental delay was so significant that it took over a year before he was able to independently chew food and over 15 years before he learned to walk.
Although he was developmentally challenged, he was highly interested in music – particularly playing the piano. By age 16 he had learned to play a variety of musical genres on his piano and would eventually attract large crowds in his home state of Wisconsin for concerts. He has been featured on a variety of TV shows including 60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, CBC’s Man Alive, and ABC’s “The Woman Who Willed a Miracle.”
Luca Brecel: This is a professional Belgian snooker player considered by many to be among the most talented young stars in the sport. Some sources suggest that he suffers from a mild form of autism spectrum disorder. It has been suggested that he appears introverted, doesn’t like speaking much, and feels uncomfortable around strangers.
It is believed that his autism actually enhances his performance at the snooker table, leaving him clear-headed and focused. He is able to easily tune out mental distractions and channel his concentrative efforts towards performance. Although Luca doesn’t attract a large crowd for his snooker events, he was the youngest European under-19 champion (at age 14) and already managed to beat former world champion Stephen Hendry in an exhibition game.
Lucy Blackman: This is an Australian author who is incapable of verbally communicating as a result of autism. She is considered the first individual diagnosed with a non-verbal form of autism to publish a book. In 2001, she published “Lucy’s Story: Autism and Other Adventures” – describing her experience of what it’s like to live with autism.
Her next book entitled “Reflections on Language” was published in 2005. In addition to being a published author, she managed to attain a college education – receiving a master’s degree in Literary Studies at Deakin University. During adulthood, Lucy Blackman contributed to a number of other books, publications, and even gave public presentations of her experiences living with autism.
Matt Savage: Unlike most individuals diagnosed with autism, Matt Savage was able to walk early and was reading before his second birthday. Throughout his childhood he had difficulties coping with noises or music, likely due to hypersensitivity of senses associated with autism. By the age of 6, Savage was able to read piano music – a skill he taught himself.
When in high school, it was realized that Savage had a much higher IQ than average. As a result, he managed to win a high school geography competition against kids throughout the entire state of Massachusetts. Though talented in many areas, he took up studying music – particularly the genres of classical and jazzy.
He would end up studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1999 where it was realized that Savage had perfect pitch. Savage has since gone on to release over 8 albums and is regarded as an elite musician and composer. His story has been featured on a variety of documentaries and TV programs including: The Late Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Today Show, and CNN.
Michelle Dawson: She was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the early 1990s and currently works as an autism research assistant. In her early years, she worked at the post office, but struggled to cope with her autism. She engaged in self-harm via cutting on both her arms and face – leaving many of her coworkers to question her mental health.
At this time, Michelle felt as if she was being discriminated against by her coworkers. The discrimination lead her to file multiple lawsuits, one of which she won. Eventually she would land a job in autism research at a clinic specializing in autism care. She believes that it is important to figure out how autistic brains function rather than pinpointing impairments.
Richard Wawro: This is a Scottish artist and autistic savant known best for his wax oil crayon artistic landscapes. From an early age he was thought to suffer from moderate or severe retardation, but would later be understood as having autism. Before the age of 11, he was unable to speak and suffered from blindness after a surgical procedure in which cataracts were removed.
Throughout his early childhood, Wawro took interest in drawing with chalk. By the age of 6 he was fixated on using crayons and art teachers began to take notice of his impressive works. At the age of 17, he attracted a mainstream following after his first art exhibition – capturing the attention of Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II.
He is estimated to have sold in excess of 1,000 pictures in over 100 art exhibitions. Though he died of lung cancer in 2006, his life was honored in the film “With Eyes Wide Open” – which went on to win several awards. His art was considered masterful, especially his intricately-detailed landscape portrayals which featured an array of colors and significant depth.
Stephen Wiltshire: This is an architectural artist from Britain known for his ability to compose landscape pictures from memory after just a single sighting. As a child Wiltshire was considered mute, and by age 3 he had been diagnosed with autism. By age 5 he had been sent to Queensmill School where he took interest in art, particularly drawing.
Although he didn’t learn to verbally communicate until age 9, he was incentivized to speak by his art teachers who would take away his supplies until he uttered words. He would eventually demonstrate that he could draw an entire city landscape from memory – following just a single viewing. For example, he was able to draw an entire four square mile picture of London after just one aerial sighting via a helicopter ride and did the same of New York City (also following a helicopter ride).
He has published several books of his artwork including: “Drawings” (1987), “Cities” (1989), “Floating Cities” (1991), and “Stephen Wiltshire’s American Dream” (1993). In addition to drawing London and New York City, he has drawn landscapes of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem, and Frankfurt – all on large canvasses. Wiltshire has received significant public praise for his work, and has been featured in various TV documentaries.
In 2008 he was named “Person of the Week” by ABC News and in 2009 he was an ambassador for “Children’s Art Day” in the United Kingdom. He has also been featured on the cover of You Magazine, honored by the Society of Architectural Illustration, and honored by the Scottish Association of Architectural Arts. Wiltshire is considered among the most talented architectural artists of all time.
Temple Grandin: This is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She has written a best-selling book, is an autism activist, and is considered a leading consultant for businesses in the livestock industry. She has invented a device called the “hug box” which is aimed to increase calmness among those with autism spectrum who feel overwhelmed.
In 2010, she was named by Time magazine as among the 100 most influential people in the world. In addition, she was the basis for the biographical film “Temple Grandin” – which went on to win several awards. In childhood, Temple was thought to have brain damage and she wasn’t able to verbally communicate until age 4.
This is a woman who was made fun of for her autistic tendencies (e.g. repetitive speech) throughout high school and had a tougher than average time coping with social aspects of school. Eventually she would go on to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology (1970), a master’s degree in animal science (1975), and eventually a doctoral degree in animal science (1989). Since finishing college, she has: been featured in several documentaries, interviewed for the best-selling book “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” written several prominent essays and autobiographical works, and has even given a TED Talk in 2010.
Thristan Mendoza: This is an individual considered an autistic savant in that he is highly skilled at playing the marimba. He was born in the Philippines, diagnosed with autism at age 2, and would go to school at the “Philippine Montessori Center.” During his schooling, he took a liking to music, particularly playing the marimba.
The University of Philippines recognized that he possessed significantly greater skill than average – considering him a “marimba” prodigy. Nicknamed “Tum-Tum,” Thristan has always been exceptionally gifted in creating music and is currently going to college to pursue a degree in percussion. He is yet another example of someone with an autism diagnosis who managed to follow his passion and develop a unique genius-level skill.
Tito Mukhopadhyay: This is an Indian author, poet, and philosopher who was diagnosed with a severe form of low functioning autism from a young age. His autism is in fact so severe that he was rendered incapable of verbal communication. Despite the fact that he lacks the ability to verbally communicate, he has honed his ability to convey thoughts in the form of writing.
In the year 2000, he published an autobiography entitled “Beyond the Silence: My Life, The World and Autism.” The book was written to share his internal battles associated with autism and how he perceives the world as a result of his autism. His lucid writing captured the attention of the foundation Autism Speaks and they funded Tito and his mother Soma to travel to the United States to teach others with autism how to read and write.
Her teaching method is referred to as the “Rapid Prompting Method” and has been successfully employed by many others with autism to improve literacy. Tito serves as an inspiration for many with non-verbal autism and his story has been featured on news outlets such as: ABC, CBS, New York Times, Scientific American, et al. Furthermore, his mother Soma was able to introduce a new successful teaching paradigm to improve the non-verbal communication skills of those with autism.
Todd Hodgetts: This is an Australian athlete that managed to win a gold medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London for the shot put. Prior to his gold medal at the Paralympics, he made the Australian national team in 2006, won a 2008 Australian shot put championship, won a 2009 Athletics South flagship interclub competition, and won the 2012 Australian Athletics Championships where he set a world record.
Although he has a world-class skill in the shot put, not many people are aware that he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Though many people with autism experience impaired physical coordination, Hodgetts proved that it is possible to be a top-level athlete with this diagnosis. In addition to his interest in the shot put, he is an avid weightlifter and has been nicknamed “The Hulk” for his sheer power and strength.
Tony DeBlois: Not only does he have autism spectrum disorder, but he’s also legally blind. When Tony DeBlois was born, he was considered a premature baby and weighed less than 2 lbs. As a result, he was pumped with oxygen, but the oxygen therapy resulted in permanent visual blindness within 2 days after his birth.
Although he was diagnosed with autism and is completely blind, he is highly skilled in music. He was competent at playing the piano by age 2 and eventually was given a scholarship to the Berkless College of Music – a school based in Boston, Massachusetts. He ended up graduating magna cum laude in 1996 and is regarded by many as a musical prodigy.
His specialty is in the genre of jazz, but is capable of playing a variety of other genres. Furthermore, he is able to play over 20 total instruments with competency, has put on concerts with a band, and is able to play thousands of songs directly from memory. The movie “Journey of the Heart” (1997) was based on the life of Tony DeBlois.
Note: Although “Asperger syndrome” is on the autism spectrum, I didn’t include those diagnosed with Asperger syndrome on the list. Instead, I’ve created a separate list of “Famous People with Asperger Syndrome.”
Bottom line: Many individuals with autism are talented and make unique contributions to the world
As evidenced by the aforementioned list of famous people, those with autism can become published authors, run successful YouTube channels, create blogs, participate in local government, win beauty pageants, create music, and compose art. Although the most widely recognized individuals with autism tend to be those considered “savants,” even those who don’t possess savant-level talent can make a positive difference in the world. If you have been diagnosed with autism, it is important to realize that although your journey through life may be difficult, even famous people have faced similar challenges.
When times get tough, it may help to reflect upon some of these individuals for inspiration. Regardless of the talent, money, or recognition someone has attained throughout life – it is apparent that the challenges brought forth by autism are universal. Even if you struggle with severe autism, it is important to avoid falling victim to the belief that you are somehow less than human or have nothing to contribute to the neurodiversity of society.
It is important to always remain hopeful for the future and put forth your best personal effort. Avoid comparing yourself to others, societal norms, or expectations. Realize that researchers are on the cusp of better understanding autism and devising treatments to ameliorate various unwanted symptoms associated with the condition. Similarly, in the future we can expect to decipher some of the unique skills and perceptual abilities possessed by those with autism.
Which famous people with autism do you find most inspiring?
Feel free to share a comment below mentioning which famous people with autism you find most inspiring. Mention why you find them most inspiring and whether you can relate to any of their tribulations and/or triumphs. Since the number of autism diagnoses continues to increase, it should be expected that the list of celebrities diagnosed will expand in forthcoming years.
If you know of any famous individuals diagnosed with autism that weren’t included on this list, be sure to share them in the comments section below.