People with autism are often creative, innovative, and highly talented. But many people are surprised when a famous person admits to being on the autism spectrum (or, in some cases of heroes from the past, when autism is suggested). While there may be many challenges accompanying a diagnosis, there is still room for success and achievement.
Challenges associated with autism include communication skills, social skills, and difficulty regulating emotions and behaviors. Some behaviors can be compulsive, restrictive, or repetitive. With that said, no matter what behaviors you or your child are exhibiting, a person with autism has unique strengths and abilities. Some of the neurodivergent population have used their unique talents to achieve prosperity and fame.
Tenacious Interests Build the Foundation for Success
A common trait of autism is known as restricted interest. This kind of restrictive behavior keeps the individual hyper-focused on a particular topic. Restrictive behavior is often why people with ASD have strong passions for specific topics. An example of this is a 17-year-old boy who always watches the same video of a particular plane taking off from a particular airport. The boy may watch this same video 100 times, sometimes at specific times of the day. He may even become distraught when they cannot access the video.
While this may seem limited compared to the range of interests someone neurotypical may have, it shows the potential to be focused on details and commit to excellence in a particular subject. A person with autism can focus and maintain core interests for the rest of their lives and use that interest to accomplish amazing things!
Being Social with ASD
Another way a person with autism can uniquely contribute their talents to the world is by sharing how they experience the world.
Autistic people often learn how to work through problems independently. While a child may require more alone time and personal space, their logical approach to communicating can aid them in staying focused on their goals.
Famous People with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Now that we have reviewed some factors that can help someone with ASD rise to the top in a particular field, let’s look at some of the more famous people who have either claimed to be autistic or thought to be on the autism spectrum by modern-day experts.
1. Albert Einstein—Scientist and Mathematician
Many speculate that Albert Einstein would be diagnosed as neurodivergent today. There are accounts that describe him as a loner, difficult to communicate with, and highly focused for decades on a single problem.
2. Dan Aykroyd—Actor and Screenwriter
Dan Aykroyd is best known for his acting role in Ghostbusters, released in 1984. Many do not know that he also helped to write the film. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a term not used in official diagnoses today) in the 80s and says, “One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement.”
3. Anthony Hopkins—Actor
Anthony Hopkins has won many awards for his exceptional acting skills. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child. His traits include obsessive thinking, difficulty navigating relationships and looking at people with a unique context.
4. Tim Burton—Movie Director
While it’s unconfirmed that Tim Burton has autism, his long-time partner, Helena Bonham Carter, has implied that she believes he does. She says he has a “unique perspective” and that he gets hyper-focused to the extent that he no longer hears what is happening around him.
5. Charles Darwin—Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist.
It is believed that Charles Darwin had Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was known to be very quiet and to keep to himself. He also preferred to express himself through writing rather than verbal communication. He was also hyper-focused on his interests.
6. Emily Dickinson—Author
Experts claim Emily Dickinson would qualify as having autism. She was very reserved at all times. Additionally, she strategically maintained a fundamental yet ritualistic way of dressing. It is said that she felt more comfortable interacting with kids than with adults.
7. Bobby Fischer—Master Chess Player
Bobby Fisher is known as a grandmaster and World Chess Champion, and many believe he would have been diagnosed with autism. Due to a need to structure social experiences, he did not interact well with others and was famously singularly focused on his chess game.
8. Bill Gates—Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation
There has been much commentary in well-known publications that Bill Gates has autism. He sometimes displays a rocking motion, monotone speech pattern, and struggles to maintain eye contact. He also is well known for not caring about opinions other than his own. And yet, the impact he has had on the world through Microsoft is undeniable, and he is among the top five richest people in the world!
9. Michelangelo—Sculptor, Painter, Architect, and Poet
The genius of the Renaissance Michelangelo was born in 1475 before autism was a consideration. He is said to have an intense fixation on his work. He also struggled with emotional regulation, relationships and required structure at all times.
10. Sir Isaac Newton—Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist
Newton was known to isolate himself from others as much as possible due to interpersonal relationship difficulties. He did not socialize much and was considered to be very awkward.
11. Satoshi Tajiri—Creator of Pokémon
Tajiri’s restrictive interest growing up involved an intense fascination with bugs and arcade games. He later expanded this interest as an adult by creating the first Pokémon video game for Nintendo. Today, Pokémon is a worldwide phenomenon. Tajiri has said that he wanted his games to give kids the same thrill of collecting things that he had when he was collecting bugs.
12. Elon Musk—Entrepreneur
In 2021, while hosting “Saturday Night Live,” Elon Musk announced that he was on the autism spectrum. He said that he is “the first person with Asperger’s” to host the show. While his statement drew controversy from the autism community, Musk’s ability to focus on projects and his quest for perfection have led to many unique innovations. Musk is one of the wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of over $150 billion.
Clearly, a diagnosis of autism does not mean that autistic people can’t be just as successful as neurotypical people. ABA therapy is not about changing people with autism. It’s about building up those inherent strengths and developing critical life skills. At ABA centers of America, we embrace change as an opportunity to implement our fun, play-based strategies. We have techniques and ideas that can help your child take on any challenge standing in their way. Many of our tried-and-true strategies can make a major difference for students struggling with a new classroom or daily routine. Get in touch with ABA Centers of America today to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help your family.