Surprising Facts About Autism’s Top 5 Influential People

most influential people in autism

Learning about the accomplishments of others can bring a sense of what is possible! Below is a list of the five most influential people in the autism field and the surprising facts behind each of them. These advocates continue to change the world with their contributions!

1. Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

If you Google the most influential people in autism, the first name that will come up is Temple Grandin. Born August 29, 1947, Grandin is an autism spokesperson and one of the first people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to document her experience of having autism. She is also well known as an American scientist and an animal behaviorist.

Among her many accolades is making Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in 2010. Her hard work placed her in the “heroes” category of the feature. Years later, an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning film about her called “Temple Grandin” swept the nation upon its release, adding to her prominence and influence.

In her book, “Thinking in Pictures,” Grandin explains how autism affects her daily life. For example, she wears soft, comfortable clothing to balance sensory integration dysfunction and avoid sensory overload.

As a teenager, Grandin designed a “squeeze machine” based on containers used to euthanize cattle during vaccinations. She found that this facility had a significant therapeutic effect in helping her deal with her anxiety.

Grandin was not officially diagnosed with autism until she was an adult. Grandin’s only formal diagnosis was “brain damage” at the age of two, which was eventually dismissed with a brain scan when she turned 63 in 2010.

Although her autism caused her to struggle with verbal communication as a child, she is a great example of how much a person with autism can accomplish! She has used her life and understanding of autism and science to change the world for neurotypical and neurodivergent populations alike.

2. Amy Gravino

Amy Gravino is a Certified Autism Specialist, author, and international public speaker. She has given TED talks, spoken twice on World Autism Awareness Day at the United Nations, and presented to audiences around the world on a variety of topics, including:

  • Female ASD issues
  • Growing up with autism
  • Anti-bullying
  • Higher education for people with autism

Gravino is an autism sexuality advocate in the Center for Adult Autism Services at Rutgers University. Her forthcoming book, “The Naughty Autie,” speaks to her experiences dating as a woman on the autism spectrum.

Gravino has contributed to many books and publications, including textbooks on special education, Autism Spectrum Quarterly, and the official blog of Autism Speaks.

As an undiagnosed child, Gravino’s life was challenging. She experienced breakdowns, meltdowns, and shutting down almost every day at school. Her diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in 1994 became a catalyst for change in her family.

Holding a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, she completed her degree by using the principles of ABA to teach adults with autism how to ask someone on a date.

3. Kerry Magro, Ed.D.

Kerry Magro is an award-winning national speaker, prominent autism advocate, and bestselling author of two books: “Defining Autism in the Heart” and “Autism and Falling in Love.” He has also been a consultant for two autism films: “Joyful Noise” and “Jane Wants a Boyfriend.”

He is an exceptional role model in the disability community. Nonverbal at two years old, he was eventually diagnosed with autism at age four. Today, Magro travels around the country, sharing his story as a motivational speaker and disability rights advocate. He has contributed to more than 1,000 events, including TEDx and Talks at Google appearances. He is accredited by the National Speakers Association as one of the few professionally certified autistic speakers in the country.

Magro’s nonprofit organization, KFM Making a Difference, offers more than 50 college scholarships to students with autism and grants to small businesses that hire those with autism.

Magro credits the meaningful choice to undergo continuous treatment with his many successes throughout his life. He is also a prominent advocate for early intervention and therapy.

4. Haley Moss

Haley Moss is a distinguished attorney, author, artist, speaker, and advocate. She was diagnosed with autism when she was three years old and has used her passion for disability inclusion to promote neurodiversity. Through her many platforms, she helps the world more deeply understand the autism population so that these individuals can flourish!

As an author, Moss has written four books about a range of issues related to growing up and contributing to the world while having autism. Her writing has been featured in many media outlets and legal journals. Moss is different because she writes about autism from man different perspectives but always explores significant issues affecting individuals with autism.

A professionally licensed attorney, Moss is the first female lawyer in Florida to report having autism publicly. Moss uses her time as a keynote speaker and educator to speak candidly about her experiences having autism and still accomplish amazing things. She believes that her story has the power to change lives. Additionally, she works as an adjunct professor at Taylor University in the Psychology Department.

By sharing and advocating for the change, Moss is helping to create a better and more accepting world for all kinds of bodies and minds.

 5. Dr. Stephen Shore

Dr. Stephen Shore is currently a professor Autism Special Education at Adelphi University, where he researches the best practices for the needs of individuals with autism. He is internationally known for his excellent presentations, consultations, and writings on lifespan issues related to relationships, education, employment, and advocacy.

Shore has written several books, including:

  • College for Students with Disabilities
  • Understanding Autism for Dummies
  • Ask and Tell
  • Beyond the Wall

His book, “Ask and Tell,” prefaced by Temple Grandin, describes the ways people with autism can advocate for themselves.

Shore is a board member of Autism Speaks and one of the first two board members with autism in the organization’s history.  Additionally, he serves on the boards of the Asperger/Autism Network, the U.S. Autism Association, and other autism-related organizations.

He is often quoted as giving one of the best explanations of autism by saying, “If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.”

Autism Can Be a Driving Force

Autism doesn’t have to limit people. It can be a superpower! These five figures and many others have pushed our understanding of autism and how we can make the world more accessible to people with autism and other disabilities.

ABA Therapy for Autism

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy has been shown to help people with autism enhance their natural skills while decreasing unwanted behavior that might interfere with their lives. It is the only evidence-based treatment for those with autism.

Call ABA Centers of America at 844-923-4222 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or message us for more information.


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