Famous Personalities With Autism
Famous Personalities With Autism
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has often been misunderstood throughout human history. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that ASD was even recognized as its own unique condition. Before that, medical science had incorrectly interpreted ASD as a unique form of schizophrenia, and so many people that could have received better, more effective treatment, did not due to this misdiagnosis.
However, ASD has some unexpected expressions of its different symptoms that can sometimes make a difference in perception, or an increased ability to focus, and turn these symptoms into talents that allow some ASD patients to excel. Some of the people that world admires the most are diagnosed with ASD, and that condition can, in part, play a role in their talent and success. Here are just a few of the famous people in our culture—and throughout history—that have taken their condition and used it to their advantage, not their detriment.
While there was no formal diagnosis, since he lived and performed before the current understanding of ASD came to the fore, one of Canada’s most famous contemporary musicians is now strongly by current medical experts of having ASD, were he to be diagnosed today.
One of the traits of ASD can be an obsession with maintaining a routine. Things that disrupt an ordered routine can be extremely stressful for certain types of ASD patients. Gould showed many typical ASD symptoms, such as his poor receptivity to performing with new instruments, in new venues. His physical symptoms are also what makes experts suspect he was on the spectrum and he showed classic mannerisms, such as rocking back and forth while he played, a very common behavior for people with ASD. Of course, this same ability to focus on things other people might not also make him one of the more accomplished musicians of his day.
Sir Anthony Hopkins
Perhaps one of the most celebrated “elder statesmen” of British acting talent alive today, Sir Anthony Hopkins has been clinically diagnosed as being on the spectrum. Before the new classification system that condensed all the different categories in just ASD, Hopkins was originally diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome, which, in the old system, was considered a “higher functioning” form of autism.
In Hopkin’s case, his ASD let to a focus on the unusual details of the characters he played, as well as a very intense, distinct style of performance that could, under the right conditions, be perceived as abnormal and disturbing. Of course, his most famous role as the brilliant, but psychotic criminal Dr. Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs is now revered to this day for its off-kilter delivery.
When most people think of ASD, one of the most famous performances of Dustin Hoffman, in the movie Rain Man comes to mind. However, Dustin Hoffman’s performance wasn’t just something he made up. The inspiration for the Rain Man movie came when, in the 1980s, screenwriter Barry Morrow met a man named Kim Peek in Arlington, Texas.
Peek, as a result of ASD, had extreme difficulty interacting with people in normal social settings, and struggled with everyday activities, such as buttoning up a shirt. However, he also had an astounding capacity for memory and had was capable of memorizing up to 12000 books that he could quote, word for word.
This blind musician from the 19th century was notable not just for being a famous black performer during a more prejudiced century, but many medical professionals today speculate that his talent may have, in some capacity, be a result of having ASD.
“Blind Tom Wiggins” as he was known, had an unusual talent that landed him with the nickname “the human parrot.” He could hear any song just once and then be able to play it precisely on a piano. His most famous trick, however, was his ability to play three songs simultaneously, once again, a side-effect of the differing perception and ability to focus that is sometimes characteristic of ASD.
While she is most famous for being the wife of revered 90s grunge music icon Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana, Courtney Love is also the lead singer in her own band, Hole. She is also, however, a talented musical celebrity that has, like many before her, found a way to cope with ASD through music.
Courtney Love was diagnosed in an earlier period with Asperger’s Syndrome, putting her, once again, in the now-outdated “high functioning” category. Like many people classified as such, she is introverted, has a difficult time casually interacting with others in the way most people do. However, she is also able to perceive things and concentrate on areas of interest differently and with more intensity, and that has resulted in a successful music career, outside of her famous marriage.