The spectrum for autism is broad and can include Asperger’s syndrome—a social reticence.
By Kevin RR Williams
What It Means to Be on the Spectrum
Once isolated within caregiving homes and institutions, more people with autism spectrum disorder are overcoming challenges to mingle within society. The spectrum for autism is broad and can include Asperger’s syndrome—a social reticence.
The term “spectrum” refers to a range of both symptoms, and their severity. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), autism spectrum disorders encompass previous diagnoses of autism, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder.
With no known cause, theories abound. Commonly vaccinations are blamed. Anecdotally, a child who has been vaccinated may also be diagnosed with autism. Factually, no clinical studies support this correlation. The rumor spreads trypanophobia.
Famous People on the Spectrum
Not all autistic people are savants but some have become actors, mathematicians, teachers and spokespersons. Autistic savants have a developmental disability, yet demonstrate some hypercognition. Notable individuals include:
- Albert Einstein – Scientist & Mathematician
- Alexis Wineman – Miss Montana, Miss America pageant
- Andy Warhol – Artist
- Barbara McClintock – Scientist and Cytogeneticist
- Benjamin Banneker – African American almanac author, surveyor, naturalist, and farmer
- Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation
- Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster
- Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
- Charles Richter – Seismologist
- Dan Aykroyd – Comedic Actor
- Daryl Hannah – Actress & Environmental Activist
- Emily Dickinson – Poet
- Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author
- Henry Cavendish – Scientist
- James Joyce – Author of “Ulysses”
- Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian
- Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
- Ludwig Wittgenstein – Philosopher
- Matthew Labyorteaux – Actor
- Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
- Nikola Tesla – Inventor
- Paul Dirac – Physicist
- Satoshi Tajiri – Creator of Nintendo’s Pokémon
- Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist
- Stanley Kubrick – Film Director
- Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
- Susan Boyle – Singer
- Temple Grandin – Cattle Industry Designer and Professor
- Thomas Jefferson – Early American Politician
- Tim Burton – Movie Director
- William Butler Yeats – Poet
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Classical Composer
A key paradox among highly creative people is that high achievement accompanies hyperfocus on a field of endeavor. Tuning in on a talent often requires tuning out other people. Another common savant skill is prodigious memory. For more detailed explanation of autism by someone with autism, watch the YouTube video by Temple Grandin.
April is Autism Awareness Month. The puzzle piece representing autism was created by Gerald Gasson in 1963, a parent and board member for theNational Autistic Society (formerly The Society for Autistic Children) in London. At the time, the board believed autistic people suffered from a ‘puzzling’ condition.
Though much more has been learned since then and the definition is evolving, aspects still puzzle medical professionals—the ability to excel in mathematics, music or other creative endeavors with far less effort than those off the spectrum, for example. Maria Hall, parent writes, “My son is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma… I love the puzzle piece.” #AutismAwarenessMonth