15 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Autistic
We need to slowly realize in this country (and all over the world) that the word autism is not a dirty word. It should not be taboo, and should not be judged in any such way. Autism is simply defined as a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. Though there are many different variations of autism and forms of autism, people need to have a wider awareness of it, and awareness of just how many people it affects. What better way to do this on this site than with a list of celebrities who are autistic? Some you may have known about, and a few may surprise you. But overall, we hope you walk away from this realizing that autistic people are no different than you or I. This list also proves it will only hold back those of us who let it. Keep in mind, in some cases here they are diagnosed, and some have diagnosed themselves or been diagnosed by very close loved ones.
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This star of Kill Bill and Splash (among many other films) has only recently came out about her diagnosis as autistic at a very early age. It was news she kept from only the closest of people in her life. Hannah’s form of autism is called Asperger’s Syndrome, and you will be hearing about it quite a bit on this list. While she does believe the autism may have affected her career, we sure couldn’t see it.
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Though she would probably get a little rough with you if you said this to her face, it is said that Courtney Love was diagnosed with autism as a child. While she was diagnosed as “mildly autistic”, it was not something that hurt her career in any way. Truth be told, her over-the-top persona is part of what appealed to her fan base. But note how different her personality is than most of the celebrities on this list.
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It was Tim Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham Carter, who comfortably diagnosed her husband of many years with autism. She noticed how he displayed all the signs (shyness, social anxiety, focused talent) and after taking to him in-depth about his childhood, shared the conclusion with him. While normally we would not put someone on the list whose husband or wife diagnoses them, I can say I worked very closely with that sect of the population for over half-a-decade, and she definitely hit the nail on the head with this one. Note how his curiosity and shyness paid off as he perused what he was passionate about and succeeded at it.
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This tenth season singer on American Idol was diagnosed with Asperger’s and Tourette’s when his Father died when he was just nine years old. But he made it all the way to fourth place in American Idol. So do you think people with autism are any less capable than the rest of us? Neither do we. Heck, in cases like James and everyone on the list, pretty sure most of them are more capable (as judged by the size of their bank accounts and personal victories) than any of us.
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This is a particularly interesting case, because it was only recently that this Community creator says he figured out on his own that he had all the signs and symptoms that he had autism most of his life and did not know it. He talked to some doctors and took some tests and wouldn’t you know it. The part that makes this most insane is he figured it out as he was researching the role of Abed for Community (who has Asperger’s on the show) and slowly figured out that he was had all the same signs and traits that he was writing for this fictional character (who also just happens to be based off someone Dan knew a long time ago).
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You wouldn’t think of Dan Akroyd as autistic, but that is the point of this list. Not to show you stars who have autism, but to show you that it does not deserve the social stigma it has, because in many ways, these people are no different than you or I. Dan Akroyd is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette’s Syndrome as an adult. He says he has a good handle on the Tourette’s, but that both led to his creation of Ghostbusters. One of his symptoms that made him look into if he had autism was an obsession with law enforcement and ghosts. Put two and two together and you have one of the greatest 80’s movies of all time.
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Perhaps the most famous autistic celebrity on the list, yet the one the fewest of you are aware of. Temple Grandin is a famous doctor of animal science who forever changed the lives of horses. To understand this better, you really should see Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes. It will not only open your eyes to her condition, but to what she did and how she overcame it. Seriously, if you are not familir with this amazing woman, take some time to familiarize yourself. It will help you see how amazing she is, and will help you understand autism better, too.
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Mozart. Yes that Mozart. It may blow your mind to know it, but man theorists have looked back on his life, his gifts, and his personality and realized: there is a really good chance that Mozart had some form of autism (most likely Asperger’s). He actually had a real sensitivity to sound (which is one of the reasons people think he was capable of making such beautiful music) and he often had mood swings and was said to be very anti-social. Of course, his music speaks to us all still, to this day. Just goes to show you autism is not a sickness or ailment.
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The lead singer of The Talking Heads and one of the guys who made “college radio” and “indie music” a thing, David Byrne is often said to be a genius of his craft who few understand and appreciate. What sets him apart is, much like Dan Harmon, Byrne seems to have discovered these symptoms in himself over time and is self-diagnosed. But seriously, few would argue. Another brilliant creative soul who just so happens to be autistic.
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Though it can not be fully confirmed, it is said (with almost 100% confidence by many) that Bill Gates suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. Many thought his old friend turned nemesis turned friend Steve Jobs may have had it as well. But please take a moment to consider the above to be true. I am writing this on a computer so all you can read it, specifically because those two men existed. So to say they “suffered” with autism isn’t fair. They had autism, yes. But when your gifts are as plentiful to the world as these two, saying they suffered with autism isn’t fair. It may be harder to live with, and there may be nuances we do not understand.
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When we look out for famous physicians and scientist, who made the revolutionary changes in the world of modern physics, Albert Einstein is surely the most popular one. His day dreaming nature and his past family record showed the signs of autism. However, he had a good sense of humor and is also regarded as a special type of Asperger’s syndrome. He even had difficulties in social interactions and was quite sensitive about personal life. Right from his school days, he had a hard time learning new things which the normal kids could easily grasp up. It’s hard to believe that a person like him with such high IQ level could fall behind in school. His difficulties in social interaction made it difficult for him to find a job despite his intelligence.
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In 1966 after his Europe tour Dylan had a fatal motorcycle accident which was not disclosed in public. Dylan was also not hospitalized after the accident but the accident gave him enough time to come out of the pressure he had built around him. In May 2000 Dylan won Polar Music Award and also his first Oscar award for his song Things Have Changed. Dylan is also one of those famous people who are suspected to be autistic. There have been rumors that he has been suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome though he never had any difficulty in addressing his audience.
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Nikola Tesla was the famous American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and physicist. He is better known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. He was certainly the modern day scientist who was considered close to the IQ level of Albert Einstein. He was very eccentric and was good at maintaining relations with people. A strange thing about his thinking was that he never entered a room whose number was divisible by three. His day to day life routines showed some prominent signs of autism.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Spielberg is world renowned American director and producer. Some of his best pictures include ET, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List. He also suspected to have autism because of his odd behavior. While it hasn’t been proven it’s certainly plausible as Spielberg is certainly one of the odder figures in the film world. Still though we would think this condition is what has contributed to his success.
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The third president of the United States of America may have been autistic. Jefferson was extremely shy and avoided making eye contact. He had difficulties speaking in public and in relating to others, features typical of an autistic individual. The writer of the Declaration of Independence also had an obsession for remodeling his home, wore slippers to meetings, and always had a mocking bird sitting on his shoulder, probably to keep him calm.
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Bob Dylan did not have a fatal motorcycle accident in 1966. A serious motorcycle accident, yes. But not fatal. Sloppy writing.
perhaps they meant fateful? makes no sense.
Maybe like Lazarus, he rose from the dead.
Maybe someone else died, so it was fatal.
Jerry Garcia rose from the dead. Well, actually, not.
I have these same personality traits. Interstingly, I am a Subject Matter Expert in Pharmaceutical Equipment, Operations, and how the drugs work to help people. It is difficult to manage me (or have me manage others), but I am the person that comes in to make a team/process/event better. The funny part is that each of these people needs and thrives on positive feed back, even more so than people without autism. That is what I think is missed by most. Tell me I did a great job when I do so, but do not fake it when I do not.
Too many of the people on this list are self diagnosed or diagnosed by family/friends. The writer has worked with autistic people, it sounds like… So have I. And it can be a very heartbreaking disorder. I do not think of Autism as having a social “stigma” but I feel that this article makes too light of the disorder by making it sound like it is more of a personality quirk than anything else. These are indeed bright shining examples of people with (maybe) Autism, but not at all a reflection of the reality, for people who struggle with this, or have children with this struggle.
on behalf of my two daughters with severe autism, thank you. These people have no idea…
This article sure shows a lot of speculation by the author. Other than Temple Granden, who does have autism and has been diagnosed as such, most of these other folks are just a guess or self diagnosed. I worked with many children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and after a while, you do start to pick out the traits in folks who have not been diagnosed. However, you can’t just state that someone has it, without an actual diagnostic assessment by qualified medical personnel.
It’s irresponsible to claim that these people are autistic, when a majority of them are only suspected to have it. I agree that this is a very sloppy article. This writer needs to study English, and learn that suspicion does not equal fact. Celebrities are people, and this is extremely disrespectful.
Not sure I am buying the historical ‘analysis’ for Mozart and Einstein. ONe can expect that super genius types would have social awkwardness… but I don’t think Einstein came up with the theories of relativity nor Mozart’s requiem because they had concentration problems and couldn’t stay on task while composing symphonies.
I think some of the centuries old post mortem diagnoses of aspergers is the worst kind of tripe.
if celebrities can self-diagnose then post mortem diagnoses must be valid, right? The one that gets me is Thomas Jefferson. I have a bulletin for those idiots: If you’re fathering multiple children with your slaves (as well as your wife), you don’t have autism.
Doesn’t everyone have autism these days?
This is just such crap. Anyone can say anything and they do. It’s insulting to those who really have aspergers.
Courtney Love? She’s a drug addled idiot. What a disservice to people with autism to have this ridiculous list of whiners. Asbergers is no longer considered part of the Autism Spectrum and is so subjective in it’s “diagnosis” even pediatricians diagnose it. You need a full neuropsychological eval to be properly diagnosed, not just take the word of some self-absorbed celebrity or their “healer” or PR rep. Everyone has unique personalities and autism has real, measurable behaviors and impairments needed to be properly classified as autism.
I worked with adults who had Autism and while I agree that no medical condition should carry with it a social stigma, the idea that these individuals are representative of what autism actually looks like is ridiculous. Autism is incredibly challenging and heart-breaking to deal with. My heart goes out to those who struggle with their autistic child. This article makes it seem like they’re just quirky geniuses.