Every year, Autism Speaks uses the month of April as their fundraising campaign for “Autism Awareness”, asking everyone everywhere to “light it up blue”. (Ever wonder how they picked blue? They wanted to represent the boys on the spectrum. As they never “light it up pink”, my guess is girls don’t count. Either that, or they’re afraid they’ll get some heat from the Susan G. Komen foundation, who uses pink for their annual campaigns in October.) As my Facebook friend Amanda Sebra once told me, “Everyone is already ‘aware’ of autism.” Since I’ve already posted two articles about my hatred of the so-called charity in two posts, I’ve decided to counter their negativity towards autism with a series of positive articles. First up, a list of ten famous people and historical figures on the spectrum. If you can think of any I forgot, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I might make another version next year.
Note: Any historical figures on this list are speculation, but I’m including them anyway, because based on what I know about them, I’m not surprised that they’re thought to be on the spectrum.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) The man behind the Theory of Relativity and the founder of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb, an invention he later regretted.
Dan Aykroyd (1952-)
One of the original “Not Ready For Prime-Time Players”, as the original cast of Saturday Night Live was referred to in the 1970’s. After his tenure with the show, like so many former cast members, he went on to star in movies. Among his movies are The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters I and II (which he also produced with Ivan Reitman), Driving Miss Daisy (which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Trading Places and both My Girl movies.
Daryl Hannah (1960-)
This actress has starred in such movies as Splash, Kill Bill and the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner.
For more about this prominent figure in the autism community, read my blog post about her here.
Satoshi Tajiri (1960-)
The creator of the Pokémon franchise. He was inspired by seeing two children playing Game Boys with a link cable and imagining insects crawling on the link cable. Now you know why the game is often split into two cartridges and requires players to trade Pokémon!
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
The scientist who invented alternating current and often competed with Thomas Edison. (I’ve heard the rivalry was quite unkind and that Edison often stole credit for things Tesla invented.)
David Byrne (1952-)
The former frontman for Talking Heads, one of the forerunners of the alternative music scene in the 1980’s. After the band folded, he went on to a solo career.
Hikari Ōe (1963-)
A non-verbal Japanese classical music composer. Ōe is actually a savant.
This Seattle native is one of my Facebook friends, and is a savant artist. I’ve seen many of his paintings on his Facebook page. My personal favorite is called “No Words Needed”. If you would like to purchase his paintings, you can go here.
Ari Ne’eman (1987-)
The president and co-founder of ASAN, the Autism Spectrum Advocacy Network. Unlike Autism Speaks, this charity actually does what it claims and listens to autistic people.
Susan Boyle (1961-)
This Scottish woman was told she was brain damaged as a child, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. She finished second place in the 2009 season of Britain’s Got Talent with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.