ABA Therapy

Historical Trailblazers on the Spectrum – Who Were They?

Autism Spectrum Disorder presents challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. This disorder affects one in 36 children in the United States today. The perceived rise in prevalence might be due to improved recognition and diagnosis by doctors, psychologists, and teachers. Diagnosing autism can be complex due to the wide range of symptoms it entails, varying from mild quirks to profound non-verbal and even aggressive antisocial behaviors.

Many children with autism exhibit self-stimulation behaviors such as head shaking, hand flapping, or vocalizations. They frequently find loud noises challenging and show discomfort with physical contact. Autism affects boys more often, as they are four times more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls. Despite the challenges, individuals with autism often possess exceptional talents. Some excel in areas such as mathematics, music, or memory retention. They tend to focus intensely on specific topics, displaying profound interests.

Progress in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy has shown its value in addressing problems like social skills, communication, academic skills, and life skills. ABA therapy notably assists in improving fine motor control and adaptive learning. Throughout history, researchers speculate that numerous renowned figures had autism due to their extraordinary contributions.


  • Albert Einstein, who revolutionized physics.
  • Nikola Tesla, influential in electricity and technology.
  • Charles Darwin, renowned for his Theory of Evolution.
  • Sir Isaac Newton, famous for laws of physics.
  • And others like Barbara McClintock, Alfred Kinsey, and Temple Grandin

Several highly important individuals with autism have left their mark on the field of science. Among them, Albert Einstein stands out as perhaps the most widely recognized. Einstein’s fascination revolved around space, leading him to formulate the theory of relativity. Another eminent scientist strongly associated with autism is Nikola Tesla, the namesake of Tesla automobiles. Tesla’s reclusive nature and obsessive dedication to his work suggest his likely autism. His idiosyncrasies extended beyond mere quirks; for instance, his compulsion to circle buildings thrice before entering.

Though Thomas Edison garners more contemporary recognition, it was Tesla who significantly contributed to electricity’s evolution by inventing alternating current. Charles Darwin, a profoundly impactful figure, is also believed to have had autism. His claim to fame rests on the formulation of the Theory of Evolution. Most experts assert that Darwin exhibited characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism linked with creativity and originality — traits he abundantly possessed.

Another luminary is Sir Isaac Newton, renowned for discovering gravity and establishing pivotal laws of physics. Newton is similarly suspected of having Asperger’s syndrome, marking one of the earliest recognized instances of autism. Additional scientists believed to have had autism include Barbara McClintock, Alfred Kinsey, Temple Grandin, Paul Dirac, and Henry Cavendish.


  • Hans Christian Andersen, author of children’s books.
  • Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice in Wonderland.
  • Emily Dickinson, acclaimed poet.
  • James Joyce, known for complex literature.

Many renowned authors, often labeled as eccentric due to their nature, have compelling reasons behind their demeanor. Several famous authors are believed to have been on the autism spectrum. One such figure is Hans Christian Andersen, celebrated for children’s books. Hans displayed repetitive behaviors, intense interests, and aversion to social interactions, all indicative of Asperger’s Syndrome. Lewis Carroll, famed for “Alice in Wonderland,” exhibited weak social skills, nurtured a vivid imagination, and primarily engaged with children due to relatability. Emily Dickinson, hailed among the greatest poets, likely had autism, evidenced by her eccentricities and epilepsy. James Joyce’s enigmatic writing style itself serves as his prime autistic indicator. William Butler Yeats boasted a high IQ but struggled socially and in school. Benjamin Banneker, an author, mathematician, and activist, is also thought to have been on the spectrum. His genius is remembered through predictions like the 17-year locust outbreak in his almanac.


  • Michelangelo, famed for masterpieces like David and the Sistine Chapel.
  • Andy Warhol, iconic pop artist.

Michelangelo, renowned as a genius, crafted enduring masterpieces like the marble statues of David and The Pieta, along with the iconic ceiling painting in the Sistine Chapel. His work was marked by an unwavering routine and intense focus, bordering on obsession. Socially, he exhibited weak skills and actively avoided social situations.

Andy Warhol’s inclusion on this list hardly surprises. His eccentricity and fixation on Pop Art repetition earned him a distinct spot among artists and individuals. Notably, his most iconic work being a soup can underscores his idiosyncrasies.


  • Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, computer industry pioneers.

The development of computers and computer software owes much of its influence to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, recognized as geniuses in their respective domains. Gates, a founder of Windows, and Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, have spearheaded two of the most pivotal technology companies.

Jobs earned distinction as a perfectionist marked by obsessive-compulsive behaviors. He held a reputation as a loner and encountered challenges within conventional education. In Gates’ case, self-stimulatory actions like rocking while seated, discomfort in social scenarios, and an aversion to making eye contact characterized his demeanor.


  • Tim Burton, innovative filmmaker.

Director Tim Burton might be the most famous in the entertainment industry believed to have autism. If you have ever seen Nightmare Before Christmas, you might have guessed. It is an incredibly creative combination of a Christmas theme with Halloween characters. Burton has not been formally diagnosed, but he identifies with the condition and he and his wife believe he has a mild to moderate case of Asperger’s Syndrome. This has most likely contributed to his success with films.


  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, renowned composer.

In the music world, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably the most famous person who is speculated to have had autism. He was very sensitive to loud noises, which is somewhat ironic considering he was a musician. Mozart was groundbreaking musically for his time and was considered a genius in his craft. His most famous piece was the third movement Alla Turca from Sonata No 11.


  • Bobby Fischer, chess grandmaster.

Bobby Fischer is in a category of his own. Fischer is a chess grandmaster and World Chess Champion. He is said to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and very poor social skills. Fischer is known to be very intense and has an incredible 181 IQ. A level of genius like this is often difficult for others to relate to.

Autism can be a serious and debilitating disorder. It can rob you of speech, touch, and mobility. It can also be an incredible gift. Autism is often accompanied by a gifted mind or ability. Many influential people are thought to have had autism throughout history. This was not a detriment to them, and actually helped make them the creative geniuses many became. To learn about our ABA Therapy services, contact us today.