Historical Trailblazers on the Spectrum – Who Were They?
Autism Spectrum Disorder can be identified by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. This disorder inflicts one in 54 children in the United States today. Many believe autism is becoming more and more prevalent, but are doctors, psychologists, and teachers just getting better at recognizing and diagnosing it? This is sometimes a difficult disorder to diagnose because there is such a range of symptoms and behaviors associated with it. It can manifest in ways that are just a little corky, or with completely non-verbal and sometimes aggressive antisocial behaviors.
Autism Spectrum Disorder can be identified by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. This disorder inflicts one in 54 children in the United States today. Many believe autism is becoming more and more prevalent, but are doctors, psychologists, and teachers just getting better at recognizing and diagnosing it? This is sometimes a difficult disorder to diagnose because there is such a range of symptoms and behaviors associated with it. It can manifest in ways that are just a little corky, or with completely non-verbal and sometimes aggressive antisocial behaviors. Many autistic children use self-stimulation behaviors like shaking their heads or hands, bouncing, or making noises. They can also have issues with loud noises and typically do not like physical contact. Autism is more prevalent in boys, who are four times more likely to have it than girls. As difficult as autism is, many individuals with autism have some sort of exceptionality. Maybe they are incredible with numbers. Sometimes they have a musical gift, or an unbelievable ability to remember facts. Individuals with autism often latch on to a specific topic and can become obsessed with it. People with autism have some struggles, but they are also capable of amazing things. Advances in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy) can help with behaviors like social skills and communication, as well as academic skills like reading and adaptive learning. ABA therapy is often also used to help teach life skills and improve fine motor control. There have been many famous individuals throughout history who are thought to have had autism and made significant contributions to science or math, music or art, medicine or technology. Here are some examples of some of these historic individuals. It is impossible to know for sure if all of these people had autism, but it is speculated that the following historic figures had autism.
There have been several very important autistic people in the field of science. Albert Einstein is probably the most well known. Einstein was obsessed with space and came up with the theory of relativity. Another very well known scientist who very likely had autism was Nikola Tesla. Yes, the namesake for Tesla automobiles. Tesla was known to be a recluse and obsessive about his work. He has been described as having quirks, but needing to walk around buildings three times before entering because you’re obsessed with the number three is more than just being quirky. Although Thomas Edison is much more well known today, Tesla was very important in the development of electricity and invented the alternating current. Charles Darwin is another very impactful scientist who likely had autism. Darwin is most well known for coming up with the Theory of Evolution. It is generally believed Darwin had a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is related to creativity and originality. Darwin had each in abundance. Sir Isaac Newton is next. Newton is of course best known for his discovery of gravity and his laws of physics. He is also thought of to have had Asperger’s Syndrome and is believed to be the oldest identified case of autism. Other scientists believed to have had autism are Barbara McClintock, Alfred Kinsey, Temple Grandin, Paul Dirac, and Henry Cavendish.
Writers can often be thought of as eccentric by nature, but some of them might have had good reason for this. There are several very famous authors who are believed to have been on the autism spectrum. The famous children’s book author Hans Christian Anderson is one of these individuals. Hans had repetitive behaviors, very focused interests, and did not like being around others. He also had speech and language struggles, all of which are signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, had poor social skills, a vivid imagination, and spent most of his time with children because he found it easier to relate to them. Considered one of the best poets of all time, Emily Dickinson also likely had autism. She struggled with epilepsy which is often linked to autism. She was considered weird by adults for her eccentric ways and only would wear white. Like Carroll, she also preferred the company of children. The writing of James Joyce itself is considered the best evidence Joyce was autistic. His work is considered brilliant, but intentionally difficult to read and understand. William Butler Yeats was said to have had a very high IQ, but very poor social skills. Yeats did poorly in school where he most likely did not fit into the narrow standards of the time. Author, mathematician, and activist Benjamin Banneker has long been theorized to have been on the autism spectrum. Banneker is remembered for his genius. He wrote an almanac predicting astrological patterns and the 17 year locust outbreak.
Michelangelo is also considered to have been a genius. His most famous works include marble statues of David and The Pieta, along with the ceiling painting in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was said to have a one track routine and was obsessively focused on his work. He had very poor social skills and avoided social situations completely. Andy Warhol shouldn’t be much of a surprise for being on this list. Warhol was one of the most eccentric artists, and people ever. He was often fixated on the repetition of his Pop Art. Anyone who’s most iconic work is a soup can had to have some quirks.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two of the most influential people with the development of computers and computer software. They are also both considered geniuses in their fields. Gates is of course one of the founders of Windows and Jobs is the co-founder of Apple. Both are enormously popular and important technology companies. Jobs was known for being a perfectionist and having obsessive compulsive behaviors. He was often thought of as a loner, and struggled in traditional school. Gates has been described as having self-stimulating behaviors like rocking while sitting, not being good in social situations, and not being inclined to make eye contact with others.
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.
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 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.