It isn’t that there are a substantial number of people with autism so much as there are famous people whose lives have been affected directly by autism. The new numbers suggest that one in every four children will be diagnosed with autism every year from here on out. It’s staggering what that means for our human existence and the population in fifty years. Without a cure or at least and understanding of the cause, one quarter to one third of the world’s population in 2050 will be on the spectrum and trying to live their lives with the rest of us.
That isn’t such a horrible thing, but it still blows the mind. The famous people who have been the voices for autism in the last decade have children or grandchildren affected by the spectrum. The majority of famous people who have been tested and diagnosed have gone on to become brilliant artists, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, and actors. The parts of their brains that manifest themselves with overwhelming talents actually work for them later on, allowing them to become incredible people.
The sad thing is, with every good flip of the coin, there is a more unpleasant side. Mass bombers, shooters, and murderers have been diagnosed in the past with an autism spectrum disorder. Since it still isn’t clearly understood why these disorders occur, it becomes more difficult trying to sort out how a few end up becoming infamous rather than famous. William Cottrell is perhaps the most well-known of this group for his bombing of SUV dealerships. He received eight years in jail, and prior to his trial was diagnosed as autistic. More recently, the slaying in Connecticut has been attributed to a young man with ASD.
Daryl Hannah, the famous blond actress who played a mermaid in the movie Splash and a lethal assassin in the Kill Bill movies, has often declared that she’s borderline autistic. It’s not a true diagnosis but then her diagnostician when she was little was probably unaware of just how big the spectrum would get. Alexis Wineman was the very first woman with ASD to win the Miss America Pageant; her platform after winning was to bring more awareness to autism. Vernon L. Smith was named a Nobel Laureate for his research in economics. Similarly, Michelle Dawson who conducts research on autism and acts as an advocate also has autism. Marti Balin who wrote songs for and sang with Jefferson Starship and Jefferson Airplane, has ASD, and Bhumi Jensen, a prince in line for the Thailand throne, has it as well. The majority of these people were either young enough when autism diagnoses and testing were advanced to the point that they could be diagnosed young or discovered through the testing process later in life that they were on the spectrum.
Articles have accumulated on the hundreds of famous and infamous people who discovered that they have what was once thought a very rare disorder. Some choose to acknowledge it as part of who they are and go on living as they did before, while others have added their voices to the masses for the advocacy of children and adults with autism everywhere. They have obtained positions of greatness, and have made it easier for parents just discovering that their own children have the disorder that there is hope. Their children do not have to spend their lives shut up and alone and unable to communicate. The number of famous people who have ASD and who also are deaf, blind or unable to speak prove that, and if they can find a way, all of our children can.