According to Autism Speaks, more than 2 million individuals in the U.S. are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The numbers do not stop there, tens of millions are diagnosed worldwide! What is even more inspiring is 8 iconic people also have ASD. First, is Britain’s Got Talent contestant, Susan Boyle. She says, “Asperger’s doesn’t define me. It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself.” Once she openly admitted her diagnosis she claimed, “People will have a greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.”
Continuing on the music trend, American Idol contestant, James Durbin, was diagnosed with ASD and Tourette Syndrome at 10 years old. He told Autism Speaks, “I think music is like medicine and can be a benefit for anyone…” Not only did James have a therapeutic outlet for his diagnosis, but it also allowed him to cope with bullying, “I used the pain from being bullied to transform me into who I was meant to be.”
Being put in the spotlight after fame can be nerve-racking, so much so that it was not until early 2013 Daryl Hannah opened up about being diagnosed with ASD. Though she had a fear of “being in the spotlight,” she has used that energy into making people laugh, cry, and sit at the edge of their seats.
Who you gonna call? Total Life Counseling…or…Ghostbusters! Actor and writer Dan Aykroyd was diagnosed with Tourette and Autism Spectrum Disorder. He mentions, “One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement [hence the movie creation].”
Working the stage as a singer and projecting your creativity on a screen can be a challenging task, but for Heather Kuzmich she conquered the runway. America’s Next Top Model cycle nine contestant was diagnosed with ASD when she was young. Upon her diagnoses she said, “I was at the bottom of the totem pole.” By the end of season, she was voted “viewer favorite” eight weeks in a row and “became a role model for girls who aren’t the most popular and are picked on,” says Kuzmich.
Taking the time out to understand what ASD is can be a long and daunting task, but NBC show Community creator, Dan Harmon, started researching in order to create the show. He noticed similarities with symptoms and taking internet tests. He soon met with a doctor and discussed “that in fact there is a place on it for people with inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy. Harmon now sees that he may fit somewhere on that spectrum.” This is common, as early signs of autism are often missed.
From the runway to television shows, Miss America contestant and America’s Choice Award winner, Miss Montana Alexis Wineman, was the first to compete with an ASD diagnosis. She was diagnosed at a young age and felt like an outcast, but the minute she wanted to represent America she peaked to her “own person Everest.” Her goal was, “for people to realize there’s a whole spectrum of people who live with autism. There are high functioning people and low-functioning people.”
Being crowned Miss America was Wineman’s dream, but for Temple Grandin it was to educate others about animal sciences, so she thought. However, when she opened up and wrote her book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, her world changed. She became an advocate for those that thought they were alone and tells people “I am living proof” that once autistic, not always autistic.
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Author Jim West, LMHC, NCC is a National Certified Counselor and specializes in providing help for autism and dealing with a host of mental and emotional challenges. Additionally, he is the president of Total Life Counseling Center and employs excellent counselors such as Jamie Barrett, LMHC & Jada Jackson Ed.D, LMHC.