"Being neurodivergent is not a barrier to success and can be a gift."
Despite Autism Awareness Month being past us, I feel it's important to highlight the achievements of some prominent individuals with autism.
These individuals have made significant contributions to various fields and have shown that when embraced, being neurodivergent is not a barrier to success and can be a gift.
Tim Burton, a renowned filmmaker and director, is well-known in the entertainment industry. Known for his unique style and dark themes, Burton is responsible for creating some of the most iconic movies of our time, such as "Edward Scissorhands" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas." His ability to create fantastical worlds and characters that resonate with audiences worldwide has been attributed to his autistic mind.
Questlove, whose real name is Ahmir Khalib Thompson, is a musician, producer, and writer who has been the drummer for the band The Roots since its formation in 1987. He is also a music director, serving as the musical director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Questlove has been very open about being on the autism spectrum and has discussed how it has affected his life and work. He has used his platform to raise awareness about autism and to advocate for people with autism.
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who gained international attention in 2018 when she began protesting outside the Swedish parliament to demand action on climate change. She has since become a prominent voice in the climate movement, speaking at the United Nations Climate Action Summit and inspiring millions of people to take action to address the climate crisis. Thunberg has also been open about her diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and has used her platform to advocate for the acceptance and inclusion of people with autism in society.
Breanna Clark is a professional athlete in track and field, who has competed at the Paralympic Games, World Championships, and Parapan American Games, winning gold medals in the 4x400 relay each time, representing the United States. Clark was diagnosed with autism at the age of four, but that did not stop her from pursuing her passion for sports. Her mother, Rosalyn, who is a former Olympic athlete, played a significant role in inspiring and supporting Clark's athletic pursuits. Clark's success as an athlete has helped to break down stereotypes about people with autism and has inspired others to pursue their dreams, regardless of any perceived limitations.
Daryl Hannah, an actress and environmental activist, is also on the autism spectrum. Hannah has appeared in numerous movies, including "Blade Runner" and "Kill Bill." She has used her platform to advocate for environmental causes, such as protecting endangered species and promoting sustainable living. Her advocacy for the environment is one of her passionate interests.
Another notable person with autism is Dr. Temple Grandin - an animal behaviorist and fierce autism advocate. Grandin's autism has given her a unique perspective on animal behavior, contributing to her groundbreaking research and designs for humane livestock handling systems.
Much as I don't care for awareness months, as we should be open, aware, listening, and willing to grow 365 days a year, I want us all to move through the rest of 2023 with a little more knowledge than when we started.
I believe that celebrating neurodiversity and promoting awareness of autism is vital for breaking down stereotypes and promoting inclusivity in our society. Doing so can create a more inclusive and understanding community for all individuals.
P.s. Who best to write about autism but autistic authors? Here is a sampling of memoirs and non-fiction written sharing the autistic experience and perspective:
1. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
2. We're Not Broken by Eric Garcia
3. Unmasking Autism by Devon Price PhD
4. A Day With No Words by Tiffany Hammond
5. Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin