Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) each have different abilities and levels of functioning. What the future holds for each child with ASD is as unique as their individual personalities. As we learn more about autism and other disorders on the spectrum, we can better understand individuals living with ASD. Below are eight successful and widely-known people with ASD who can be positive role models for children growing up on the spectrum.
1. Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1949, at 2 years old. With the help of great teachers and family members, Grandin graduated from a school for gifted children and went on to receive a bachelor's degree in psychology and a doctorate degree in animal science. She's spent her life working to both improve the treatment of animals and to bring awareness to autism.
2. James Durbin
As a contestant on season 10 of "American Idol," James Durbin was open about having Tourette syndrome and Asperger syndrome. Durbin feels that his Asperger syndrome has helped him focus on his vocal talents. Since "American Idol," he has continued working on his music. He released his first album in 2011 and is releasing his second in 2014.
3. John Elder Robison
John Elder Robison wrote the New York Times bestseller, "Look Me in the Eye," published in 2007. In the book, he writes about it was like growing up with Asperger syndrome but not being diagnosed until he was 40 years old. Robison has helped with autism research and has published two more books, "Be Different" and "Raising Cubby."
4. Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah was diagnosed with autism as a child and felt isolated from others her age. Her experiences of isolation helped driver her love of old movies and interest in acting. Hannah's acting career has spanned more than three decades. She has starred in dozens of films, including "Wall Street," "Grumpy Old Men," and the "Kill Bill" movies. Hannah is also an environmental activist. In an interview with People magazine, a friend remarked that when she "feels passionate about something, she loses all her fears."
5. Satoshi Tajiri
Some children with ASD may be excited to learn that the creator of Pokemon was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Satoshi Tajiri turned his childhood fascination with bugs into the worldwide phenomenon of Pokemon. Representatives of Nintendo have remarked on Tajiri's creativity but have also called him reclusive and eccentric.
6. Sarah Lonsert
Sarah Lonsert, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in third grade, became the youngest songwriter to win the USA Songwriting Competition in 2009 when she was 17 years old. Since then, she has won several other songwriting competitions, released her own album, and acted on stage and in films.
7. Susan Boyle
Known for surprising the judges and viewers with her incredible vocal skills on "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009, Susan Boyle has released five albums, been nominated for two Grammy Awards, and won the Radio Forth Award in 2013. As a child, Boyle was diagnosed with brain damage, but she sought a better diagnosis as an adult. In 2012, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Boyle has said the diagnosis was a relief because she has a "clearer understanding of what's wrong."
8. Dan Aykroyd
"Blues Brothers" and "Ghost Busters" star Dan Akyroyd was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in the early 1980s after his wife convinced him to see a doctor. He's said that he has an obsession with ghosts and law enforcement, which led to the creation of "Ghost Busters." Aykroyd's career as an actor, writer, and producer has spanned 40 years.
Kids often love to see people "just like" them. While the path of every child with ASD will be different, seeing well-known successful people with ASD can help inspire children as well as give them someone to look up to.