Inspiration and heroes for those with autism

By Elaina Daniels

When growing up, most of us have people that we look to outside of our home to look at as idols or heroes. For a child with autism, this can be very hard to do. Too often, our society only looks at the impediments of autism. The focus tends to be on what people on the autistic spectrum CAN’T do. An example is a child who is obsessed with video games. The child has a single minded track when it comes to knowing everything that there is to know about gaming. Now, thankfully, there are people out there who are seeing what autistics CAN do. Instead of just seeing a child obsessed with video games, they see a child who can turn that into a career in video game design.

As our world changes its focus to see the positives of autism, more and more people are coming out to admit that they are on the spectrum. Our children are seeing more and more examples of people who are living successful lives with families and careers. It’s something that many did not think was possible previously.

People living on the spectrum can reach for the stars. People on the spectrum are in every job in society. In fact, I am pretty sure that you would be amazed at the people who are on the spectrum that you may have already heard of.

When you think of Darryl Hannah and Dan Akroyd, what do you think of? Do you think of autism? Probably not, but both have been diagnosed on the spectrum. Both have also had extremely successful careers in the field of acting. They live rich lives, and both have families.

Does your child like Pokemon, or do you know a child that does? The creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri, was diagnosed with Aspergers, a part of the autistic spectrum.

Those on the spectrum are even strutting their stuff down the catwalk! During one season of America’s Next Top Model, contestant Heather Kuzmich competed for several weeks as a fan favorite. Heather was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

Does your child love computers? They have the potential to be one of the most influential people in the computer world. Microsoft founder Bill Gates was never officially diagnosed, but has many autistic traits.

Artists all over the world know about Stephen Wiltshire. He uses his photographic memory to make the most of his art career. Now Stephen owns an art gallery of his own.
Even a president of Harvard is said to have autistic traits. Lawrence Summers displayed many of the signs. It is widely accepted in the Harvard community that this man was a very high functioning autistic.

As our understanding of the spectrum becomes more and more researched, many of our historical greats have been widely thought to also have autism. Since Autism has only been officially recognized since about the 1940’s, nothing was ever completely diagnosed. Among these include Mozart, Beethoven, da Vinci, and Isaac Newton.

But you don’t have to become famous to have a successful career. Temple Grandin, another thriving and successful adult living on the spectrum, writes about potential careers for any type of person on the spectrum. In an article entitled, Choosing the Right Job for People with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, Temple lists jobs that are bad and good, from those high functioning to those who are non-verbal. For a link to this article, please see

For other figures in the world that have been officially or unofficially diagnosed on the spectrum, please see Jennifer Elder’s book, Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes. Jennifer gives a wonderful account of many historical and current world figures that live and succeed on the spectrum.


Elaina Daniels is a 13 year educator, who had taught at the elementary/middle school level for all of those years.  She has taught all subjects, but her passion is Reading.  She has two children, aged 9 and 7.  Her oldest son was diagnosed with autism.  Elaina lives on a farm in Southwest Missouri with her husband of 11 years. Together, they raise children, dogs, and cattle.

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