Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), for kids diagnosed with ASD the world can still feel lonely. ASD affects all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but it remains largely misunderstood. Given the unique constellation of symptoms for each child, treatment and goals vary widely. While some children with ASD will exhibit difficulty with socializing and communicating with others, others might have behavioral symptoms.

Though learning to manage symptoms and work toward specific goals takes time and practice, on thing is for certain: Kids with ASD can achieve success in their fields of interest. Check out these ASD success stories.

#1: Dan Aykroyd

Comedic actor Dan Aykroyd was expelled from two schools as a child and was later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism now considered part of the autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, in the 1980’s. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Aykroyd shared that one of his symptoms of ASD was his obsession with ghosts and law enforcement. Aykroyd goes on to credit this symptom of ASD as a catalyst for Ghostbusters.

#2: Susan Boyle

Britain’s Got Talent singing sensation Susan Boyle was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult. The Scottish singer, who was misdiagnosed with brain damage at birth, told The Guardian that her diagnosis helps her have a better understanding of herself. Bullied as a child because she was “different,” Boyle went on to become a bestselling artist who also had a cameo role in the film, The Christmas Candle. Though Boyle also struggles with depression and mood swings, she now knows how to cope with and manage her symptoms, and credits having a great team of supportive people with helping thrive.

#3: Albert Einstein

Okay, we don’t know for sure. But, according to autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge University, Einstein showed many signs of Asperger syndrome. Other experts agree including Michael Fitzgerald, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College in Dublin. He’s also adding to the list: Isaac Newton, George Orwell, H. G. Wells Ludwig Wittgenstein, Beethoven, Mozart, and Hans Christian Andersen.

#4: Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and author of several books, including Thinking In Pictures and The Way I See It, didn’t begin speaking until she was almost four years old. Like Daryl Hannah, when Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a child, institutionalization was the recommended treatment. Her parents disagreed. In addition to her writing, Grandin is a prominent speaker on both autism and animal behavior.

#5: Daryl Hannah

Actress Daryl Hannah was diagnosed with autism as a child. In an interview with People Magazine, Hannah opened up about her “debilitating shyness” as a child and fear of fame as an adult. Hannah shared with People Magazine that she was diagnosed at a time when autism was largely misunderstood and her doctors recommended medication and institutionalization. Though her mother refused this treatment, she remained socially isolated and found solace in movies. This inspired her focus on acting.

#6: Sir Anthony Hopkins

Oscar award-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, though when he was diagnosed remains unclear. Hopkins references learning differences as a child in media interviews as well as obsessive thinking and difficulty maintaining friendships even as an adult. Hopkins does credit ASD with his unique ability to look at people differently and deconstruct a character.

#7: Heather Kuzmich

America’s Next Top Model contestant, Heather Kuzmich, gave viewers a behind the scenes look at Asperger’s Syndrome during the 2007 season of the show. Living in a house with twelve strangers/competitors presented challenges Kuzmich as she dealt with jokes she didn’t quite understand, decoding difficult social innuendo, and worked through other symptoms (such as difficulty holding eye contact) as the show progressed. Kuzmich was voted viewer favorite eight weeks a row during the competition and ended up in the top five.

While these ASD success stories represent a small sample of what ASD people can do, they do provide inspiration for the many kids out there learning to work through their own symptoms and find their passion. When young people have others to look up to, they learn that they can carve out their own paths at their own pace to leave their marks on the world as well.

Last Updated: Aug 14, 2020