Sunday, October 21, 2012

Famous In A Small Town

Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey Toney
Famous In A Small Town
In recent columns I’ve been talking about some serious stuff. DHS ballot questions, inclusion in the community, people first language, and “normal” children have me thinking that I need to touch on some less serious issues. I actually want go back to the normal question a little though. Let’s look at some people who are either affected by autism, or are suspected to have autism.
I do an autism workshop every once in a while and one of the last things I have on the slideshow is a list of famous people, or parents of children, diagnosed with autism. I include this for a couple different reasons. The first reason is to show that this disorder affects everyone. It does not know prejudice. Famous people are not excluded from the 1 in 88 diagnosis ratio.
The other reason is that there are some famous people who have overcome this disability (a word I use very loosely). There are many people who have been diagnosed that have gone on to be very successful in this world. These people I include as hope. There is hope that, with work and understanding, anyone diagnosed can live a full life.
There are so many people these days affected that I’m only going to hit on some of the more famous.
Actress Daryl Hannah, best known for her roles in Splash, Blade Runner and Kill Bill was diagnosed as a child as being 'borderline autistic. According to an interview, she says that the autism caused many to actually blacklist her early in her career.
In May 2008, Peter Tork of the band the Monkees announced he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Matthew Laborteaux, who played Albert on “Little House on the Prairie” was not only diagnosed with autism, but was also born with a congenital heart defect. According to an article in the Philadelphia Enquirer, he suffered from sensory issues, and didn’t walk or talk until he was three.
In a 2004 interview with Terry Gross on NPS’s Fresh Air, Dan Aykroyd stated that he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and “mild” Asperger’s. Thanks to therapies in his adolescent years he has overcome.
Craig Nicholls, the lead singer for pop band The Vines was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. The diagnosis, according to the, was given following erratic behavior toward fans on tour. In 2008 the band cancelled several shows because symptoms had worsened.
Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, was recently diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome as well. He cites the disorder as helping him with his creative vision.
Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison who have come to the limelight because of their autism have led the way for people with a diagnosis to continue to succeed.
There of course are many people in the limelight that have children diagnosed with autism. Many of these have led the charge in awareness, advocacy, and research for their children and others with autism.
One of the leading supporters is Jenny McCarthy. After her son was diagnosed she became the spokesmom for the masses and has written several books on this subject and others.
Holly Robinson-Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, have written books and spoke about the subject heavily throughout the media following a diagnosis of their son.
Other athletes with children who have autism who have started organizations to help include golfer Ernie Els, and former NFL quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Dan Marino.
Other parents include: Gary Cole, Toni Braxton, Ed Asner, Aidan Quinn, Joe Mantegna, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, and Richard Burton.
Now some famous historical figures have been suspected of having autism. Though they can’t actually be diagnosed their actions and data collected from biographies lead experts to believe it is possible they would have been. Some of these include: Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, George Orwell, and Andy Worhol.
Again, I felt this might be a little lighter than recent articles, and I wanted to let everyone know that you are not alone. There are many more that I didn’t mention because of space and time constraints, but I felt this was some interesting information. Hope you all like it.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at

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