The world around us seems to be getting smaller and more people than ever seem to be diagnosed with Autism or Aspergers. These disorders and related ones can wreak havoc on their lives and the lives of their family. It’s not easy to be visually or mentally different than other people, yet in many ways we’re all very different and maybe those with these disorders aren’t really as different from the rest of us as we think. This year I thought I would honor some of the people who have done great stuff in spite of or because of their Autism disorders. While the list of actors, painters, thinkers, and celebrities is quite long, these are just a few of the people who should inspire you to do great things with your life, regardless of whatever the world sees as hindrances.
Susan Boyle: “Asperger’s doesn’t define me.” A pretty bold statement by a world-class singer who took the world by storm in 2009 on Britain’s Got Talent.
James Durbin: “I think music is like medicine and can be a benefit for anyone no matter what genre. There’s just so much you can learn. It’s all about focus and for me, not only on the Autism spectrum but also the Tourette’s spectrum, focus was something I needed help with. Music is my focus.” Music helps him conquer his disorders, and he’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Heather Kuzmich: “It was a point in my life where I was thinking either Asperger’s was going to define me or I was going to be able to work around it.” This is a choice we all need to make: are we defined by our situations in life or do we make our own choices? This America’s Top Model chose to move forward with her life.
Alexis Wineman: “My path may not be one that another person would choose, but I challenged myself to enter the Miss America competition because it seemed like the peak to my own personal Everest.” Wineman chose a very visible stage for her personal battle with Autism, sometimes it’s best to go big.
Temple Grandin: “The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic, because you keep learning, you keep learning how to behave. It’s like being in a play; I’m always in a play.” Just to make sure you don’t think all you can do is become famous, Temple is a well known professor at Colorado State University. A really rough start to her life thanks to her Autism and lack of support didn’t stop her from proving that you can indeed deal with and conquer your symptoms.
Autism and the related disorders aren’t completely understood yet, but from the recent reports that a greater percentage of people are dealing with it than ever are reason enough for us to all take a stand to understand it, stop fearing it, and choose to make the most of our own lives and encourage others in theirs.