7 Famous People With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Christine Moore on June 8, 2021
  • Composite image of Dan Aykroyd, Susan Boyle, and Elon Musk
    Putting Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Spotlight
    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the past was a painfully misunderstood condition, often kept in the dark. Today, awareness of ASD continues to grow, leading to improved screening and therapies. Several celebrities are also sharing their own experiences with autism, particularly the high-functioning level of autism formerly diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome. (In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, grouped all previous types of autism under one diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Many people diagnosed with Asperger’s still identify with the term.)

    Rather than see neurodivergence as a hindrance, these seven famous faces instead often credit their autism as the driving force behind their success.
  • Elon Musk hosting Saturday Night Live
    1. Elon Musk
    When South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk hosted “Saturday Night Live” in May 2021, he announced himself as “the first person with Asperger’s” to host the show. (That turned out to be not quite true, as noted in the next slide.) As founder of some of history’s most groundbreaking companies, including Tesla and SpaceX, Musk ranks among the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of more than $150 billion.
  • Dan Aykroyd at Ghostbusters 2016 premiere
    2. Dan Aykroyd
    An original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” from 1975 to 1979, Dan Aykroyd returned to host the show in 2003. Aykroyd says he was diagnosed with Asperger’s in the early 1980s. He attributes the condition to his “obsession with ghosts and law enforcement,” which led to the idea for “Ghostbusters” (1984), one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time. Aykroyd also has discussed being diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome at age 12, which caused physical and verbal tics that he was able to overcome through therapy.
  • Susan Boyle appearing at America's Got Talent finale
    3. Susan Boyle
    Susan Boyle became a star overnight when her 2009 audition on “Britain’s Got Talent” went viral due to her stunning performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables.” She revealed in a 2013 interview with the Observer that she had been diagnosed with Asperger’s the previous year. As a child, Boyle had been misdiagnosed as having brain damage, and the singer said she felt “relief” at having an accurate diagnosis of Asperger’s. “Now I have a clearer understanding of what's wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself,” Boyle said.
  • Temple Grandin photo
    4. Temple Grandin
    Portrayed by Claire Danes in an Emmy Award-winning HBO movie, Temple Grandin is one of the world’s best-known autism advocates. When she was diagnosed with autism as a young child, doctors wanted to place her in an institution, but her parents insisted on sending her to private schools to nurture her high IQ. Grandin’s life work has been studying the similar ways autistic people and animals experience fear and anxiety, and developing therapies for both groups to relieve those emotions. Grandin has been on the faculty of the Animal Sciences department at Colorado State University for more than 25 years.
  • Daryl Hannah speaking at South by Southwest
    5. Daryl Hannah
    With her roles in “Blade Runner” (1982), “Splash” (1984), and “Steel Magnolias” (1989), Daryl Hannah was one of the biggest film stars of the 1980s before backing away from the spotlight. In 2013, Hannah told People magazine she has lived with autism since childhood. While she found acting to be an escape, she avoided movie premiere events and interviews due to her social anxiety. Hannah, who says she still uses rocking to calm herself, is now a prominent environmental activist.
  • Anthony Hopkins at the premiere of The Two Popes
    6. Anthony Hopkins
    In 2021, at age 83, Anthony Hopkins became the oldest actor to win an Academy Award. Hopkins appears also to be the first Oscar winner with a publicly disclosed diagnosis of autism. The Welsh actor revealed in 2017 that he had received a late-life diagnosis of Asperger’s. He told the CBC that his obsessive and detail-oriented nature is a “great gift” that helped him find success as an actor. Among his colleagues in the film industry, Hopkins is also known for his impressive ability to memorize large amounts of dialogue.
  • Dan Harmon, creator of Community and Rick and Morty, talking on a panel
    7. Dan Harmon
    Dan Harmon is the creator of hit television comedies “Rick and Morty” and “Community,” which featured a character, Abed, who was never defined as having autism, but exhibited many of the traits of Asperger’s. Harmon told Wired magazine that as he researched Asperger’s to write the character, he noticed many of the symptoms felt familiar in himself. He met with a doctor, leading to an Asperger’s diagnosis. Harmon said both he and Abed illustrate that people with autism can have complex experiences—feeling both “inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy”—and live as well-rounded, unique individuals.
7 Famous People With Autism Spectrum Disorder | Asperger’s Syndrome
  1. Elon Musk. Biography. https://www.biography.com/business-figure/elon-musk
  2. Elon Musk reveals he has Asperger's on Saturday Night Live. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57045770
  3. Dan Aykroyd. Famous Canadians. http://www.famouscanadians.org/dan-aykroyd/
  4. 'I have Asperger's - one of my symptoms included being obsessed with ghosts': Under the microscope with Dan Aykroyd. Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2521032/Dan-Aykroyd-I-Aspergers--symptoms-included-obsessed-ghosts.html
  5. Susan Boyle: my relief at discovering that I have Asperger's. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/dec/08/susan-boyle-autism
  6. Susan Boyle shares her Asperger’s story. Young Epilepsy. https://www.youngepilepsy.org.uk/news-and-events/news/susan-boyle-and-her-asperger-s.html
  7. Dr. Temple Grandin of CSU Named One of the Top 10 College Professors in the Country. Our Community Now. https://ourcommunitynow.com/news-local/dr-temple-grandin-of-csu-named-one-of-the-top-college-professors-in-the-country
  8. Temple Grandin. Biography. https://www.biography.com/activist/temple-grandin
  9. Daryl Hannah: I've battled autism since childhood. Today.com. https://www.today.com/popculture/daryl-hannah-ive-battled-autism-childhood-8C11278435
  10. Daryl Hannah. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daryl_Hannah#cite_note-48
  11. Anthony Hopkins’ Age Isn’t the Only Noteworthy Thing About His Oscar Win. Slate.com. https://slate.com/culture/2021/04/anthony-hopkins-oscars-2021-best-actor-autism-aspergers.html
  12. Anthony Hopkins Reveals a Late-in-Life Autism Diagnosis. Autism Key. https://www.autismkey.com/anthony-hopkins-autism-aspergers-diagnosis/
  13. Community’s Dan Harmon Discovered He Had Asperger’s While Writing Abed’s Character. Vulture. https://www.vulture.com/2011/09/community-dan-harmon-wired-aspergers-abed.html
  14. Community. Interacting With Autism. http://www.interactingwithautism.com/section/understanding/media/representations/details/66
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 2
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