Famous People With Asperger’s Syndrome
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 17, 2018
Reviewer Tiffany Howard, LPC, LCADC
What Is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome is part of the autism spectrum disorder that is considered a subtype of autism. It was named after Hans Asperger, who labeled it as autistic psychopathy in 1944. He was a pediatrician in Austria who not only studied the syndrome but also is believed to have suffered with the same disorder. He was a lonely child who had a hard time finding friends and often referred to himself in the third person.
Those who have Asperger's syndrome are considered to be on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum and the disorder ranges from mild to severe but less severe than autism. Some have great difficulty in social situations, have a small range of interests, and resist learning new things. They may have repetitive behavior issues with a delayed motor development that can cause incoordination and clumsiness. However, compared to those with autism, children with Asperger's syndrome do not have delays in cognitive or language development. Some of the most common symptoms of Asperger's syndrome include:
- Awkwardness or clumsiness
- Talking to oneself
- Being fixated or obsessed with certain topics
- Lack of eye contact
- Not understanding emotions or other social constructs like sarcasm or jokes
- Talking about oneself in the third person
- Lack of nonverbal communication such as facial expressions or gestures
- Above average verbal skills
- Repetitive or robotic speech
- Inability to show emotions
- Lack of social skills
- Refusing to learn new things
- Sticking to a rigid schedule
- Making lists for everything and sticking to them
- Oversensitivity to unpleasant smells, loud noises, and bright lights
- Lack of empathy
The child with Asperger's syndrome needs to know exactly what is going on, when it is going to happen, and how it will happen or they will get overwhelmed. They have a strict sense of routine and do not like anything in their schedule to change. They are very likely to have an emotional breakdown or anxiety attack if there is a change in schedule.
How Is Asperger's Syndrome Different From Autism?
Both autism and Asperger's syndrome are terms for a class of brain development disorders. They are characterized by difficulties in communication (both verbal and nonverbal), social interactions, and repetitive behaviors. Those with Asperger's syndrome tend to have less severe symptoms and do not usually have problems with their language. In fact, those with Asperger's syndrome tend to have above average language skills. Also, those with Asperger's syndrome score higher than normal on the IQ test while those with autism tend to score lower than normal.
Those with autism do not show an interest in other people but those with Asperger's syndrome show a clear interest in fitting in and making friends with others but they lack the skills to do it properly. The main difference is that those with Asperger's syndrome do not have a speech delay like those with autism. They tend to have a good vocabulary and language skills but their speech patterns or inflection may be unusual. People with autism lack the ability to develop normal language or sounds to communicate. Cognitive delay is apparent in those with autism but not in those with Asperger's syndrome. The final difference is the age at which the disorder is detected. Those with autism are usually discovered when they are younger, about two years of age. Whereas, those with Asperger's syndrome are not likely to be diagnosed until they start school and have difficulties with socialization.
- Autistic Disorder - Those with autistic disorder have language delays, challenges with communication and social interactions, unusual behaviors, repetitive actions, lack of eye contact, inability to withstand changes.
- Asperger's Syndrome - Those with Asperger's syndrome have milder symptoms of the above disorders. They still lack the ability to make social connections but they possess higher than average language skills and IQ levels.
Who Can Get Asperger's Syndrome?
Anyone can get Asperger's syndrome. However, the disorder is five times more prevalent in males than in females. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 out of every 68 children have one of the forms in the autism spectrum disorder such as Asperger's syndrome. In the United States, one out of every 48 boys and one out of every 252 girls have some form of autism spectrum disorder.
Famous People with Asperger's Syndrome
There are many famous people, from movie stars to authors to presidents, who have or were suspected of having Asperger's syndrome. Some of these include:
- Abraham Lincoln - American president
- Albert Einstein - physicist
- Alexander Graham Bell- inventor of the telephone
- Alfred Hitchcock - film director, author
- Benjamin Franklin - American president
- Bobby Fischer - famous world chess champion
- Charles Schulz - creator of Charlie Brown
- Dan Aykroyd - actor and comedian
- Daryl Hannah - actress
- Emily Dickinson - American poet
- Gary Numan - British songwriter and singer
- George Washington - American president
- Hans Asperger - pediatrician and person the condition is named after
- Heather Kuzmich - contestant on America's Next Top Model
- Henry Ford - maker of the Ford
- Howard Hughes - billionaire
- Isaac Newton - English mathematician and physicist
- James Durbin - American Idol finalist
- Jane Austen - English author, author of Pride and Prejudice
- Jerry Newport - mathematical savant and author
- Jim Henson - creator of the Muppets
- John Denver - musician
- Judy Singer - Australian disability rights activist
- Liane Holliday Wiley - author, professor, advocate
- Ludwig van Beethoven - composer
- Marilyn Monroe - actress
- Mark Twain - author
- Michelangelo - artist
- Paddy Considine - actor
- Satoshi Tajiri - designer and creator of Pokemon
- Thomas Edison - inventor
- Thomas Jefferson - American president
- Tim Ellis - Australian author and magician
What Causes Asperger's Syndrome?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question because unfortunately, there are still so many things we do not know about the disorder. At one time, the answer would have been "we do not have a clue" but now there are some answers. Recently, researchers have discovered that there are a group of gene changes that mutate the genes in those with autism spectrum disorder. They have found over 100 genes known to cause autism. In fact, in about 15% of people, a genetic cause is able to be found. However, the other 85% are still a mystery. The experts claim it involves a variable combination of environmental factors and complex genetic risks. These risks and factors affect early brain development and cause the predisposition to autism spectrum disorder. Some of these risks include:
- Advanced parental age when baby is conceived
- Illnesses during pregnancy
- Low birthweight
- Difficult birth
- Oxygen deprivation
- Exposure to toxins during pregnancy
- Not taking prenatal vitamins
- Lack of prenatal care
Some of the things that do NOT cause autism spectrum disorder or Asperger's syndrome are:
- Bad parenting
- Lack of maternal bonding
- Strict parenting
What Can Be Done
Those with Asperger's syndrome usually have trouble fitting in socially and making friends. As young children, they may act different than other children and behave in bizarre ways when trying to make friends. For example, a child may think that grabbing another child and making them play what they want to play is the proper way to make friends. Many parents discover their child has Asperger's syndrome in the first few years of school due to their child getting in trouble for improper behavior. It is important to get a diagnosis for your child right away if you believe he or she has Asperger's syndrome so that the school will understand and provide steps to help with their social difficulties. Some schools prefer to have those children with Asperger's syndrome placed in special classes or schools for those with autism spectrum disorder.
Treatment for Asperger's Syndrome
There is a variety of different treatments for Asperger's syndrome that may help the patient learn better communication and social skills as well as how to interact better with others. Focusing on ways to cope with the syndrome, learn social cues, and develop empathy can help the patient with Asperger's syndrome live a more normal life.
One of the best ways to manage Asperger's syndrome is with psychotherapy to learn social skills, cues, and dealing with emotions. This can be done by a therapist in an office or from home with online therapy. Many patients with Asperger's syndrome find it easier to conduct their therapy from home where they are more comfortable. There are many online mental health providers but the largest is BetterHelp.com, who has more than 2,000 licensed professionals. They have provided help for more than 1,500,000 individuals so far.
BetterHelp.com is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and therapists typically check their messages twice a day so you will usually get a response within 24 hours of leaving a message, unlike other therapists who may take months to reply. You can chat with your therapist through online chat rooms, private messaging, texting, email, telephone chats, or video chat. You can chat live or leave messages, depending on how you prefer to do things. Your therapist can help with behavioral modification, social skills training, educational interventions, visual thinking, recognizing emotional cues, and parental education. In some cases, medication may be necessary, but your therapist will have to refer you to a psychiatrist or your physician for this because the online therapists are unable to prescribe medication.