Asperger’s Syndrome Doesn’t Mean Failure

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Last week, I wrote about some of the positive aspects of Asperger’s syndrome (AS) in my post, “The Gifts of Asperger’s Syndrome.” While it is true that individuals with AS have difficulty in social situations and can seem narrow minded, they also have many gifts and have made great contributions to our world. Temple Grandin, an engineer, academic, public speaker and author of “The Way I See It,” says, “if the world was left to you socialites, nothing would get done and we would still be in caves talking to each other.” [1] We need socialites, we need to interact with one another, but our world also needs those who focus on a particular topic and those who do what they feel is right, despite what everyone around them thinks.

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    Famous People Throughout History and Asperger’s Syndrome


    There is much speculation about famous people throughout history and whether they may have has AS. While it is impossible to diagnose those who have already died, based on information about their personalities and struggles it is possible to see some traits of AS.  In the book Diagnosing Jefferson, author Norm Ledgin explains why he believes Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, had AS – pointing out his obsession with building and rebuilding his home, Monticello, his inability to show affection to his daughters, his awkwardness in social situations and his difficulty in dealing with other people’s emotions. [2]

    In his second book, Asperger’s and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope Through Famous Role Models, Ledgin explains why he believes 13 famous people had AS. [3] Some of those he claims showed AS traits include:

    • Thomas Jefferson
    • Albert Einstein
    • Marie Curie
    • Charles Darwin
    • Orson Welles
    • Carl Sagan
    • Glenn Gould
    • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Oscar Levant
    • Paul Robeson
    • Bela Bartok
    • John Hartford

    Those with AS frequently see themselves as set apart from everyone else. They don’t always understand the world around them, seeking order and logic in an illogical world. Even when a definite diagnosis cannot be made, it may be helpful for Aspies, especially those trying to find their place in the world, to understand they can succeed, that those personality traits family and friends may find bothersome or annoying may actually help them now and in the future. If so many people have had social difficulty, a hard time communicating and an inability to understand or cope with emotions throughout history and have still managed to make major contributions, then so can they.


    Keeping it Real: All Aspies Are Not Genius


    The examples of possible AS throughout history include great people, those who have made the type of contribution most of us will only dream of. Being an Aspie has positive aspects, but it does not automatically make each person a genius.


    Some people who oppose diagnosing famous people posthumously do so because they believe that we are pointing out only those who are genius and giving parents and teens with AS unrealistic expectations that they cannot live up to.

  • Aspies, just like all people, come in all shapes and sizes. Some will make great contributions to our world, some will enjoy a more simple life, using their unique personalities and talents to shape their life. The greatest gift you can give the Aspie in your life is to accept him or her, exactly as they are.

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    [3] Asperger’s and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope Through Famous Role Models, 2002, Norm ledgin, Future Horizons, Arlington


    [2] Diagnosing Jefferson, 2002, Norm Ledgin, Future Horizons, Arlington


    [1] The Way I See It, Second edition, 2011, March, Temple Grandin, Future Horizons, Arlington


Published On: June 15, 2012