There are many famous people working in a range of vocations who have autism. And many historical figures may have been on the spectrum.

Autism is now known to be a common developmental disorder. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that one in 270 people in the world has ASD. 

5 Celebrities on the Autism Spectrum

Dozens of famous actors, writers, comedians, producers, artists, and other celebrities have autism. Here are some famous entertainers who have autism.

  1. Sir Anthony Hopkins: One of the most renowned actors in the world, Sir Anthony Hopkins has been knighted, and he won two Academy Awards, two Emmys, four BAFTAs, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award. When asked about his acting process, Hopkins responded that he “reads character lines until they become natural,” and when he is done playing a character, he “discards” the role.

    He reports struggling to learn as a child, developing an inferiority complex, and was eventually sent to boarding school. He says he was diagnosed with “Asperger syndrome,” a developmental disorder that has since been folded into the general autism diagnosis, but that he was considered “high functioning.”
  2. Daryl Hannah: Actress Daryl Hannah has been open about her autism diagnosis at a young age. She also says that receiving that diagnosis made her shy and introverted around her peers as she grew up. She says she “rocked back and forth” as a form of self-soothing when she became frustrated or stressed. Stimming like this can be helpful to autistic children.

    Hannah says that she still struggles in large crowds or big events because she “loses her sense of self” and being present requires a lot of energy and concentration.
  3. Hannah Gadsby: Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby was diagnosed with autism as an adult. At first, she struggled to understand the diagnosis since she was not aware that women and girls could have autism.

    Gadsby is most famous for her Netflix special, Nanette, but has also created several successful comedy specials over the years. She is now an ambassador for Yellow Ladybugs, an Australian organization to improve support for girls and women diagnosed with autism.
  4. Dan Ackroyd: Actor, comedian, and writer Dan Ackroyd is most renowned for Ghostbusters and The Coneheads, starting his career on Saturday Night Live and pivoting to more prominent movie roles.

    He said in an interview that he has been diagnosed with “Asperger’s, but can manage it.” Like many people with milder symptoms, Ackroyd was not diagnosed until adulthood, when his wife pushed him to seek treatment in the 1980s.
  5. Courtney Love: Lead singer of Hole and wife of late grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love said in an interview that she was diagnosed with autism early in life because she did not learn to speak when her peers did. Like Daryl Hannah, she said her diagnosis led to her becoming more introverted and shy. 

5 Activists & Entrepreneurs With Autism

Famous actors and creators are not the only people on the autism spectrum. Many people who dedicate their lives to causes or research have autism. 

  1. Temple Grandin, PhD: Dr. Temple Grandin studies animal behavior and is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She says that she was often bullied and called “weird” at school, but she made friends who had interests similar to hers, such as animals.

    Her diagnosis came at an early age, and she had speech therapy to learn to talk at 3.5 years old. Dr. Grandin is a leading advocate for animal welfare. She revolutionized how livestock were slaughtered.
  2. Greta Thunberg: World-famous environmental activist Greta Thunberg has spread her message through viral Twitter posts. In 2019, she sailed across the Atlantic in a carbon-neutral boat rather than flying.

    While her activism focus has been primarily on climate change, Thunberg has also written candidly about her autism diagnosis, saying that she is different but comparing those differences to superpowers.
  3. Maisie Hill: Menstrual health expert, author of Period Power, and podcaster Maisie Hill focuses her work on reproductive science, but she has also spoken openly about her autism diagnosis. She says that she did not know until she was an adult that women could have autism, so she did not recognize many of her symptoms until she did more research.
  4. Dani Bowman: Artist, illustrator, and animator Dani Bowman has been speaking out about her autism diagnosis from a young age, actively working to inspire others. She began working in animation at just 11 years old and launched her own entertainment company, DaniMation. She is also an activist and speaker about autism diagnoses and issues.
  5. Satoshi Tajiri: The creator of Pokémon had a fascination with collecting bugs as a child but disliked going to school. He often skipped classes to play video games instead. After avoiding schoolwork for many years, Tajiri finally received a high school diploma.

    At 17 years old, he founded a magazine group for gamers that eventually became a game production company. After piquing the interest of Nintendo founder Shigeru Miyamoto, Tajiri developed and sold Pokémon. 

Drawing Inspiration From Famous People With Autism

Although autism spectrum disorder is a relatively new term, many people throughout history have had autism. Some speculate that Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, and even Mozart may have been on the spectrum. Many contemporary celebrities, activists, and scientists are also on the autism spectrum.

Their successes show that understanding, support, and therapy can help children and adults on the spectrum manage stress, learn skills like communication or personal care, and become advocates for improved treatment in society. They serve as inspiration for both young people and adults.