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14 Celebrities Who Are on the Autism Spectrum

These autistic public figures have opened up about how their diagnoses affected their lives.

The Mayo Clinic defines Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as "a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication." The term "spectrum" is used due to the expansive range of symptoms that a person with ASD may experience and the varying degrees of severity with which the condition presents itself. And with the popularity of the Netflix reality television series Love on the Spectrum, which follows several individuals with ASD as they navigate the dating world, the condition has become a part of the public conversation more than ever before. As the disorder has gained more mainstream attention, more and more celebrities and public figures have shared that they are autistic.

According to 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about one in 54 children has ASD. But it's not just kids who are being diagnosed with autism. To gain a greater understanding of just how prevalent ASD is among children and adults, read on for 14 autistic celebrities, many of whom were diagnosed later in life.

RELATED: The 17 Celebrities Who Have the Most Kids.

Autistic Actors

1. Wentworth Miller

Wentworth Miller
Joe Seer/Shutterstock

In 2021, Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller—one of a growing number of people who are receiving an ASD diagnosis later in life—documented the one-year anniversary of his autism diagnosis with a since-deleted post on Instagram.

"This fall marks [one] year since I received my informal autism diagnosis. Preceded by a self-diagnosis. Followed by a formal diagnosis," the now-51-year-old actor wrote, as reported by People. He went on to express his frustration with the difficult road that led to answers, calling it "a long, flawed process in need of updating" before acknowledging that "access to a diagnosis is a privilege many do not enjoy."

As for what the future holds, Miller shared the following: "I don't know enough about autism. (There's a lot to know.) Right now my work looks like evolving my understanding. Re-examining [five] decades of lived experience thru a new lens."

2. Dan Aykroyd

Dan Aykroyd performing as the Blues Brothers
steve white photos/Shutterstock

As a member of Saturday Night Live's "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" original cast, Dan Aykroyd has been making audiences laugh since the '70s. The writer and actor, who was also diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome as a child, spoke with the Daily Mail in 2013 about his Asperger's diagnosis, even crediting the condition with helping him create one of the biggest blockbuster franchises in film history.

"I also have Asperger's but I can manage it. It wasn't diagnosed until the early '80s when my wife persuaded me to see a doctor," Aykroyd said in the interview. "One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement—I carry around a police badge with me, for example. I became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That's when the idea of my film Ghostbusters was born."

Asperger's syndrome is often considered a higher-functioning form of autism by experts. It was diagnosed separately until 2013 when, according to the Autism Society, it was added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as being a part of autism spectrum disorder. (Some autistic people consider the term offensive, and no longer use it.)

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3. Daryl Hannah

Daryl Hannah
Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock

From 1984's Splash to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films in the early '00s, Daryl Hannah has been a Hollywood fixture for decades. But it wasn't until 2013 that she spoke publicly about her struggle with being in the spotlight, largely as a result of her autism, which she was diagnosed with as a child.

"I've never been comfortable being the center of attention. It's always freaked me out," Hannah told People, as reported by E! Online. She said she was often so uncomfortable that she refused to appear on talk shows and other promotional events for her films, which she says she is much better at now.

"I wasted so much time scared, self-conscious, and insecure," she explained.

4. Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins
John Gress Media Inc/Shutterstock

Celebrated actor Anthony Hopkins said he didn't find out he had Asperger's syndrome until he was around 70. This made sense to him, because he considers himself to be somewhat uncomfortable in social situations.

"I don't go to parties, I don't have many friends," the Silence of the Lambs star told the Daily Mail in 2018. "But I do like people. I do like to get inside their heads."

"I definitely look at people differently," Hopkins explained when asked how the condition influences his acting. "I like to deconstruct, to pull a character apart, to work out what makes them tick and my view will not be the same as everyone else. I get offered a lot of controlling parts, maybe because that's how people see me. And maybe I am very controlled because I've had to be. I don't question it, I just take the parts because I'm an actor and that's what I do."

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Singers With Autism

5. Courtney Love

Courtney Love on the red carpet
Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

In a Rolling Stone profile following the death of her husband, Kurt Cobain, Hole frontwoman and Golden Globe-nominated actor Courtney Love talked about the role autism played in her childhood.

"When I talk about being introverted, I was diagnosed autistic," Love said. "At an early age, I would not speak. Then I simply bloomed. My first visit to a psychiatrist was when I was, like, three. Observational therapy. TM for tots. You name it, I've been there."

6. Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Learning she had Asperger's syndrome late in life came as a source of comfort for Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who shot to fame in 2009 after appearing on Britain's Got Talent.

"It was the wrong diagnosis when I was a kid," Boyle told The Guardian in 2013. "I was told I had brain damage. I always knew it was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what's wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself."

7. Sia

Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

In 2020, "Chandelier" singer Sia drew criticism for casting neurotypical performer Maddie Ziegler as an autistic child in her directorial debut, Music, and for how she responded to the criticism on social media. Two years later, Sia shared on a podcast that she herself had been diagnosed with ASD.

"For 45 years, I was like … 'I've got to go put my human suit on,'" she said, as reported by People. "And only in the last two years have I become fully, fully myself."

RELATED: The 42 Most Famous Left-Handed Celebrities in History.

Autistic Writers and Public Figures

8. Hannah Gadsby

Hannah Gadsby
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby is another example of how receiving an autism diagnosis later in life can have an impact on a person's perspective of the world.

"It shifted the way that I understood myself," Gadsby told NPR in March 2020 of their 2016 ASD diagnosis. "I was always operating on the false premise that everyone saw the world like I did."

They also explained why standup makes perfect sense to them, given how they process and behave in social situations.

"People on the spectrum … sort of feel like an alien being dropped in from outer space, and you can't quite connect properly," they said. "Being on stage and making a room full of people laugh, felt like a connection I hadn't been able to establish in any other environment."

9. Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

Television writer Dan Harmon said character research for his beloved TV series Community is what led to his Asperger's diagnosis.

"I started looking up these symptoms, just to know what they are. And the more I looked them up, the more familiar they started to seem," Harmon told Wired in 2011. After taking some online tests, he met with a doctor and found out that his symptoms aligned with those of someone with ASD.

10. Elon Musk

Elon Musk
Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Tesla CEO and owner of X Elon Musk first shared his Asperger's diagnosis with the public on Saturday Night Live in 2021, claiming that he was the first person with Asperger's to host the sketch comedy show. He then expanded on the topic in a 2022 TED conference panel.

"I would just tend to take things very literally … but then that turned out to be wrong—[people were not] simply saying exactly what they mean, there's all sorts of other things that are meant, and [it] took me a while to figure that out," he said of his childhood, as reported by Axios.

11. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg
MAURO UJETTO/Shutterstock

Now-21-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg because internationally known when she was still a teenager. In a 2021 profile in The Guardian, the Swedish changemaker and her parents remembered her becoming withdrawn and depressed over the climate crisis when she was 11, to the point where she stopped attending school. A year later, she was diagnosed with a few conditions, including Asperger's.

"When I felt the most sad, I didn't know that I had autism. I just thought, I don't want to be like this," Thunberg said. "The diagnosis was almost only positive for me. It helped me get the support I needed and made me understand why I was like this."

Additionally, she referred to autism as "her superpower," because it enables her to work so tirelessly toward her goal of saving the planet. "A lot of people with autism have a special interest that they can sit and do for an eternity without getting bored. It's a very useful thing sometimes," Thunberg explained.

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Autistic Athletes

12. Joe Barksdale

Joe Barksdale
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Former NFL defensive tackle and singer-songwriter Joe Barksdale shared in 2022 that he had been diagnosed with autism when he was 30. He explained to Today that his therapist suggested he be tested.

"She wasn't the first person to bring it up, though, so I was open to being evaluated and tested," he said. "I was looking for things that explain why I had so many difficulties interacting with people."

"It's very helpful—not just for the treatment, but also for the accommodations," he told FOX 26 of his diagnosis. "And knowing about the autism, that can help put myself in situations to be successful, in terms of not disrupting anything and also at the same time I'm able to prove to the world and hopefully try to take away from that stigma of people with autism only being able to do a limited number of things."

13. Alex Reid

Alex Reid
Mike Marsland/WireImage

MMA fighter Alex Reid told The Mirror that he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at the age of 45 after spending time with an autistic child led the child's parents to note their similarities and suggest Reid be tested. The athlete called the diagnosis "a relief," but also "a bit unnerving, because it's coming to terms with new things, but it also explains so much."

"I've been so horrifically bullied throughout my whole life. I was the kid in school who asked the questions no one else would and I'd be laughed at, I was the kid that the teachers would say had to try harder and they didn't understand it," he told the outlet. "Even in the army I've been bullied and I've been bullied for being different. This has kind of made sense of why."

Reid added, "But now that I can understand myself a bit more I might have a more harmonious life."

14. Clay Marzo

Clay Marzo
Kelly Cestari/World Surf League via Getty Images

Despite being more comfortable out on the water than he is talking about himself, pro surfer Clay Marzo has been vocal about the Asperger's diagnosis he received in 2007, including in a 2008 documentary called Clay Marzo: Just Add Water and in a 2019 book titled Just Add Water: A Surfing Savant's Journey with Asperger's.

His co-author told Men's Journal's GrindTV that getting Marzo's story involved long phone calls punctuated with long silences, because of how difficult the surfer found it to speak about his life at length. However, Marzo still felt it was important to get his story out there.

"I hope the book will help other people who are similar to me," he explained, "and if not them, then to their families so they can get a better understanding of what it can be like."

Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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