When you think about autism, you likely consider the challenges that people face. You might not realize that many people with autism are also geniuses. They excel in certain areas, from mathematics and technology to music.
Find out what an autistic savant is. Then, get the details on 15 geniuses with autism. Finally, find out how ABA therapy can help autistic geniuses reach their full potential.
What Is an Autistic Savant?
People with autism have some challenges that others don’t face. These challenges might include:
- Social phobias
- Excessive worrying
- Avoidance behaviors
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
It’s also not unusual for people with autism to be rigid in their routines.
Even with these challenges, numerous autistic children and adults demonstrate nearly super-human abilities in specific areas. These people are identified as autistic savants.
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Rain Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, you’ve seen an autistic savant in action. Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond, is autistic. He portrays characteristics such as strict adherence to routines and isn’t emotionally expressive.
However, he has a photographic memory. He can quickly rattle off phone book listings or baseball statistics as if he’s reading from a book.
His character was based on a real person named Kim Peek. Just like the character in the movie, Peek has an unbelievable memory.
15 Famous Geniuses With Autism
Now, let’s look at 15 geniuses with autism. These geniuses have either been diagnosed with or are thought to have autism.
1. Elon Musk
If you watch Saturday Night Live, you might have seen Elon Musk announce he has Asperger’s during his monologue on May 8, 2021. As the co-founder of The Boring Company, Neuralink, SpaceX, and Tesla, Musk is a tech genius, with many more exciting things to come.
2. Albert Einstein
While not formally diagnosed, many believe that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s. He showed many signs, including some difficulties with small talk.
Those challenges didn’t prevent him from winning the Nobel Prize for Physics. The world as a whole is still benefiting from his many discoveries.
3. Isaac Newton
Experts also believe that Isaac Newton had autism. He immersed himself in his work, rarely speaking. He was so passionate about his work that he’d even forget to eat.
His passion paid off, as he is credited for leading the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century and is responsible for discovering the laws of gravity.
4. Charles Darwin
“On the Origin of Species” is one of the most important works ever published and cemented Charles Darwin’s place as a groundbreaking biologist. He was passionate about his work but withdrawn socially. Many believe that’s because Charles Darwin had autism.
5. Nikola Tesla
Many experts also believe that Nikola Tesla had autism. He had the ability to hyper-focus on projects and ideas, and that led to the development of the groundbreaking alternating-current electrical system.
His true power came from his ability to visualize concepts. This allowed him to turn concepts into reality.
While he was a successful inventor, he struggled with sensitivity to sounds and lights and had various phobias.
6. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson will always be remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence. A prolific writer and gifted inventor, his legacy lives on today.
Many people believe that Jefferson likely had autism. This is largely because of his adherence to routines. He couldn’t stand it if his established routines were interrupted for any reason.
He was also known as being emotionally distant, with poor communication skills. That didn’t hold him back from achieving success.
Michelangelo was an artistic genius with numerous world-renowned works of art, including the sculpture of David and the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. Experts state that he exhibited many traits of autism, including adherence to a routine and emotional distance.
These traits might have helped him with his work. He was able to lock into a project and see it through to completion with little interruption.
8. Steve Jobs
As the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs transformed personal computing and mobile devices. If you use an iPhone or a Mac, you can thank Jobs.
There’s also speculation that he had autism. He was known for perfectionism and managed to think outside of the box. Being on the spectrum might have helped him turn Apple into the tech giant it is today.
9. Alfred Kinsey
A famous biologist and sexologist, Alfred Kinsey, redefined the way people think of sex and sexuality. Like many others on this list, he threw himself into his work with little time for social interaction. He didn’t have many relationships, leading many to believe that he was autistic.
10. Bobby Fischer
A chess prodigy from a young age, Bobby Fischer went on to become an American grandmaster. His genius-level IQ helped him defeat opponents and turned him into a household name.
He was obsessed with chess and had issues with personal relationships. Experts have attempted to diagnose him, with many believing he was autistic. It’s possible that he had autism and another disorder, such as schizophrenia.
11. Tim Burton
Tim Burton is a creative genius. He manages to manifest ideas that others couldn’t even begin to think of, which is why he’s had so much success.
He hasn’t been formally diagnosed with autism but identifies with the condition. After watching a documentary on the subject, he mentioned that he felt the same way as a child.
12. Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol changed the art world for the better. He was a creative force during the Pop Art movements in the 1960s. He also likely had autism.
People point to the repetitive nature of his work as a sign of autism. He was also known for providing monosyllabic responses to interview questions, which might have been due to autism.
13. Stephen Wiltshire
Stephen Wiltshire is a British architectural artist who became a household name due to his photographic memory. He can tap into his memory to draw complete city skylines. He now has a gallery and has contributed numerous pieces to the art world.
He received his autism diagnosis when he was only three years old. Language was difficult for him early on, but that didn’t slow him down. He created his first commissioned piece when he was eight and had been going strong ever since.
14. Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein is often considered the greatest philosopher of the 1900s. His genius was clear in the early days, when he made a sewing machine at the age of 10, using his own design for the project. While his mind was agile, he had trouble making friends and was often teased.
His contributions to ethics, logic, and metaphysics are still important to this day. Along with his work, experts have been discussing the possibility that he was autistic.
15. Amadeus Mozart
A child prodigy, Mozart started composing music at the age of 5. His musical memory was like nothing people had seen before. It was clear early on that he was a musical genius.
While autism wasn’t even a concept during his lifetime, experts now believe that he was on the spectrum.
Mozart was bothered by loud sounds and had trouble controlling his impulses. You can also find lots of repetition in his musical pieces. Instead of hindering him, the characteristics of autism likely helped him achieve greatness.
How ABA Therapy Can Help Autistic Geniuses
Autistic geniuses can feel like they are trapped in their own worlds. While this can help some achieve greatness, the characteristics of autism can hold others back. In other words, for every Mozart, there’s a musical genius who cannot move beyond the rigidity of routines to compose something great.
Many autistic geniuses find that applied behavior analysis (ABA) can help. Autistic geniuses can use this therapy to improve their communication and language skills. The therapy also boosts focus and memory while decreasing problematic behaviors. It can even help autistic geniuses become more social.
The therapist begins by determining the cause of behaviors. This includes the circumstances under which a patient engages in a behavior. Then, the therapist helps the patient replace problem behaviors with new, healthier options.
After successful treatment, people with autism will have new skills to use in various situations. They will also have finetuned existing skills and should notice a decrease in problem behaviors.
As an autistic genius, this can be quite valuable. It helps people maximize their potential by reducing roadblocks that get in the way of achievements.
Unlock Your Potential
If you’re an autistic genius, consider ABA therapy. It could be the key to unlocking your full potential.