Successful autistic people are a great source of inspiration for people on the spectrum as well as their families. While the symptoms of autism can be detrimental to the ability to function normally, many are able to achieve great things with the right support and guidance.
It may be tempting to focus on historical figures who appear to have had autistic traits. Some may point to famous autistic people as well. However, success is somewhat subjective and we can see amazing accomplishments that never hit the mainstream media in our everyday lives. Success may be defined as leading a happy life while functioning to your greatest capacity.
Successful Autistic People
Successful autistic people are everywhere, and there is a wide range of abilities on the spectrum. High functioning autism can interfere with a person's ability to interact with others appropriately and sensory problems are a common issue throughout the spectrum. Those on the other end of the spectrum have severe symptoms that are debilitating.
Prognosis and Achievement
Stephen Schuman is a successful adult who loves NASCAR racing, his dog, and his family. He works full time as a cook for a small mom-and-pop restaurant. He is ideal for the position because he is meticulous, following each step to the recipes with precision. He is a loving uncle and a popular member of his community who stuns people with his bowling skills.
Years ago, Stephen was diagnosed with severe autism. The doctor suggested that his parents put him in an institution because he would never be able to function normally, nor would he ever speak. His behaviors would never improve and he would be a danger to those around him.
Helen Schuman did not agree. She went against the doctor's suggestions and raised her son without the support or services that are available today. When Steve was six years old, he said his first words while he was sitting in the back seat of the car "Do not pass." Many people in the community wear t-shirts for Stephen's Hope, a small organization for autism awareness, with the inspiring "Do Not Pass" quote on the back of them.
Steve's story is one that illustrates that a person does not have to achieve fame or split an atom in order to be very successful. This autistic adult has a positive impact on his community in spite of his dreadful prognosis as a small child.
Support and Guidance
The key to helping a child grow into a successful adult with autism is to provide support and guidance. Parents should learn about the strategies teachers and therapists use in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Taking time to learn how to apply the principals of Applied behavioral analysis and Floortime activities to a child's daily life can yield excellent results.
Sensory issues are problematic and they can be a source of tantrums in many cases. Using sensory integration activities can help alleviate the discomfort associated with sensory dysfunction. Telltale self-stimulatory behaviors are strong indicators of what types of outlets the child needs.
Strengths and Interests
Building upon an individual's strengths and interests is a wonderful approach to achieving success. Topics of interest are very motivating and many people on the spectrum excel in their specific subjects. Consider some of the strengths commonly associated with the autism spectrum:
- Intense focus and concentration
- Attention to details
- Adheres to routines and schedules
- Independent thinker not influenced by peer pressure
- Extremely knowledgeable about subjects of interest
These are just some of the many strengths that people on the spectrum have. Some may excel in certain sports while others are excellent artists. The key is to find which elements are most appealing to the individual.
Successful Adults with Autism
You may be familiar with famous autistic adults but it is important to remember that the majority of productive people on the spectrum lead their lives in comfortable obscurity. Consider some of the well-known people with autism.
- Temple Grandin professor and author
- Steven Shore speaker, author and advocate
- Kim Miller, artist
- Jason McElwain, basketball player
- Matt Savage, jazz musician
- Derek Paravicini, musician
No matter what the prognosis is for a young child, parents and professionals can help them achieve success to their greatest capacity.
One child with autism touches the lives of countless others. He brings out the best in many of the people he meets throughout his life. He can be a source of inspiration for those around him as he leads a happy, healthy life in the process. This is the greatest measure of success.