“Challenges make life interesting, however overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” Mark Twain

In celebration of World Autism Awareness Day, we’re looking at five hugely talented people who are an inspiration to all of us. On April 2nd, people around the world are uniting to show their support and help raise money for various supporting charities. Autism is a developmental disability that can affect speech or communication, behavior, and social skills. This year, self-determination and autonomy in the face of autism are the central themes. So, while autism is classified as a disability, it shouldn’t be confused with an ability, because some really amazing people live with autism. Here are five you might be familiar with.

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Musician


A determined musical genius, Mozart composed more than 41 of the best-known symphonies, which are still famous today even 200 years after his death. Reports link his obsessive thoughts, repetition of specific movements, and erratic mood swings with symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome and Asperger’s syndrome, which is considered to be on the ‘high functioning’ end of the autism spectrum. There’s no doubt this helped him to channel his creative mind into the world of music.

2. Tim Burton: Film Director


Tim Burton’s abstract perception has seen the development of many successful movies of this generation, including Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more. Having autism hasn’t affected his creative autonomy. Johnny Depp once said: “Working with Tim is like going to the most comfortable place you can be… it’s like going home.”

3. Daryl Hannah: Actress


Despite her famous roles in Splash, Blade Runner, and Steel Magnolias, Daryl Hannah was always shy and didn’t like crowds. As her career moved forward, Hannah became more confident in herself and learned to manage her autism and life, although she was never a fan of red carpets, refused interviews, and found it difficult to socialize at events. She once said, “I’d like to be a giant enabler.”

4. Dan Aykroyd: Actor

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Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, My Girl, Coneheads – the list of movies starring Dan Aykroyd is long and impressive. As a child with Asperger’s, Aykroyd interacted with the world in his own unique way. His parents love, and belief in his abilities meant he was introduced to the world of drama from a young age, though he didn’t officially find out he had Asperger’s til he was an adult.

5. James Durbin: Singer


Singer James Durbin rose to fame on American Idol in 2011 and has since used his fame to become an advocate for raising awareness of Autism. Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Tourette Syndrome when he was 10, Durbin felt he struggled as a child, with people quick to judge him for not conforming to the norm.

Be inspired by all greatness around you, and by all acts of self-determination! Here are some women who’ve also led the way in self-determination.

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