Both Daryl Hannah and Dan Aykroyd , writer, producer and star of the popular “Ghostbusters” movie series also recently “revealed” their asperger diagnosis, or did they? As reported by Autism Daily Newscast Hannah had been quite public about her since 2007. However, the media chose not to “jump” on the story until her interview in People Magazine this past September. Dan Aykroyd has a similar story but this time with a twist as it is not really clear when he was first diagnosed. Aykroyd being interviewed earlier this year on a popular Canadian talk show discusses how he
“went to an analyst as a kid and I have a little touch of that (Aspergers) and a little touch of Tourette’s was the, that was the, that was analysis of the time.”
His Wikipedia profile states that he discussed these issues back in 2002, during a radio interview. In a more recent interview with the Daily Mail, Aykroyd suggests that perhaps an official diagnosis occurred later in life saying,
“I was diagnosed with Tourette’s at 12. I had physical tics, nervousness and made grunting noises and it affected how outgoing I was. I had therapy which really worked and by 14 my symptoms eased. I also have Asperger’s but I can manage it. It wasn’t diagnosed until the early Eighties when my wife persuaded me to see a doctor.”
Why is the media finding these “admissions” far more newsworthy? The New York Times ran an rather lengthy and excellent piece on this subject back in October 2012 which to tagged for search engines as “Is Everyone on the Autism Spectrum?” Their list included Aykroyd among many other well known celebrities including Hannah. Certainly, there is no sudden revealing by these actors that they have asperger’s. So what is going on?
Prior to this past decade, it appears that the whole issue of autism was more than an oddity or exception. And with this new awareness has come a little more understanding. We have come a long way from everyone thinking that autism meant “Rainman” but not far enough.
Just as the increased acknowledgment by the mainstream of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgendered (LBGT) community a decade earlier led to greater acceptance, we are beginning to see more role models in the autism spectrum. However, we also see limited portals in movies and television and often the characters are not officially diagnosed as being on the spectrum. For a closer analysis of this see Autism Daily Newscast’s article Do the “ASD” characters on television adequately reflect the reality of autism?
The media generally reports on those cases on the high end of the spectrum such as high functioning autistic or individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. While an increase in autism awareness is good, this writer would like to see a better understanding of day to day challenges in funding, education, treatments and the emotional toll on those with autism and their families. I remain concerned that the subject of autism continues to be a popular diner party discussion rather than indignation that little is being done to change the day to day lives of those on the spectrum.
Not everyone with ASD is able to use their quirky and creative talents to become a celebrity, let alone find full time work and live independently. Many rely on others to manage day to day activities.
This writer also believes that short term awareness has its costs. I raise the LBGT comparison because in more conservative countries and communities, a back lash also develops as “minority” groups begin to make demands of equality and fairness on the political system. While not enough, there has been great strides made in funding of autism research and health care. But resources remain limited and more cases of ASD are diagnosed, this will add an additional burden on systems that are already overloaded. Celebrities “coming out” is a wonderful first step in the awareness and advocacy process but it is only the beginning.