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Why I Tell People Dan Aykroyd Is on the Autism Spectrum

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Growing up, I didn’t have role models who were on the autism spectrum. Being diagnosed with autism in the early 90’s, the only one who was mentioned on a national level was the fictional character from “Rain Man.”

Because of this, I often talk about adults on the spectrum that other people with autism can look up to.

When I start listing off names, I mention leading autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin, the first nonverbal talk show host Carly Fleischmann, New York Times best-selling author John Elder Robison, international speaker and author Stephen M. Shore and “American Idol” finalist James Durbin. After that, I end my list with a name no one expects: Dan Aykroyd.

People are literally shocked to learn he’s on the autism spectrum. It goes to show you how wide the spectrum truly is.

Aykroyd, who is most well known for his stint on “Saturday Night Live,” spoke publicly about having Asperger’s syndrome several years ago. In an interview with The Daily Mail, he said he was able to develop some key interests due to his autism. One of those key interests was in ghosts and law enforcement. Specifically, he loved the ghost hunter Hans Holzer. Because of his interests in this area, “the idea of my film ‘Ghostbusters’ was born,’” Aykroyd  told The Daily Mail. “Ghostbusters” remains a popular movie to this day. Aykroyd’s name came up often in our community recently because of the “Ghostbusters” reboot that was released in July 2016.

For me, this has some amazing value for our community. Often families wonder what the future will look like for their child on the spectrum, and when that time comes, I love to bring up Aykroyd’s story. So many people on the spectrum have key interests just like Aykroyd. With the proper direction in that interest, it can open up opportunities for them.

Now, not every person with autism is going to have Aykroyd’s success, but with his story, we have someone in our community who others can look up to. I turned one of my key interests in theater as a child into a career as an adult in motivational speaking.

One of my old college professors often told me to “think with the end in mind,” which has reinforced my passion for sharing stories like Aykroyd’s. No matter where your child falls on our wide autism spectrum, have the self-motivation to know that we are learning more about autism every day. Every milestone, no matter how small, should be celebrated.

Hopefully one day we will be able to share about all of our kids living their dreams like Aykroyd has.

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Image via Creative Commons/Rnunezart

Originally published: October 28, 2016
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