Popular and news media tend to focus on the challenges that neurodiverse individuals face, but here at Camp Akeela we help campers with Aspergers Syndrome and Autism overcome social difficulties and embrace who they are so they can go out into the world and pursue their dreams! That’s why we find it so affirming to our campers when we can tell them about wildly successful people who are also, as we like to say, quirky. Elon Musk has entered the chat!
Elon Musk, the billionaire and founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity and PayPal – and most recently, Dogecoin cryptocurrency advocate – announced last month, while hosting Saturday Night Live, that he had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which we hope will inspire neurodiverse teens to pursue their dreams. While not everyone desires to be an entrepreneur or billionaire businessman, our obvious takeaway is this – don’t let NVLDs hold you back!
As Dr. Matthew Siegel, VP of medical affairs at Maine Behavioral Healthcare in Portland said, when interviewed by WebMD, after the announcement:
“I think the thing that is exciting is that if Elon Musk is reporting he has autism — whether using an outdated term or not — is for the public to see a person lift the stigma about diagnoses like autism, by whatever name it is called. And people can see that individuals with autism, some, can be quite successful and part of our society.”
Last year we discussed Chris Rock’s similar announcement that he had been diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disorder. In addition to building confidence in our campers, we hope the growing list of successful neurodiverse people also helps remove the stigma created by how these diagnoses are often treated in popular media and the general lack of awareness and understanding. As Musk aid on SNL:
“Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works,” he said. “To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”
Ain’t that the truth! If you’ve followed Musk on social media, you know he’s certainly quirky, but when you look at what this man has achieved before the age of 50 – well, the results speak for themselves. And we love that Elon feels comfortable joking about what makes him unique – how boring would be it be if none of us ever did that?
While Elon didn’t dwell on the topic, we hope that younger readers of this blog will use this announcement as a source of encouragement and that the parents in our audience will share this and other success stories with their children, as we all try to find our way in this world.
Photo Credit:The Royal Society, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons