Autism Advocates Say Jerry Seinfeld Could Serve as an Inspiration, But Some Have Reservations

On Thursday night, comedian and Seinfeld star Jerry Seinfeld disclosed quite the shocking statement to Brian Williams during his NBC Nightly News appearance. Seinfeld thinks he is on the autism spectrum. He explained further by saying, "Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I'm very literal, when people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don't know what they're saying. But I don't see it as dysfunctional, I just think of it as an alternate mindset." Now, Seinfeld's statement is bringing hope to the autism community.

Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Advocacy Network, spoke with NBC News and sees Seinfeld's revelation as positive. As someone who lives with autism, Ne'eman says there is, unfortunately, a stigma revolving around autism hindering all kinds of opportunities for those living with disorder. The fact that Seinfeld, a successful, well-known comedian is making this type of declaration can be seen as inspiring.

She says,

Think about what this does for a closeted autistic person who goes into the workplace knowing that their co-workers have just seen somebody they know, respect, and have a positive opinion of, like Jerry Seinfeld, identify in this way — it’s a valuable and important step in building a greater tolerance for autism.

Like Ne'eman, Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, also finds Seinfeld's words moving and notes "there are many people on the autism spectrum who can relate to Jerry’s heartfelt comments about his own experiences."

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With that said, some, like Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, don't want Seinfeld's autism comments to "oversimplify" the disorder, which could be harmful for those those who are close with autistic individuals, in addition to those living with the disorder. As for Tonia Ferguson of the Autism Society, she says, "We have to continue to make people aware of what the spectrum of autism is.”

I think what we can all agree on is that Seinfeld's statement is (and should be) encouraging others to become educated about this disorder that's affecting more and more individuals every day. It shouldn't be taken lightly, and, hopefully, more people will be able to open up about their autism journey and raise even more awareness.

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