For the past 6 months you could not read a tweet, an Instagram post, or Facebook post without seeing the name Elon Musk. He is not only the CEO and Chief Engineer at SpaceX, CEO of Tesla, and officer of multiple other businesses, he is also the guy who had everyone buzzing when he offered to purchase Twitter for $44 billion dollars. So, what do Musk; James Taylor, my favorite musician from the seventies; Andy Warhol, a renowned artist; and the famous comedian, Jerry Seinfeld all have in common? “They’re all millionaires,” could be your first guess, and it would be correct, although Musk is a billionaire. But this really isn’t the most surprising connection they have. The answer I am seeking: They all have the developmental disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome or ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states, “ASD is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ASD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention.” ASD consists of many disorders which at one time were all separately diagnosed but have now been grouped into one large category with Asperger’s being at the mild end of the spectrum.

My first encounter with a person on the spectrum occurred when I taught 10th grade English. I had a young man whose learning plan said he had the developmental disability, Asperger’s. I was not familiar with it, read through his paperwork, and then waited to meet the student. Like many people, I didn’t know what to expect from a person with this disability, but I learned a lot very quickly. Surprisingly to me, the young man was a phenomenal writer and a great student. As a matter of fact, he was such a good student, I told him he really should be moved into honors English. He adamantly refused. I told him he was in a class of students who really had very little interest in what I was teaching, and he could excel in honors. He told me honors classes were boring because the students all did the right thing. He thought my class was more interesting because so many students acted out. He found their bad behavior amusing and entertaining. He often laughed in class when I became angry with another student’s behavior. As I reflect, I realize he always carried all his books, at least five or six, to every class every day. He also said exactly what was on his mind. He laughed at inappropriate times. He also thoroughly read every hand-out written by me, other teachers, and the school system to check for errors. He actually called his middle school repeatedly to tell them they had made an error in the student handbook sent home with his younger sister. When I asked about his interests, He told me he spent every free minute at home working on computer programming. Because of his wit and abilities, he soon became one of my favorite students that year.

Now, many years later, as I follow Elon Musk, I think of this student because Musk has captivated me over the past 6 months with his witty tweets, especially when I realized he is an individual with disabilities. It made sense to me as I read his sometimes harsh, yet very direct tweets; this is how he knows to communicate. I find his honesty and directness refreshing. Without his disability, Musk would not be the man he is today. As reported in Axios, Musk hosted “Saturday Night Live.” In his opening monologue he said, “To anyone who I’ve offended [with my Twitter posts], I just want to say I reinvented the 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?”

Not all {many} people with Asperger’s fair as well as Musk. Although he believes his disability is what drove him to spend hours upon hours programming computers at night, it also had a disadvantage because he could not read social cues. In Ted2022 he said, “I would just tend to take things very literally…but then that turned out to be wrong – [people were not] simply saying exactly what they mean, there’s all sorts of other things that are meant, and {it} took me  a while to figure that out.”

As we advocate for individuals with disabilities, we also must wonder if for people like Musk, Taylor, Warhol, Seinfeld, and all the others with this disability who have given so much to society if it may just be their superpower.