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Normalizing Disabilities With the Help of the Famous

Updated on August 26, 2018
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Articles that I have written with social work in mind, to educate others, in hopes to lead better lives.

Marlee Matlin

Ryan Cartwright

Ryan Cartwright from Alphas
Ryan Cartwright from Alphas

RJ Mitte

RJ Mitte (CP) from Breaking Bad
RJ Mitte (CP) from Breaking Bad

Chris Burke

Chris Burke (DS) from Life Goes On
Chris Burke (DS) from Life Goes On

Luke Zimmerman

Luke Zimmerman (DS) from The Secret Life of an American Teenager
Luke Zimmerman (DS) from The Secret Life of an American Teenager

Daphne Vasques

Daphne Vasques (H-I) from Switched at Birth
Daphne Vasques (H-I) from Switched at Birth

Special needs characters/possible actors

I am sure that we all remember Marlee Matlin, who is an American Actress and won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role for "Children of a Lesser God." She is the only deaf performer to win the award. She continues to excel and has won a Golden Globe award, with a couple additional nominations, as well as four Emmy nominations. Marlee Matlin has been deaf since she was 18 months old. She is a member of the National Association of the Deaf. She has a longtime interpreter.

A big part of raising awareness and acceptance for people with disabilities is sharing their stories of their disabilities, and the ways that they overcame them. Normalizing their disabilities so others with disabilities can also excel.

Below is a list of TV series that have featured characters and/or performers with special needs:

There are many TV shows that hires disabled actors. Some of these may just be acting the part, such as Some people think that Jim Parsons, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory may have Asperger syndrome. Also, the character "Bones" on the show of the same name also looks to viewers like a person with Asperger.

Here are some of the tv series:

Alphas (2011-2012) - The character Gary Bell, played by Ryan Cartwright, was a young man with autism.

The Big Bang Theory (2007 to present) character Sheldon Cooper (fan favorite), played by Jim Parsons plays a physicist, in which many viewers think has Asperger syndrome. (Not 100% sure if the actor has such issues?)

Bones (2005 - present) Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel), plays a forensic anthropologist who looks to viewers like a person with Asperger syndrome. (Not 100% sure if the actor has such issues?)

Breaking Bad (2008 - 2013) Walter White Jr. played by RJ Mitte, plays a son of the chemistry teacher turned meth maker, who has cerebral palsy. RJ Mitte is also listed under the Cerebral Palsy list below. However, he has very minor issues of Cerebral Palsy. KUDOS to the actor.

The Bridge (2013) Sonya Cross plays an El Paso police detective with Asperger syndrome. (Not 100% if the actor has such issues.)

Covert Affairs (2010 -2014) Auggie Anderson, played by Christopher Gorham, is a blind CIA analyst who's a tech whiz. (Not 100% if the actor has such issues, as many actors can act blind. (aka Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary on Little House on the Prairie. One of my most favorite all time shows.)

Criminal Minds (2005 - Present) Dr. Spencer Reid, played by Matthew Gray Gubler, plays eccentric and multiple degree holding member of the team that profiles serial killers, who is suspected to be autistic. (Not 100% if the actor has such issues, as there are many talented actors that have acted like they were challenged, such as the movie, "I am Sam," with Sean Penn, or Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.)

Glee (2009 - 2015) Artie Abrams, played by Kevin McHale, is a glee club member who uses a wheelchair; and Becky Jackson, played by Lauren Potter, a cheerleader with Down syndrome.

Grey's Anatomy (2005 - Present) Virginia Dixon, played by Mary McDonnell, plays a cardiac surgeon with Asperger Syndrome, who appeared in several episodes in the 6th season.

King & Maxwell (2013 - Present) Edgar Roy, played by Ryan Hurst, described on the show as "a high-functioning autistic." A term that is also used in the world of Job Coaching. A bit of trivia: Another coincidence, I happen to be related to an Edgar Roy. I wonder where they got the character's name?

Legit (2013 - 2014) Billy Nugent, played by DJ Qualls, a man with severe muscular dystrophy. (Again, not 100% sure if he was just acting the part, or if he has Muscular Dystrophy, but to get stories out and give the disabled population hope for their futures would be an amazing thing to do. I, also, have a friend who has Muscular Dystrophy.)

Life Goes On (1989-1993) Corky Thatcher, played by Chris Burke, has down syndrome.

The Middle (2009 - Present) Brick, played by Atticus Shaffer, had viewers wondering if he's on the autism spectrum.

Modern Family (2009 - Present) Haley Dunphy, who is played by Sarah Hyland, revealed in May 2012 that she was diagnosed with kidney dysplasia at age 9, and received a kidney transplant from her father in April 2012, at age 21. (These are the stories that are important to make public. It gives the disabled population hope for their future. It creates mentors and role models for other disabled individuals. I, also, have a co-worker and a sister in law that live without one kidney.)

Parenthood (2010 - 2015) Max Braverman, played by Max Burkholder, was a child diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

Royal Pains (2009 - Present) Dr. Jeremiah Sacani, played by Ben Shenkman, he is not identified as being on the autism spectrum. However, he certainly has the talent to play him that way..

The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008-2013) Tom Bowman, played by Luke Zimmerman has Down Syndrome. Luke Zimmerman did a great job as Tom, and I hope he has been hired for other projects. The disabled population should be utilized more for such roles.

St Elswhere (1982-1988) Tommy Westphall, played by Chad Allen, plays an autistic son of Dr. Donald Westphall, who in the show's last episode is revealed to have dreamed up the entire series. INTERESTING storyline.

Switched at Birth (2011 - Present) Daphne Vasques, played by Katie Leclerc, is a hearing-impaired teenager who finds out she was "switched at birth." The show featured other hearing-impaired characters. LOVE HER, and love her story. She's quite the talented beauty. There should be more disabled characters created, just like her. I'm sure she is many fans' favorite.

The West Wing (1999-2006) Joey Lucas, played by none other than Marlee Matlin, whose deafness was used to comedic and dramatic effect, but was never the sole purpose for her character. We all know how amazingly talented Marlee Matlin is.

The Good Doctor (2017- present) - Freddie Highmore, plays the Good Doctor, Dr. Shaun Murphy, who has autism and Savant syndrome and is recruited into the pediatric surgical unit of a prestigious hospital. The question arises: can a person who doesn't have the ability to relate to people actually save their lives? (Some may remember the actor, Freddie Highmore, from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, also starring Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp also recommended Freddie Highmore for other roles.) (Freddie Highmore is not an actor that has autism and Savant syndrome, but he sure does a good job.)

Many of these shows that I looked up had some great ratings as well. I have come across a few job coaching clients who have the personality for performing. Most of them just want to make people laugh. Although, in some work places that they attempt to get employment, it usually does not work out there because that just is NOT the environment that most businesses want to show their customers. Therefore, they are constantly looking for employment because we just cannot find a good fit for them. The client may not be what the business is looking for, but it certainly does not mean that they are worthless. We just need to find a better fit for the client.

Poverty population

From some of the things that I have read, 20% of the poverty population are disabled. Therefore, there are many benefits to hiring disabled actors for projects. It can promote a safer filming environment, as well as the start to alleviating poverty for the disabled individual. Plus, if these shows ratings are an indication, it could very well be a win-win.

Some famous People with Autism

Yes, there are some famous people that have Autism....which I think helps NORMALIZE the condition. However, I think there should be more opportunities for those with disabilities to, even partially, take of themselves. Here are some of my favorites from the original list:

Well known, Albert Einstein. He had difficulty with social interactions. He was very intelligent, but appeared to have some sort of learning disability.

Alexis Wineman was the first Miss America contestant with austism to compete in the Miss Montana pageant, which show young women, that with the right support you can accomplish anything. The main issue is getting that support, which I KNOW is not easy.

Amadeus Mozart, yes the famous musician.

One of my favorites from the list: Actress Daryl Hannah, which I didn't know this until my research. She was in such films as: Blade Runner, Splash, Roxanne, Wall Street, Steel Magnolias and Kill Bill. Pretty amazing. She has also talked to People Magazine about having been diagnosed with autism as a child, and how it made her fearful of fame. However, she did not let that stand her way. (FYI: Speaking of Steel Magnolias....actress Julia Roberts, and her brother Eric Roberts (who is Emma Roberts' father) both had issues with stuttering as children. Look at them now.)

Matthew Laborteaux was an actor who played Albert Ingalls on one of my all time favorite television shows: Little House on the Prairie.

My being a lover of education decided to mention that Colorado State University calls Temple Grandin "the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world."

Vincent Philip D'Onofrio is/was an American actor, director, film producer, writer, and singer. He was known for such roles as Private Leonard Lawrence (Gomer Pyle) in the war film Full Metal Jacket, "Edgar" in Men in Black and Detective Robert Goren in the crime TV series Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He shares his story of personal struggles with autism and dyslexia and advocates for the Autistic..

Now, if these individuals don't stand in their own way, why should anyone else tell them what they can and cannot do? We need people like these to "normalize" their disabilities. We need them to become role models for others with the same disabilities. We need to make more opportunities for them to be able to care and provide for themselves. If we don't, there will be many living in poverty situations, which shouldn't be happening to anyone, with disabilities that were so obviously NOT created themselves.

Famous People with Epilepsy

This list really hits me hard because I have dealt with Epilepsy since I was 4 years old. On this list, I have found lots from royal families that are on my own family tree. It's amazing to see how many artists and writers have had to deal with this condition. It is really quite touching to know that famous people have the same normal epileptic lives as us normal people. NORMALIZING the condition even further. Again, if they did not stand in their own way, why should we stand in theirs?

Some of my favorites from this list are:

Artist Vincent van Gogh, yes, an oldie but a goodie. He was quite a passionate artist who believed expressions should be expressed through colors. Vincent's epilepsy is said to once cause him to run after his friends with an open razor. (Hmm....wonder if this condition would be the same for a person to run after their brother with a knife? Which happened between my children.) Van Gogh ended up cutting his own ear lobe off.

Sir Issac Newton who was a very important scientist and founded the three laws of motion.

Neil Young is/was a musician known for meaningful lyrics. He is/was a spokesman for environmental issues. He was one of the greatest guitarist of his time. His parents divorced when he was young, and Neil was confronted with many diseases at the same time. Diseases such as: Epilepsy, Polio and Diabetes, which he did eventually overcome. He has been a peacekeeper through his music, and fights for justice and a more peaceful world.

Napoleon Bonapart, SHOCKINGLY, he is on my family tree and we, apparently, share a history of seizures. He was a French military and political leader during the French Revolution. Many books claim that Napoleon Bonaparte might have suffered from epilepsy throughout his lifetime.

Crime Fiction writer Agatha Christie. She wrote romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, but is best remembered for her detective novels and her theatre plays.

The famous Charles Dickens, best known for A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist who happened to have had epilepsy, as did several other characters in Charles Dickens books. In fact, the medical accuracy of Dickens' descriptions of epilepsy has amazed doctors that read him today. Charles Dickens' recorded observations on the nature of epileptic seizures, their causes and their consequences.

Shockingly, Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek King of Macedon. He died after 12 years of constant military campaigning, possibly from malaria, poisoning, typhoid fever, viral encephalitis or alcoholism. Alexander the Great had epilepsy, "however, during this time, epilepsy was known as "the sacred disease, because the belief was those that had seizures were possessed by evil spirits or touched by the gods."

Actor Danny Glover who is best known for his roles in Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson and Predator 2. He also suffered from dyslexia. The school staff labeled him retarded. He also had epilepsy and at an appearance on the Rosie O'Donnell Show, he told how he developed epilepsy at the age of 15, and in one cross-country trip with his family had experienced six seizures in a row. Which NOW makes me wonder if my motion sickness is part of my seizure disorder?

Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize. He was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and the inventor of dynamite. William Gordon Lennox wrote: "Nobel was subject to migraines and convulsions from infancy." He had epileptic seizures as a young child, which made him write of convulsions and agony in a poem. He left much of his wealth for the Nobel Prize foundation, which has honored men and women for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace.

Artist Michelangelo, the original, not the turtle. He was a sculptor. He was a respected renaissance man, only rivaled by Leonardo Da Vinci. He is responsible for the paintings inside many famous cathedrals and constructions of some of the most respected buildings.

And yes, Leonardo Da Vinci mentioned above. He was responsible for the greatest religious paintings in history. He was an architect, botanist, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, and writer. His most famous paintings were the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.

Julius Caesar was one of the most influential men in world history. He was in the army, excelling in leadership skills. He had a ruthless personality and thought of himself as superior.

Edgar Allan Poe, one of my youngest brother's favorite authors. He was a member of the Romantic Movement. He is the one who invented the Detective-Fiction genre. For many years people had throught that his mental problems were related to drug and alcohol abuse, but today many believe that he was not well diagnosed. Many now believe he may have been epileptic.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, who wrote on many different subjects, such as zoology, biology, ethics, government, politics, physics, metaphysics, music, poetry and theater. He was a great teacher to Alexander the Great. "Aristotle was one of the first to point out that epilepsy and genius were often closely connected. He found that the seizure disorders had the ability to increase brain activity, in specific places, and enhance a persons natural abilities to a certain extent." He was always said to be brilliant.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. He was obviously a soldier, historian, explorer, naturalist, author, and Governor of New York, and later, at the age of 42 became President. He was subject to epileptic seizures, his eyesight was bad, and he also suffered from asthma.

Bud Abbott from Abbott and Costello. Bud was an American producer, comedian and actor. He tried to hide the fact that he was suffering from epilepsy, which he had been subject to his whole life. He tried to control it with alcohol. His alcoholism got worse, he eventually went bankrupt. After going bankrupt, Bud lost his longtime partner Lou Costello, who died from heart damage. Bud Abbott died of cancer, after suffering from two strokes.

One of my favorites; English author, photographer, mathematician, clergyman and logician, Lewis Carrol. Lewis Carrol has written several books, and his work has inspired many artists. He wrote books describing minor epileptic attacks, and the dream worlds that some of them may bring to a person; like the sensation of falling in a hole and everything around getting smaller or bigger. Not hearing or seeing the same and feeling as if your entire body is changing in a fraction of a second. If you don't recognize the name, think of the author of Alice in Wonderland, and the dream world that that entails. Alice in Wonderland explains some of the sensations of epilepsy.

Richard Burton was at one time the highest paid Hollywood actor. He was crippled all his life by epilepsy and was extremely deep into alcoholism to try and prevent the seizures. Eventually this led him to manic depression. However, he would never go see a doctor because he did not trust them.

George Handel the Baroque composer who is famous for his operas.

Pythagoras was a lover of wisdom. He was known as the father of numbers," and contributed to mathematics. It is even said that many of his ideas had influenced Plato.

Louis Berlioz a French Romantic composer, best known for his Symphonie fantastique and Grand Messe des morts.

James Madison complained of a voice impairment. This handicap prevented his public speaking until age 30. Madison believed he would have a short life due to the illness he believed was epilepsy.

Lord Byron, Baron Byron, Sir John Byron, no matter what title he has, he is still the same. He was a general and former Member of Parliament. Some biographies suggest that Lord Byron experienced epileptic seizures and in various passages he writes of symptoms of epilepsy.

Louis XIII of France, who ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1610 to 1643, Louis XIII ascended the throne in 1610 at the age of 8 1/2, upon the assassination of his father.

Margaux Hemingway was an American model and film actress who appeared in several movies. The sister of actress Mariel Hemingway and the granddaughter of writer Ernest Hemingway. Margaux Hemingway struggled with a variety of disorders in addition to alcoholism, including bulimia and epilepsy.

Peter the Great's hands and feet were small, and his shoulders narrow for his height. Furthermore, his head was also small for his tall body. Peter also suffered from facial tics, and may have suffered from petit mal seizures, a form of epilepsy.

Robert Schumann was most famous Romantic composers of the 19th century.

Sir Walter Scott was a historical novelist and poet popular throughout Europe during his time. He survived a childhood bout of polio that left him lame for some time. He later was able to walk.

Socrates the classical Greek philosopher, and best known for the creation of Socratic irony and the Socratic Method.

Truman Capote, was an American writer whose stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction are recognized literary classics, including the well known novella Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood. Capote once said, "I don't care what anybody says about me, as long as it isn't true." John Knowles says that Capote "induced epilepsy himself by abusing his nervous system with drugs and booze." An autopsy showed Mr. Capote had an infection in his legs and signs of epilepsy.

Melanie Griffith, an American actress was diagnosed with Epilepsy. She divorced actor husband Antonio Banderas, and her seizures stopped. Griffith's seizures had been triggered by - stress.

I feel like I am in good company. (However, I have never turned to street drugs and alcohol for any type of relief.) The list of those that suffered from epilepsy is actually quite impressive. Recently, a close friend asked me questions about petit mal seizures, since I had a history of grand mal seizures. I had learned what both kinds of seizures were, and I was able to explain the differences to my friend. In reading this, I learned that people with epilepsy are NOT stupid. In fact, author Lewis Carrol used his feelings during his seizures to write Alice in Wonderland. My guess for Danny Glover's situation is, was motion sickness an issue when he had six consecutive seizures during a cross country trip?? It is quite impressive what I have learned from this list alone.

All the people that share their experiences with their disabilities are helping others normalize those disabilities. We need more opportunities for epileptics to work from home, as some are unable to drive, and some need more supportive people that are able to drive them to work. These people have something they can offer to society. The more we make it difficult, the more they won't try.

Famous People with Cerebral Palsy

A friend of mine suffers from minor Cerebral Palsy. He does not collect disability. However, he is in search of a better position so he can better take care of himself, as he has elderly parents, that, unfortunately cannot be around forever.

Abby Curran represented Iowa at the Miss USA pageant in 2008. She was born with Cerebral Palsy. She has made guest appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, CBS The Early Show, Inside Edition, Access Hollywood, Extra, and CNN Headline News. She is the chairman of her own non-profit pageant, "The Miss You Can Do It Pageant." for young girls and women with special challenges. She wants other girls like her to know they can compete like anyone else. I say, "KUDOS to her."

Anne McDonald
is an Australian author and advocates for the rights of people with communication disability. She developed severe athetoid cerebral palsy due to a birth injury. Anne wrote her story Annie's Coming Out, which was made into film with the same title. However, it was released in the United States under the title, "Test of Love."

Bonner Paddock was born with Cerebral Palsy, and lived his early years playing sports, as if he didn't have a disability at all. He was not accurately diagnosed until the age of 11.

Chris Fonseca is a comedian, and works the American comedy club circuit. He has written material for comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Roseanne Arnold. Chris Fonseca is the first (and only) person with a visible disability to entertain on The Late Night Show with David Letterman. Chris allows his Cerebral Palsy to be the foundation of many of his stories. He notes that this helps to break down barriers about Cerebral Palsy. KUDOS to him!!

Chris Nolan is an Irish author born with cerebral palsy, from birth complications, and writes using a special computer. He had been deprived of oxygen for two hours when he was born. His mother believed he could understand what was going on and taught him at home. Chris Nolan has never spoken or signed a word in his life, yet his poetry has been compared to that of Joyce, Keats, and Yeats. At 15, he was a published author of his first book, Dam-Burst of Dreams.

Christy Brown was an Irish author, painter and poet. The Academy Award winning film, "My Left Foot," was profiled on his life. He had cerebral palsy and was incapable of movement or speech. Doctors considered him to be mentally disabled as well. However, his mother continued to speak to him, work with him, and try to teach him until he snatched a piece of chalk from his sister with his left foot to make a mark on the floor. His mother than taught him the alphabet and he copied each letter, holding chalk between his toes. He learned to spell out words and read.

Dan Keplinger is an artist with cerebral palsy, and features in the Oscar-winning short documentary, King Gimp. He attended a school for disabled children, and mainstreamed into high school at age 16. He graduated college with a major in mass communication. Dan visits schools as a guest motivational speaker. He shows with some determination, you can achieve anything you desire. He includes images of his wheelchair in his art because it is a major part of his life. However, his masterpieces are about more than his disability. Obstacles and challenges are a part of human life. We all face them everyday. Many of us are likely to get discouraged during difficult times in our lives. I know I have. In his work, he hopes to show that they have the ability to persevere.

David Ring is a Christian evangelist and motivation speaker who has cerebral palsy. Ring has challenged thousands of people with his signature message - "I have cerebral palsy....What's your problem?"

Dr. Janice Brunstrom is a Pediatric neurologist specializing in Cerebral Palsy at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University. She is the only pediatric neurologist in the United States who also has Cerebral Palsy, and she is one of the leading scientists in Cerebral Palsy research. She corrects the common misconceptions about cerebral palsy including the following: "Cerebral palsy is hopeless. Cerebral palsy means low intelligence. Children with cerebral palsy do not need to stand. Strengthening their spastic muscle will make them worse, and Physicians cannot do anything about these children's vision problems."

Eric Gores was born with cerebral palsy and is the billionaire son of Alec Gores and former neighbor of actor Tom Arnold. Gores co-starred in a film written by Arnold, "The Kid & I." He wanted to be an actor since age 6, when he entertained his sisters by mimicking TV personalities. He refused to allow anything, including cerebral palsy, to prevent his dream from coming true.

Geri Jewell is a comedian and actress born with cerebral palsy that appears on The Facts of Life and HBO's Deadwood television shows. She brings to her presentations, personal experience of having her behavior and actions misunderstood because of her cerebral palsy. Geri Jewell is said to be a pioneer for comedians with disabilities. Which we need more of.

Josh Blue is an American comedian who was voted the Last Comic Standing on NBC's reality show Last Comic Standing. Josh Blue has cerebral palsy and many of his jokes center on living with his disability, such as how he deals with it, and how other people view him. He coined the term "palsy punch" during his final round of the show, when he said that the palsy punch is effective in a fight because "first of all, they don't know where the punch is coming from, and second of all, neither do I." He also joked that signing an autograph takes 45 minutes, and that to write down his phone number he has to find a "big ole' stack of paper."

Karen Killilea was the subject of two bestselling books by her mother. These books were groundbreaking in their assertion that children with cerebral palsy could be raised to lead productive lives. Karen was born three months prematurely and as a result of her prematurity, she developed cerebral palsy. After she was diagnosed, Karen's parents decided to actively raise her at home, contrary to the advice of doctors to commit her to an asylum and forget her. After visiting about 23 doctors, they found one that taught them to do physical therapy with Karen, which they did for six hours per day for over ten years. She eventually learned to walk with crutches, write, and use her arms and legs. She developed into a fairly happy teen and adult, who had been living independently and working for decades. Sometimes when you do not work with a disabled individual, they just automatically become mentally impaired. It doesn't have to be that way. It's all about giving the disabled individual the experience, and see what they can do with that experience. Give them the opportunity. We need to create more opportunities for our disabled, so they are no longer living in poverty.

Lawrence Carter-Long is a community organizer and advocate and known for his expertise in media and communications. He regularly showcases rarely seen, independent and international films with disability themes to non-disabled and disabled audiences alike. He has orchestrated film festivals on disability through TCM Introduction, to A History of Disability on Film.

***Disabled vets, disabled from birth injuries, or childhood illnesses - THEY AREN'T OUR FAULT - WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO GIVE THEM OPPORTUNTIES TO GET OUT OF POVERTY. See the positives that they can offer and put them to work, doing just that!! Even those that have wealthy parents need to be able to find some sort of well being and purpose in their lives. It is our right to being a part of the human race.

Some celebrities are touched by disabilities; such as actor Ashton Kutcher, who is Michael Kutcher's brother, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy before entering school. Despite the odds, Michael graduated from high school alongside his twin brother. In 2010, he began to follow his passion as a Cerebral Palsy advocate and supports Cerebral Palsy research and awareness for "Reaching For Stars."

RJ Mitte is an American actor with mild cerebral palsy. He is best known for his role as Walter White Jr., on the television series, Breaking Bad. His personal talent manager stated: "It is RJ's diligence and attitude that has helped him overcome challenges in all areas of his life."

Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer is a quadriplegic and American disability rights activist. She was a healthy baby, but was afflicted with a bout of encephalitis at the age of five weeks. She is best known for her autobiography I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes, co-authored with Steven B. Kaplan. At thirteen months, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy resulting from the encephalitis.

Steady Eddie is an Australian comedian and actor with cerebral palsy, and uses the stage name of Christopher Widdows. Widdows used his disability as the basis for his comedy.

Historical figure, Stephen Hopkins, attended the first Continental Congress in 1774, and was a party to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He recorded his name with a trembling right hand, which he had to guide with his left. Stephen Hopkins had cerebral palsy, and was noted to have said, as he signed the Declaration, "my hand trembles, my heart does not."

Thomas Ritter, brother of Actor John Ritter from "Three's Company," has cerebral palsy. Thomas Ritter was an attorney and former UCPA Board of Directors. In 1979, his brother, actor John Ritter, helped raise money for the disease. (It makes me wonder John Ritter's son, Jason Ritter, played on the television series Joan of Arcadia, in which his character was wheelchair bound.)

An autistic client once told me, I may have to create the opportunity myself. Guess no matter how long it takes. Let's make more opportunities for the disabled. USBLN lists a few businesses that give disabled individuals opportunities. LET'S ADD MORE!!!! By doing so, we may just alleviate poverty. We have all this technology to make all these people's lives better, but they cannot use it, because they can't afford to. Why create the technology if the prices are too high to help anyone?!?! It just seems we put more money into our toys than we do into human life.

Famous People with ADHD

ADD/ADHD does not have to stand in the way of having a productive life. There are many well known creative, and imaginative people who have ADD/ADHD. Let's take a look at the list of famous people who have ADHD. I was quite surprised:

David Blane, who is an American magician, illusionist and endurance artist. He has set and broken several world records.

Terry Bradshaw, who was a former Football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Richard Branson, is an English business magnate and investor. He is best known as the founder of Virgin Group, which comprises more than 400 companies.

Glenn Beck is a politically conservative American television and radio host, political commentator, author, television network producer, media personality, and entrepreneur.

Jim Carrey, is a Canadian American actor, comedian, and producer, and has received four Golden Globe Award nominations, in which he won two.

James Carville is an American political commentator/media personality who is a prominent figure in the Democratic Party.

Wendy Davis is best known for her role as Colonel Joan Burton on the television series Army Wives. She states: "ADHD makes you different, not defective."

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer-prize winning former foreign correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers, who also freelanced for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and Smithsonian. She is the author of five books, including "Buzz, A Year of Paying Attention", a memoir about raising a son with ADHD after being diagnosed with it herself.

Josh Freeman was a Buccaneers quarterback.

Ryan Gosling was reportedly unable to read, was diagnosed with ADHD, prescribed Ritalin, and placed in a class for special needs children. Which might explain the time that he had to be homeschooled.

Cammi Granato helped lead her team to gold as the captain of the United States women's ice hockey team at the 1998 Olympics. She credits her ADHD with helping her get that far. She claims that constantly feeling restless contributed to her drive on the ice.

Woody Harrelson became well known as the bartender on Cheers. He has been diagnosed with both dyslexia and ADHD. Some of Woody's other movies: Kingpin, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Anger Management, North County, and Indecent Proposal, The Hunger Games and many more.

Mariette Hartley often discusses her diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder. She hosted videos to help adults with ADHD deal with and manage the symptoms. She founded the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Mariette won an Emmy for her role in "The Incredible Hulk."

Cameron Herold who says "ADHD traits can be an opportunity for entrepreneurs."

Paris Hilton, American socialite, businesswoman, and entertainer.

Dean Kamen credits his ADHD as the reason for so many inventions. As a child, he was dyslexic and ADHD.

Christopher Knight from the Brady Bunch, had a hard time learning his lines. He was diagnosed with ADHD and sought treatment to help manage his condition and served as a spokesperson for the National Consumer League's ADHD campaign.

Solange Knowles got a second opinion because she did not believe the diagnosis from the first doctor.

Jenny Lawson, the day "The Bloggess," was born, people felt they had a safe and relatable place to go on the internet. She had an entertaining charisma that made her an online fan favorite. Her readers didn't expect that this jovial, self effacing writer was also mentally ill. She is diagnosed as a high-functioning depressive with Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder, ADD and an anxiety disorder.

Greg LeMond was a three-time Tour de France winner, and was an adult before he discovered that he had ADHD, a diagnosis that made sense of the frustration and low self-esteem in his childhood.

Adam Levine was diagnosed with ADHD in his teens.

Howie Mandel, comedian, actor, television host and voice actor, has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and ADHD.

Audra McDonald is an activist and a six-time Tony Award–winning singer and actress. She won her sixth Tony Award for playing Billie Holiday. In her acceptance speech, she thanked her parents for not medicating her when she was diagnosed with ADHD: “I want to thank my mom and dad up in heaven for disobeying the doctor’s orders and not medicating their hyperactive daughter and finding out what she’s into instead.”

Ty Pennington is well-known for his role on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He is also a spokesperson for ADHD Experts on Call.

Michael Phelps, American Swimmer, and the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 22 medals.

Pete Rose finds that many people with ADHD struggle with controlling the outcome of their actions and then facing the consequences. This has been painfully true for baseball player Pete Rose. In Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars, co-authored with Rick Hill, Rose candidly reveals his lifelong battles with ADHD and gambling.

Michele Rodriguez is an actress that gained her celebrity with her role on the hit television series Lost. She told Cosmopolitan that she has difficulty focusing when she is alone. Rodriguez is another example of a female celebrity with ADHD.

Channing Tatum states: "I read so slow. If I have a script I’m going to read it five times slower than any other actor, but I’ll be able to tell you everything in it. It kills me that there are standardized tests geared towards just one kind of child."

Emma Watson from The Harry Potter movies. Even though she did well in school, due to effort with applying herself, Emma was able to continue to be successful and a great role model for other girls.

Yes, there are some interesting people above who have ADHD. They were lucky enough to find their niche in life. I hope that as a Job Coach, I continue to push some of my clients towards their niche in life. One client of mine has decided to go to college. YAY!! Another client has been made a permanent employee, vs the seasonal employee that he was originally hired as. We can help those with disabilities remain poverty free. It's going to take more than one person to achieve this.

Famous people with mood disorders

Yes, I have also worked with clients with mood disorders. I would have to say that this is the toughest group of people that I have worked with thus far. However, I would never stop trying to do so. Just look at the list of famous people that have this disorder:

Richard Dreyfus is an Academy Award winning American actor. He starred in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He had a cocaine addiction and suffers from Bipolar Disorder.

Britney Spears is an American singer, dancer, songwriter, actress and author. She apparently has an unconfirmed diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, but "according to Dr. Diana Kirschner, who has not treated Spears but is an expert on the subject, "people who show patterns of behavior like Britney Spears are suffering from a dual diagnosis. They have both a substance abuse problem and a bipolar disorder or manic disorder.""

Harrison Ford is an American actor best known for his roles as Han Solo in the many Star Wars movies, as well as Indiana Jones. He suffered from depression in his youth, and would sleep long hours, often miss class and have trouble keeping up with his studies. He got over it when he signed up for drama class and overcame all of his fears.

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. There have been reports that Honest Abe suffered from depression.

Ben Stiller is an Emmy winning American comedian, actor, film producer and director, and is best known for Dodge Ball, Meet the Parents (Fockers) and The Night at the Museum. His parents were also comedians and actors. He has made known to the public that he has Bipolar Disorder, which runs in his family.

Carrie Fisher is an American actress, screenwriter and novelist. She is most famous for her role in Star Wars as Princess Leia. She is also the child of two Hollywood stars. Fisher published a Suzanne Vale novel, The Best Awful There Is in 2004. Since Postcards from the Edge, Vale has married, become a parent, and divorced. She is also undergoing treatment for Bipolar Disorder.

Billy Joel is a singer, pianist and songwriter, and has won six Grammys. He is in both the Songwriters' Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has hits in the 70s, 80s and 90s, which is quite rare. He battled against depression, and has tried to commit suicide a few times by drinking furniture polish. He thought it looked tastier than bleach. He is now semi-retired.

Brooke Shields is an American actress who suffered from postpartum depression. She got to the point where seeing a window would give her the feeling that she had to jump out of her misery. She was suddenly feeling shame and emptiness from the bottom up. She has worked through the challenges of her illness.

Buzz Aldrin is/was an American Astronaut. Where the name, "Buzz Light year" came from in the Toy Story movies. Buzz did not enjoy the fame that came with his walk on the moon. Eventually, his life came tumbling down, which included a divorce, which led him to depression and alcoholism.

Drew Carey is an American comedian, and has tried to commit suicide twice by taking sleeping pills and has always been mad at the world. When Drew wasn't out with his friends, and was left alone, he would get depressed and turn to food and alcohol to help him fight the disturbing feeling that he had inside. Today, Drew is constantly on the road to recovery by reading books and writing his comedy, stand up, scripts.

Jim Carrey is an actor and comedian. When Jim Carrey was very young, his mother was very sick in bed, and would take a lot of pills for her pain. Jim would do everything necessary to make his mother laugh. When he was younger, he was also depressed and mad with the world because poverty forced hard labor upon his family. He did eventually get through it and now loves life with a passion, without drugs and alcohol. Fun fact: Jim Carrey actually came through the St. Peters, Missouri area, where some kind folks helped him change a flat tire.

John Denver is a songwriter and singer, and he used his emotions and alcoholism to write some of the best country music of his time.

Diana Princess of Wales is the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry, and their father's first wife. Her struggles with depression led her to the eating disorder, bulimia nervosa.

Beethoven created and played music, despite the fact that he was deaf, which may have led to his depression.

Brian Wilson is an American musician best known as the lead songwriter, bassist, and singer of the American rock band, The Beach Boys. After some failure with his music, he spent three years in his bedroom sleeping, taking drugs, and overeating. New music reflected his depression and growing detachment from the world.

Billy Corgan is an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter. He was the vocalist and lead guitarist for alternative rock band, "The Smashing Pumpkins." Corgan now writes about his childhood abuse that he says he suffered from his father and stepmother, to his adult battle with depression and other demons.

Kurt Cobain is an American musician best known for his roles as lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the rock band Nirvana. Throughout most of his life, Cobain battled depression, chronic bronchitis, and chronic physical pain due to undiagnosed chronic stomach condition, in which he spent years trying to find its source. However, no doctor has been able to pinpoint its cause, guessing that it was the result of Cobain's childhood scoliosis or related to the stresses of performing.

Mike Wallace was an American journalist. He suffered from clinical depression. He once attempted suicide with an overdose of pills. He went public with his long standing fight against depression. He urges that if you suffer from depression to seek treatment.

Winston Churchill was a British politician. They say that his reduced mental capacity was the result of a series of strokes.

Kurt Cobain's cousin, Beverly Cobain, a registered nurse with experience as a mental health professional and author of a book. Kurt was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at a young age, then later with Bipolar Disorder.

Famous People with PTSD and other anxiety disorders

These anxiety disorders can be Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and many others.

Whoopi Goldberg is an American actress, comedian, and talk show host. She is required to travel quite a bit for her career, which was a huge problem for her. She developed PTSD when she saw two planes collide in mid air, when she was a child. She had a huge fear of planes because of this, and when she was required to get on a plane, she would have panic attacks. She tries to travel by land whenever she can. She has come out and has said she undergoes treatment for her disorder.

Singer Barbra Streisand had an incident at a concert where she forgot the lyrics to her own song, which developed an intense fear to singing in front of people, or being in the public eye in general. She felt humiliated and has had continued problems with PTSD that it caused her. She undergoes cognitive therapies to improve her fear, but has reportedly said that it is helping very little.

Singer Mick Jagger was diagnosed after his long time partner committed suicide.

Saturday Night Live comedian and impressionist Darrell Hammond was stabbed, beaten and given electrical shocks by his mother during his childhood, which led to self mutilations and hospitalizations throughout his life.

The First lady to President John F. Kennedy Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis developed PTSD after the assassination of JFK, fearing that she would be targeted as well.

Singer and song writer Alanis Morissette says her early experiences with fame caused her PTSD.

Singer Shania Twain's PTSD originated from her family living below the poverty line. After her parents died in a car accident, Shania was 22 years old, and she had to leave her singing career to raise her siblings.

Actress Charlize Theron's father was an alcoholic and he would often raise his hand to her and her mother. He would also threaten them with his rifle. She would often tell people that her father died in a car accident. When, in actuality, Charlize's mother killed her father in front of her eyes to protect herself and Charlize.

Actress Demi Moore came from alcoholic parents. She does not like to talk about her childhood in trying to forget all the pain in her childhood. Demi had to leave school at the age of 16 to help pay for the debt of her alcoholic mother and stepfather, who committed suicide.

Actor Keanu Reeves started an affair with a woman who later got pregnant. Keanu was excited about being a dad. They learned they were having a girl, who they planned to name Ava. However, a week before the birth, the baby girl died in the womb from umbilical vein thrombosis. The mother of Keanu's daughter went into a deep depression, and died in a car accident about a year after the baby's death. Keanu buried his wife next to the grave of their stillborn daughter.

Actor Tobey Maguire was in a movie to where people wonder if the actor has PTSD because he connected so well to the character, and has become a spokesperson for PTSD. In interviews Tobey Maguire has said: “People don’t like to talk about it because it’s like pulling back the curtain on another side of humanity,’’ he says. “The people who’ve gone through these things, there’s a different look in their eyes. They just know a different side of being a human. We can only imagine this stuff, but these people have been through terrible ordeals and have seen and lived through things that can change a person’s worldview.

Actor Johnny Depp - There are a number of theories as to why he developed PTSD. One is said to be a childhood injury, the other is said to be when a partner was killed, and he went into a mental breakdown and he couldn't handle it.

Talk Show host Oprah Winfrey was sexually abused when she was a child. She still continues to have symptoms of her anxiety disorder today.

Singer Sinead O'Connor was actually misdiagnosed with bipolar in her 30s, and found to have PTSD. Sinead O'Connor stated: “If people think that you have a mental illness, they take it as a license to dismiss everything you think, do, say, or feel.” It’s easy to write someone off as ‘just crazy’ instead of seeing them as a rational human being. Moving forward, she hopes that people will stop using the word “crazy” as an insult, so that those who are diagnosed with various mental disorders no longer have to suffer through the social stigma of being written off as somehow less important than others."

Actress Kim Basinger struggles with her anxiety disorder which began when she was a child, in the middle of a grocery store. Basinger suffers from social anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. Her condition was so severe when she was a child that her parents thought she had autism. She was tested for autism, along with many other psychiatric disorders, but her condition was not diagnosed. Basinger has been very public about her experiences with anxiety disorders. Basinger treats her condition, with psychotherapeutic methods. Although she feels the condition has improved, she still has some instances of panic.

Singer David Bowie came to terms with his addictions and depression that he had been hiding from for many years. He continued to make music, underwent counselling sessions and went on to make a full recovery until his death, even gaining custody of his son.

First Lady Barbara Bush fell into a depression when her husband was in the mist of his stint in the CIA, and the children were away at school. Barbara kept her condition to herself and did not seek medical care. The experience gave her the compassion and understanding of mental health issues. (Barbara and her husband, George Bush, lost a child to cancer.)

Athlete David Beckham is a real celebrity living with OCD. Beckham's obsession is order, specifically with pairs. He needs to have even numbers or he becomes very uncomfortable, and has been known to throw out or add to things in order to make sure they're an even number.

Actress/Singer Ashley Judd says this about herself being diagnosed with mental illness: "I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I just didn't know what was wrong with me, I looked really good on the outside, and I had a lot of anxiety, insomnia...I needed to find a power greater than myself..." (Ashley Judd had also gone through child abuse.)

Famous Personality Dick Clark conquered his mental illness.

Actress/Singer Cher on mental illness: "It is time to promote appropriate and accessible services for all those in need,” said Cher. She goes on to discuss the importance of talking about mental health problems, and not being afraid to tell someone about a potential problem."

Actress Sally Field, endured mental health issues when she was 19 years old, while starring in "The Flying Nun." Sally Field stated: "I was suffering so badly. I was so depressed. It was like a sword into your gut. It was the first time I felt the feeling. You feel some part of you just laid down and died. There's nothing quite as lonely in life as not even having contact with yourself,"

Singer Naomi Judd had Hepatitis C which took much out of her. She continues to struggle with depression, with the support of her younger daughter, actress Ashley Judd, who is in contact with her mother, Naomi Judd, and Ashley battles her own depression. Naomi Judd said she is proud of Ashley for dealing with her depression and becoming an activist.

Actress Nicole Kidman's take on mental illness: Many of us have had a sad or miserable day, but when those low feelings start interfering with daily life, depression might be the real culprit, Looking back at the tail end of her marriage with Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman suffered with depression. ‘I married [Tom] really fast and really young,’ she said. ‘Then when it didn’t work out, I had to really dig deep and find my way through depression.’Along with Kidman, Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie have also come forward with dealing with this mental health illness. Whether it’s support from family, professional counseling or medication. Help is out here.

Actress Heather Locklear's friends had noticed she just wasn’t as bright and cheery as usual, normal things took more effort. Things upset Heather more easily. She checked herself into a rehab center for depression and anxiety.

Performer Donny Osmond is outspoken about his experiences with Social Anxiety Disorder and is an honorary member of the board of directors for the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

Singer Bonnie Raitt's story is at the website below. Inspiration to continue to keep fighting.

Cartoonist Charles Schultz, as in the Peanuts comics, pre-war sadness stuck with him and he had feelings of failure which many of his cartoons depict. He was almost obsessive-compulsive with anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia with a fear of almost everything outside of his studio and drawing board. He hated to travel and speak, and did it rarely.

Anthony Hopkins

Emily Dickinson

Goldie Hawn

John Cougar Mellencamp

Eric Clapton

John Candy

Joan Rivers

Michael Jackson is used as an example by many therapists as having PTSD. As Michael was being told he was ugly, not only by family but by fans when he was a teenager, being burned in the 80s and having a skin disorder that changed his appearance very drastically (and before anyone brings up the skin bleaching theory, it has actually been confirmed from his autopsy that he really did have the disease he said he had), what that would be like for a human being I can only imagine.

Nicholas Cage

Roseanne Barr

Sigmund Freud

Ray Charles

Sir Isaac Newton

Winona Ryder

Daniel Tosh

Leann Rimes voluntarily went into an inpatient treatment facility to cope with anxiety and stress, and to learn and develop coping mechanisms.

Emma Stone is said to have a panic attack disorder. She had her first one in her youth. However, she now deals with them once in awhile, but has developed healthy coping skills to deal with them. She channels her feelings into her work.

Scarlett Johannsson often feels nervous on set before she starts filming a movie.


Carrie Underwood

Amanda Seyfried

Khalil Greene the shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, had been placed on the disabled list for Social Anxiety Disorder in 2009 and 2010. Greene was known for having a long-standing pattern of emotional difficulties and had already been in treatment for anxiety issues.

In conclusion

There are SO MANY disabled poverty stricken people. Or that could become poverty stricken, once their elderly family members depart. We all deserve the opportunity to take care of ourselves. Or, learn to assist in taking care of ourselves. However, most of us are not going to find these opportunities on our own. Increase the disables well being by giving them the opportunity to be a fixture in society. They (we) aren't contagious.

I mentioned before that Julia Roberts and her brother, Eric Roberts, BOTH had issues with stuttering early in their lives. Well, so did Bruce Willis, Tiger Woods, Jimmy Stewart and Samuel Jackson....There are lots more that have had these conditions before us, and there will be lots more that has these conditions that will come after us.

In fact, when I was in middle school, one of my friends had a stutter. She was made fun of on the school bus. I always got home pretty pissed off at the people that ridiculed my friends. It doesn't matter who you are, you are still human. You might be perfect now, but accidents still do happen.

Mia Hamm had a birth defect of a club foot. What did she do? She got that club foot fixed and became a two time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup winner.

No one can tell me that what is given to the disabled won't see that person try like hell to soar. If so many of the disabled found a way to keep going, shouldn't we make more opportunities for them to continue to do so? There are many out there that overcame and created their world. Given the opportunity, I am sure many more will do the same.

This isn't just coming from me because I work with the disabled or having friends with disabilities, or my having Epilepsy, some of these people collect disability and some that do not. This is coming from me because it is the right thing to do. It is simply the right thing to do to increase well being in everyone.

Below you will find a link to a website with an extensive list of famous people with mental disabilities.

How many of these actors that have mental health issues give back? Johnny Depp is seen at a Children's Hospital. Keanu Reeves gives his seat to a woman on the subway. Robin Williams had casting directors hire homeless people for roles in some of his movies. These are some of my favorite actors. They are endearing to their fans.

© 2016 Pathways thru life


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    • GARH608 profile imageAUTHOR

      Pathways thru life 

      3 years ago from Mid West

      How old is your daughter? I have actually worked with clients with Autism, Asperger's, Down Syndrome, learning disabilities, and both hearing and visually impaired.

    • Natasha Gruss profile image

      Natasha Gruss 

      3 years ago from Washington State

      It is so good to read about people with disabilities making it in the world. My daughter has Autism and reading about other peoples success gives me hope for her future. I struggle with my own mental health, yet articles like this gives me hope to succeed in my life as well.


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