In late July, actor Wentworth Miller of “Prison Break” and “Legends of Tomorrow” posted an image of a white square to Instagram, accompanied by the revelation that he had been formally diagnosed as autistic a year before.
“This isn’t something I’d change. No. I get — got — immediately [that] being autistic is central to who I am. To everything I’ve achieved/articulated,” Miller wrote.
Miller in many ways embodies our improved understanding, in recent years, of what autism can look like. For decades, autism in the public imagination has been associated with young white boys, due in large part to diagnostic criteria oriented around them — criteria that increase the likelihood their symptoms will be recognized and looked into early, relative to those of girls and people of color. Miller, in contrast, is a 49-year-old man from a multiracial background. He noted the frustration of the one-size-fits-all diagnostic process in his post, writing, “It was a long, flawed process in need of updating … I’m a middle-aged man. Not a 5-year-old.”
Even as he reached the height of professional sports, former NFL player Joe Barksdale always felt something wasn’t quite right.
Why was it so hard to interact with people? Why was it easier to be alone? Why was it so difficult to decipher emotions — his own and those of others?
Many of those questions were answered when he was diagnosed with autism at age 30.
Looking back at his childhood without a diagnosis, Barksdale said kids like him weren’t given the patience and understanding they needed.
The CDC estimates 2% of adults in the U.S., about 5.4 million, are living with autism spectrum disorder.
Barksdale said he’s one of them. After playing football for the Los Angeles Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams, he's now pursuing a career in music and stand-up comedy.
Joe Barksdale: There’s an autism specialist in Southern California that my therapist referred me to. There were extensive interviews and also assessment tests in that process. I was diagnosed as high functioning autistic.