Inspirational & Famous People with Developmental Disabilities (Part Two)

Mar 17, 2011
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March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and this is part two of celebrating people who didn’t let the label of having a developmental disability hold them back.

According to the CDC, hearing loss is a development disability. The man who invented many wonderful devices like the light bulb and the phonograph was considered to have a hearing impairment. You’ve probably heard of him . . . Thomas Edison. Another very talented person who didn’t allow a hearing impairment to stop his greatness was the famous German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

Olympic record-breaking swimmer Michael Phelps was diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but Phelps is in the history books as one of the world’s best swimmers. Actress Tracy Goldstein who played Carol Seavers on Family Ties had both attention deficit disorder as well as anorexia.

Epilepsy is also considered a developmental disability. New York State OPWDD writes, “Epilepsy applies to numerous nervous system disorders that result in abnormal electrical discharges of brain cells. This produces seizures that may cause convulsive movements, or partial or total loss of consciousness.”

Nowadays, medicine can mostly help control epilepsy. But that wasn’t always the case, such as with the people listed below.

Greek philosopher Socrates believed philosophy was a necessary pursuit of all intelligent men. He influenced the way man thinks and taught Plato. Socrates had epilepsy and so did Aristole. Arab prophet Mohammed (Mahomet Muhammad) had epilepsy but still founded Islam and wrote The Koran. So did Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), the great Indian philosopher and founder of Buddhism. Yet Buddha searched for a solution to human suffering and was also known as the Enlightened One. The Apostle and Biblical figure, St. Paul helped found the Christian religion despite having epilepsy. The 4th President of the United States, James Madison, helped draft the Bill of Rights; epilepsy didn’t stop him.

One of the world’s greatest artists of all time, Michaelangelo had epilepsy and so did Lord Byron, one of the most colorful English poets had epilepsy. As did Lord Alfred Tennyson, who was one of the most famous poets of the Victorian Age. Author and poet Edgar Allan Poe had epilepsy as well. Famous Russian composer of the Nutcracker Suite and Swan Lake, Peter Tchaikovsky had epilepsy. Although he wasn’t recognized as a famous artist until after his death, Vincent Van Gogh had both epilepsy and a psychiatric disorder. Epilepsy didn’t stop Napoleon Bonaparte from crowning himself as French Emperor and is thought to be one of the greatest generals of all time. Sir Issac Newton had epilepsy but developed calculus and the law of gravity.

Actor Danny Glover didn’t let epilepsy or a learning disability hold him back from success. Singer and songwriter Neil Young has epilepsy, as did American comedian Bud Abbott of Abbott and Costello. So did thousands of more people, hundreds of which became famous despite the developmental disability of epilepsy.

We could list out people with autism like American baseball pitcher for the Dodgers Carl Erskine; people who with hearing and visual impairments, like Helen Keller or Stevie Wonder. Or famous people who overcame a debilitating stutter like Bruce Willis. There are hundreds of well-known people who have beat the odds despite having a developmental disability. There are so many developmental disabilities  but for now, hopefully you are somewhat more aware than you were before National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Image Credit: foxspain

Author: Tessa