On November 6, comedian Jerry Seinfeld was interviewed by Brian Williams for the NBC Nightly News. The observational comic was there to promote his comedy web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The 60-year-old also revealed during the course of the interview that he believes that he’s slightly autistic. “I think on a very drawn-out scale, I’m on the spectrum,” he said in the interview.
“Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I’m very literal,” Seinfeld added. “When people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying. I don’t see it as dysfunctional; I see it as an alternate mindset.”
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 7, 2014
Autism advocates have applauded Seinfeld for talking about the matter on national TV. “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,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Advocacy Network.
However, Wendy Fournier, who is a founding member and president of the National Autistic Association, revealed her concerns over Seinfeld’s statements. “What many people don’t understand is that on that lower-functioning end of the spectrum, we have individuals who are suffering and whose lives are at risk. Autism is not a designer diagnosis,” Fournier said.
Dr. Michael Rosenthal, a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, has expressed his doubts on whether or not Seinfeld actually belongs in the autism spectrum. According to Rosenthal, the symptoms that Seinfeld has talked about “are things that exist in a lot of people who don’t necessarily have an autism spectrum disorder.”
He added, “Autism is a spectrum and human behavior is a spectrum as well.”