Ex-Ballplayer's Wife Diagnoses Steven Spielberg with Asperger's Syndrome


Hoo boy. Let's hear it for Shonda Schilling, wife of three-time World Series champion and future Hall of Fame pitcher Curt Schilling, who joined her husband last weekend on NPR to promote their new book The Best Kind of Different: Our Family's Journey with Asperger's Syndrome. The Schillings are parents of a 10-year-old son, Grant, who was diagnosed with the disorder when he was 6. Which, as Mrs. Schilling noted last week on the air, places the young man in the company of such high-functioning autistics as Steven Spielberg. Wow! Who knew? Well, nobody, in fact -- because it's not true.

NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon had either a pretty small or pretty credulous audience last Saturday, when nobody bothered to challenge the following exchange after it took place:

SIMON: I don't want us to lose sight of the fact that, well, according to scholarly reports, it's possible that Einstein, Ben Franklin, Napoleon, Lincoln, Harry Truman might've all had Asperger's Syndrome.

Ms. SCHILLING: Well, Steven Spielberg has Asperger's.

Mr. SCHILLING: Yeah. It's one of the things, I think, that we both talked about when the diagnosis was handed to us and we started to really understand what it was. Puzzle pieces just kind of fell into place. You know, those temper tantrums in the grocery store.

Oh, of course. You know, those big-budget bombs like 1941, those weird diversions like Hook or Always... they had to have explanations along the autism spectrum or somewhere in the filmmaker's neurology. Once treated, we got Schindler's List, right? Anyone?

Well, no. Apparently this is a wild Internet rumor that's been going around for a few years. Mrs. Schilling appears to have bought in. Anne Thompson, though? Not so much; she reached out to Spielberg's people, who came back with a straight denial. Orlando Sentinel film critic Roger Moore expressed a little more frustration with Simon for not challenging Schilling's assertion at the time; in fact, the only follow-up Simon posted at all was his tweet, "Boy, I liked Curt and Shonda Schilling. Seem very genuine and committed to the right things--a perspective that must be hard in majors[...]"

I don't doubt it, but come on. "Steven Spielberg has Asperger's." Not very genuine.

· Curt Schilling's Son 'The Best Kind of Different' [NPR]

· Spielberg Does Not Have Asperger's Syndrome [TOH]


  • SunnydaZe says:

    "I'm an excellent director. Dad used to let me direct in the drive-way."

  • Dimo says:

    Oh you.

  • FrancoisTrueFaux says:

    Now I bet Dan Harmon wished he bit his tongue.

  • Spielberg Fan says:

    I am a person with Asperger's syndrome, and personally, I think Spielberg has it too, and I even think people like Tarantino have it as well. What people have to remember is that autism is on a spectrum disorder, meaning that there are different kinds of functioning autism. There's high functioning, meaning you can see people walking down the street or in working areas and you wouldn't know that they had autism or Asperger's at all. But there are lower functioning forms, which are the severe kinds that need things like a self-contained environment because of their sensory.
    Looking back on Spielberg's life, there are traits that are similar to Asperger's. Like his stem, which was movies, the same as me. Sometimes, people with Asperger's have a stem, which they tend to obsess over. A great example of this is the film "Adam" which talks about someone with Asperger's syndrome, and his stem is outer space. Also, Spielberg say things that no one else saw. His interpretations of certain information was different from everyone else. Now, saying that, you might think, "Well, everyone is like that." Not true. Sometimes, people with Asperger's have a harder time learning these things, which is partially why Spielberg didn't do well in school when he was young.
    Tarantino had traits that were very similar to mine. He would memorize certain things about movies, and when he had no interest in things, he couldn't feign interest. He quit high school at 16, even though I didn't.
    All in all, understanding Asperger's and autism makes it a lot easier to determine who has it and who doesn't, which is why Shonda Schilling is able to "diagnose" Spielberg with Asperger's.

  • Hayley says:

    It seems more to me that the author of this blog has a much poorer understanding of Asperger's (a demarcation for a form of high functioning autism that is being done away with in the next DSM-V) than Shonda Schilling and is contributing more to false and invalid stereotypes of Asperger's Syndrome than making a valid point about good journalism.
    Should she be challenged by the host on her assertion? Yes.
    Could Stephen Speilberg be an undiagnosed Aspie and still have successfully written and directed films? YES.
    To assert that it is 'ridiculous' and 'hilarious' that Speilberg could be both on the spectrum and a great success is more than ridiculous ... it is offensive.
    The problem with Asperger's and why it is being done away with is because no two people are alike, and it is hardly a disease or syndrome but a personality type, a way of thinking, another way for people to be different in thousands of different positive or challenging ways. While some have seriously troubles verbally, with empathy or physically with sensory overload, others are quirky, visual thinkers, and extremely passionate about what they love.
    If someone is born with the right cocktail of Asperger-traits of talents and interests coupled with respect, support and a little luck they could easily be the next Steven Speilberg. Or better.

  • BGL says:

    I will believe it when I hear Mr. Spielberg say it. However I will say this. I am the mother of an Aspie; that's what a child with Aspergers is called in short. That particular syndrome has a wide spectrum of symptoms. That's what makes it hard to diagnose. Furthermore, like another poster said, it's not really a disease but a personality thing. It is entirely possible that Mr. Spielberg could be an Aspie, but he would be a 'high-functioning' one. There are a lot of Aspies that are just quirky and very focused on one particular thing that they love. That might explain his being so good at films. I don't think that Mrs. Schilling should talk about something she does not know about for sure. It's very disrespectful and she could be wrong. But on the topic of the possibility of Mr. Spielberg having Asperger's Syndrome; yes it is possible.

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