A transport magnate revealed on national television that he suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder.
Elon Musk hosted NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) program on May 8 and openly admitted he experiences significant challenges in social interaction and nonverbal communication because he is autistic.
“I am actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s [syndrome] to host SNL, or at least the first to admit it,” the Tesla founding chief executive said in a video shared on YouTube.
Musk explained he finds it difficult to express emotion in spoken English and often has to describe his feelings verbally.
“It is an honor to be hosting SNL, I mean that—sometimes, after I say something, I have to say I mean that so people really know that I mean it,” he can be heard saying. “That is because I do not always have a lot of intonational variation in how I speak.”
However, the technology billionaire has learned to embrace his disadvantages and focus on the positive side of life.
“I am told [my condition] makes for great comedy,” he joked. “So we will make a lot of eye-contact with the cast tonight but, normally, I am pretty good at running human in ’emulation mode.'”
Supporters applauded his courage to speak out about struggling with Asperger’s because not every autistic American is unemployed and dependent on welfare checks to survive.
“I think the bigger point is that autistic people have a higher unemployment rate than a lot of other people with disabilities,” Eric Garcia, who authored the upcoming novel “We’re Not Broken,” told Newsweek. “They have trouble not just getting jobs but retaining jobs. They have trouble also moving up in companies.”
Fellow author Steve Silberman hopes Musk can help other autistic people achieve their full potential in life.
“I am glad that Musk is proud enough of who he is as an autistic person to announce it on TV but, the bottom line is, what kinds of support and accommodations he offers to the other folks on the spectrum who work at his companies,” said Silberman, who wrote the bestselling book “NeuroTribes.”
Neurodiversity advocate Peter Fox cited MarketWatch data that shows 85 percent of autistic college graduates are unemployed, compared to the national average jobless rate of 4.5 percent. He also revealed 42 percent of autistic adults in their early 20s were never offered paid work, and the figure is even lower for Black and Hispanic autistic youth.
“Musk’s casual mention of autism in his monologue often reflects a larger societal change in how culture views minority identities,” Fox said in an opinion article published by Newsweek. “However, his declaration is accompanied by a sense of social duty.”
Twitter Inc. responded to Musk’s announcement by dismissing any suggestion he was the first Asperger’s patient to host SNL. The social media giant claimed that Hollywood actor Dan Aykroyd was the first autistic person to host the television show back in 2003.
Despite Twitter’s rejection, Musk’s declaration is still noteworthy since he is one of the world’s richest men and arguably a pop culture icon.
“Whatever one makes of his controversial persona, it is affirming to see someone so accomplished proudly share he is on the spectrum when for so long, that has been considered an unspeakable thing,” Fox said. “When he made his statement and received applause, it was nice to see … [and] many people admire the billionaire, and it is exciting that he has admitted that he is a member of the autism community.”