Autism Wiki

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 - July 4, 1826) was an American Founding Father and the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809.[1] Some of his major accomplishments include being the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, writing the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and founding the University of Virginia.[2] He, along with James Madison, organized the now-defunct Democratic-Republican party.

Jefferson served as the second Minister to France before becoming the first Secretary of the State (under George Washington), the second Vice President (under John Adams), and the third President. His accomplishments as President include the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expeditions, defeating the Barbary pirates, and abolishing the international slave trade.[3] Jefferson was a polymath and also worked in other areas such as science, invention, philosophy, architecture, and music. He continues to be one of the most popular and well-known American Presidents, and is featured on the nickel and American 2 dollar bill.


While reading biographies on Thomas Jefferson, Norm Ledgin noticed that his son Fred, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, shared many similarities with the late President. Eventually, Ledgin decided to write a book about it.[4] In the book, Ledgin argued that Jefferson met five of the thirteen diagnostic criteria (the minimum for a diagnosis is four) required for an Asperger's diagnosis according to the DSM-IV.[5] Temple Grandin, various Autism experts (including Tony Attwood), and various historians have agreed with Ledgin's claim, saying that it has validity.[6][7]

Jefferson was often considered shy and socially awkward by his contemporaries.[1][8] He was also regarded as an eccentric.[9] His mannerisms were said to be very awkward and odd, and he was even described as having an unusual sitting position.[10] He also struggled with eye contact, which his political rivals have attacked him for and believed it to be proof that he was a dishonest man.[11] Alexander Hamilton, one of his major rivals, once described Jefferson as apparently being expressionless.[12]

Jefferson had a very unusual choice of clothes, and Jefferson himself even said that he didn't care much about his clothing and preferred to dress for comfort rather than for appearance.[13] Jefferson was also particularly fond of mockingbirds and kept them as pets.[14] He would sometimes even take them to meetings, possibly to calm himself when making social interactions.[6] He was also frequently described singing or humming to himself.[15]

Jefferson was known to have speech impediments, such as stuttering.[16] His voice was described as being weak and high-pitched, and he was unable to talk louder than normal speaking voice. If he tried to yell, his voice would become inarticulate.[17] The only public speeches he ever gave during his presidency were his inauguration speeches, and he was said to be almost inaudible. This is why he strongly preferred writing over speaking, as he was somewhat self-conscious of his voice.[8][18] It has also been suggested that he was dyslexic[19] and had OCD[20]; both of these conditions are commonly comorbid with Autism. Jefferson suffered from frequent headaches. Ledgin speculated that these were migraines, which have a positive correlation with Autism.[21]

Jefferson spent decades obsessively designing and redesigning Monticello.[22] Jefferson had very specific routines. He would take meticulous notes of virtually everything.[20] One example of this was how he spent over 50 years recording his weather observations in detail.[23] Jefferson also used an odometer to calculate the distance he traveled by carriage and figured out how to calculate the number of times the wheels rotated each mile.[24][25] Ledgin suggested that his note-taking habits were the main reason why he died in debt, as he was terrible with money management.[26] Another example of his routines was his habit of soaking his feet in icy water every morning. Jefferson believed this prevented him from getting sick, but there was no actual evidence that it actually prevented sickness.[27]

Shadwell, Jefferson's childhood home, was burned down in a fire.[28] Because of this, it cannot be known if he exhibited any of the early symptoms of Autism. But according to oral tradition, by the time he was five he read all of his father's books.[29]

Studies suggest that Autism is family-related. According to Ledgin, Jefferson likely got Autism from his mother's side of the family, the Randolphs.[30] Ledgin described other Randolphs with similarly Autistic traits. John Randolph, Jefferson's second cousin, was described as having many eccentricities.[31] Elizabeth Jefferson, one of Thomas Jefferson's younger sisters, was said to have an intellectual or developmental disability according to oral tradition.[32] Ledgin suggests the possibility that she was also Autistic, albeit more lower-functioning.[33] Ledgin's hypothesis was partially confirmed when Vaughn Whitney, Thomas Jefferson's first cousin seven times removed, contacted Ledgin and informed him that he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome the year before. Whitney said that some of his family members have similar traits and are most likely undiagnosed Autistic people.[34]


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