There are also pretty good arguments against overpromoting autistic traits in famous people. For example, it has been suggested that positive stereotypes are as bad as negative ones.
The rest of the arguments are not that good and are themselves based on stereotypes, e.g. autistics don't marry, autistics can't ever be successful, etc.
Then there's this odd one (or is it funny?) that I came across:
Einstein was regarded as having a good sense of humour - a trait not seen in people with severe Asperger's.It appears that this argument has caught on, as it has been paraphrased all over the internet (e.g. here, here and here).
First off, is this "Severe Asperger's" an official classification? How is it defined? Isn't that what one normally calls, you know, "autism"?
Is the author of the argument saying that Albert Einstein had "mild" Asperger's instead? It could be interpreted that way I guess.
Now, is the claim true at all? What is the evidence? I did some research.
There appears to be limited evidence that autistics don't perform as well as non-autistics in tasks related to understanding humor. For example, Emerich et al. (2003) found that HFA adolescents had significantly poorer performance than controls in comprehension of cartoons and jokes.
There's always a possibility that these sorts of results can be explained as part of a language comprehension impairment. In fact, let me make a suggestion to autism researchers: If you ever find that autistics don't perform as well as non-autistics in some test, be it a Sally-Ann (ToM) test or a Weschler intelligence test, consider the possibility that it is due to a language comprehension impairment. But I digress.
Is there any evidence that autistics cannot produce humor? Very little as far as I can tell. There's only one PubMed-indexed study that I could find that might remotely support that conclusion. St James & Tager-Flusberg (1994) is a study involving 6 autistic children and 6 language-matched Down syndrome controls. They found that the only jokes in the study were told by 2 of the children with Down's.
That's not much to go on. Now let's see if there's evidence in the opposite direction.
Van Bourgondien & Mesibov (1987) examined humor used in a group of autistic adults. The study demonstrated that autistics "enjoy a wide range of jokes and that humor seems to enrich their lives."
Werth et al. (2001) is a case report of Grace, an HFA woman who the authors believe is "unusual" because she produces a good deal of humorous and creative word play. (Researchers are not immune to stereotypes, obviously).
Lyons & Fitzgerald (2004) also challenges assumptions about lack of humor in autism.
At the risk of naming more famous people as examples, consider that comedian Dan Aykroyd has stated he has Asperger's (source). Other comedians suspected of being Asperger autistics include Andy Kaufman and Woody Allen. That doesn't seem far-fetched to me.
While there is not a lot of research on the matter, the claim that humor is not seen in people with "Severe Asperger's" is clearly unsubstantiated.