Daryl Hannah has revealed her lifelong struggle with autism. The actress known for iconic roles in some of the 1980s classics — “Splash,” “Blade Runner,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Wall Street” — has become the new and surprising face of adults with autism.

Daryl Hannah

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So often we think of children with autism. But those children do grow up. Defying our preconceptions, adults with autism spectrum disorder, as it is formally known, can and do lead successful lives. The 52-year-old Daryl Hannah is known most recently for her role in “Kill Bill” as well as for her multiple arrests as she has gone out on the forefront of environmental causes including the fight against strip mining and the defense of urban farming. Such activism has become her passion and it is her arrests, not her red carpet appearances that make for headlines these days.

She revealed in an interview with People magazine, that she has her mother to thank for her public life both as actress and activist, as she says it was her mother who saved her from institutionalization, as she refused to follow recommendations.

And it was Daryl Hannah’s own love of the movies and personal ambition that led her to move to L.A. at age 17 to embark upon a film career. This despite what she called “debilitating shyness.” It was a shyness she said was so severe it led her to rock herself in isolation, and this, perhaps is what we think of when we think of autism, if we look back upon news reports of children unable to make eye contact or to communicate. What hope could there possibly be for them? This is what we are led to believe. But nonetheless she pursued her Hollywood dreams.

As they say, the rest is history. It’s just that we did not know the full story until now.

She told the magazine: “Acting for me was about going to the Land of Oz and meeting the Tin Man. It still is.” Yet it was not without struggle, as she spoke of her agony, saying,”I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention.” But we can understand why she has broken her silent on her struggle even as we sense the burden she must have felt, keeping such a secret. She says, reflectively, “It’s always freaked me out. I’ve learned a couple of things that really would’ve made my life easier if I’d known them 20 years ago.”

A search of famous people with autism or, its less severe form, Asperger syndrome, yields numerous lists populated with some surprising names. Much of such labeling is speculative, armchair diagnosing. Such public confessions as Daryl Hannah’s are still rare. In coming forward, she helps to de-stigmatize autism spectrum disorder and to defy our stereotypes.

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Photos: Daryl Hannah
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