Evidence of a Condition that Guided His Beliefs, Behavior, and Personal Associations
“Thank you, Mr. Ledgin. Your book turned my son’s life around.”
That statement multiplied a hundred-fold greeted Norm at publisher-sponsored conferences from Boise to Biloxi. Often he appeared on programs with Temple Grandin to explain the ways in which our third president exhibited countless traits of what we now call Asperger’s Syndrome.
This carefully researched work, footnoted to back up Norm’s claims, was a top-ten Amazon bestseller among approximately 700 Jefferson biographies for two years beyond its publication
in 2000. Dr. Grandin had signed on for published comments when he poured details into an appendix showing the range of Jefferson’s genius.
Significantly, Norm corroborated Temple’s earlier thesis that people diagnosed with Asperger’s are capable of special talents arising from neurologically based fixations. Other writers credited him with opening eyes to the positive side of the condition.
His work was the result of observing the quirks of diagnosed young people and matching those eccentricities with Jefferson’s. For years historians and biographers had been sprinkling mentions of them anecdotally into their works. Norm decided to gather the described idiosyncrasies and stand them beside characteristics of high-end autism.
During the kerfuffle that followed DNA testing for Jefferson’s liaison with Sally Hemings, a Thomas Jefferson Foundation official, Dianne Swann-Wright, appeared on NBC’s Today, January 27, 2000, and observed, “There was a personal side of Thomas Jefferson that many of us just simply haven’t been able to understand.” Knowing his book would be out soon to address that issue, Norm whispered, “Bingo.”
Diagnosing Jefferson has proved to be the turning point in how the world views autism.