It doesn’t matter how old you are! Children, teens and adults, want heroes, someone to look up to. Many heroes have had challenges. Some of the challenges are physical while others may be mental or emotional. Since this month is Autism Awareness Month, I chose to focus on heroes who have/had challenges but overcame them or used them to do great things in their lives.

The list is small for this article and covers all eight areas of smart/strength. I list many more heroes with and without challenges in my books, Hey! All Kids Are Smart and Ladies, What Shoe Are You.  Read about these heroes on your own, learn what their life story is and how they accomplished things in their lives.

I promise, they will empower you to believe in yourself! These heroes are provided to inspire you. Who knows, one day you may be someone else’s hero.

Each area of smart/strength is represented.

WORD Smart/Strong

*Helen Keller was deaf and blind but her challenges didn’t stop her. She was an American author and published twelve novels. She was a political activist and a lecturer. Helen was also the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

*Jay Leno is an American comedian, writer, producer, actor and television host. He hosted NBC’s Tonight Show for twenty-two years. He also has dyslexia.

LOGIC Smart/Strong

*Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science, an author, speaker and producer.  She is well known for being one of the first individuals with autism to share her personal experiences of autism. She is also the inventor of the “hug box”, which is a device that helps calm individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

*Albert Einstein was a German-born physicist most famous for his theory of relativity. Most people don’t know that he also played the violin and piano. As a child, Einstein did poorly in school due to a learning disability. Some believe that if he were born today, he would be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism.

MUSIC Smart/Strong

*Susan Boyle is a Scottish singer. She became world famous after she appeared on the TV program, Britain’s Got Talent. In 2012 she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

*Prince Rogers Nelson is widely known as the singer-songwriter “Prince.” He is also a multi-instrumentalist and actor. He battled epilepsy as a child.

PICTURE Smart/Strong

*Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter. She is widely known for her self-portraits. At the age of six she contracted polio causing her right leg to be thinner than her left. As a teenager she was in a vehicle accident. The accident left her in a body cast and with a lifetime of health problems. She took up painting to occupy her time.

*Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, writer, musician, inventor and mathematician. He was dyslexic and wrote many of his notes backwards.

NATURE Smart/Strong

*Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer. She survived a shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off. After overcoming the injury, she returned to professional surfing.

*John Wesley Powell was an American explorer, geologist, Civil War soldier, and college professor. He was struck by a bullet; more than half of his right arm had to be amputated. His exploration parties down the Green and Colorado Rivers created the first known passage through the Grand Canyon and maps for future explorers.

BODY Smart/Strong

*Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of the Girls Scouts. She had a hearing impairment due to multiple injuries to her ears during her childhood.

*Michael Phelps is an American swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time, with twenty-two medals.  He was diagnosed at the age of nine with ADHD.

PEOPLE Smart/Strong

*Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani teenage school girl and global education activist especially for girls. At the age of fourteen, she was shot in the head by the Taliban while riding a school bus. After many surgeries, she survived the attack and continues to speak out on the importance of education.

*Christopher Reeve was an actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author, and activist. He is widely known for his portrayal of Superman in the DC Comic’s 1978 film. He became a quadriplegic after he was thrown by his horse during an equestrian competition. He didn’t let the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair and needed a breathing apparatus stop him from lobbying Congress on behalf of people with spinal-cord injuries.

SELF Smart/Strong

*Linda Bove is an actress. She played, Linda the Librarian, on PBS’s children’s program Sesame Street for over thirty years. She was born deaf, and both of her parents are deaf.

*Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was the 32nd president of the United States. At the age of thirty-nine he contracted the disease polio, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. He refused to accept that he was permanently paralyzed. He was fifty-one years old when he became president of the United States. He is the only U.S. president to be elected for four terms.