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Jerry Seinfeld says he may have autism spectrum disorder

Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Williams talk 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'

On Nov. 5, 2014, Jerry Seinfeld sat down with Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News to talk about the new season of his web series, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." (Credit: NBC)

Jerry Seinfeld -- during a "Nightly News with Brian Williams" piece on the return of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" on Thursday's edition -- said he likely has autism spectrum disorder,  a broad term that essentially means he has problems --  or "deficits," to borrow the preferred clinical term  -- with social interactions.

Here's the clip, but the full piece last night did in fact bury the lead: At the very close, Seinfeld said had recognized a disorder in himself that millions of parents may well be worrying about in their children at this moment -- or perhaps in themselves. Unfortunately, Williams didn't  pursue the line of questioning.

"I think, on a very drawn-out scale, I think I’m on the spectrum,” Seinfeld said. “You know, never paying attention to the right things. Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I’m very literal, when people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying. But I don’t see it as dysfunctional. I just think of it as an alternate mindset.”

 Among many charities, Seinfeld has been a longtime supporter of Autism Speaks -- an organization launched by Suzanne and Bob Wright (the former CEO of NBCUniversal), to bring awareness to the disorder. (Upon founding, the organization noted that one in 166 children was affected, while one out of 104 boys was affected.)

Seinfeld has performed  at "Austism Speaks" concerts over the years, and before the first one, nearly a decade ago, offered this statment: "I became aware of autism through some friends who are dealing with it and it is heartbreaking. I wanted to do something to help address this problem and decided to do a show to raise funds for research. I was very impressed with the great work of Autism Speaks. I am happy to join forces with them and Bob and Suzanne Wright to help raise awareness of this prevalent issue."

  "Austism" -- according to the National Institute of Mental Health -- is no longer referred to simply by the word, which in the culture at large has tended to denote children who may be non-communicative or socially impaired in other ways, but is now considered a "spectrum" disorder, meaning there is a wide range of symptons, of varying severity. ("Asperger's syndrome," for example, now falls into this broad catch-all term.)      

The NIMH breaks down the disorder into two key categories, while noting symptoms in two others:  

- "Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts;

- "Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities;

- "Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (typically recognized in the first two years of life);

- "Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning."

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