Over 25 million people worldwide have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, which can vary from a range of diagnosis within autism. On Tuesday 17 October 2017, there was a documentary shown on BBC Two about naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
This is something very personal and close to my heart, knowing that I have the same autistic spectrum diagnosis as him. When there was a documentary about Asperger’s, I immediately jumped at the chance to learn about how Asperger’s shapes the person Chris is today.
It’s not hard to learn that Chris is fascinated by the natural world which is prevalent throughout the documentary when he is with his dogs. What struck me was that he lives isolated in a cottage in the New Forest in Southern England, away from the hustle and bustle of people which explains his love for wildlife.
Bullying and not fitting into society were the biggest themes throughout the documentary. Asperger’s Syndrome was not as widely known in the 20th Century compared to now. Chris was brutally honest in his in-depth analysis of the struggles he faced in education. His kestrel dying and multiple suicide attempts show how vulnerable Aspies can be when their obsessions can be taken away unexpectedly.
There is also a section on autism treatment in the United States and how there are trialling cures to cure autism through electromagnets, as well as Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) in specialist educational institutions. Chris rejects any cures for autism which is unsurprising because I would do exactly the same thing because curing Asperger’s takes away the traits and obsessions that makes us who we are.
Having Asperger’s has given Chris many positive traits which have helped him view the world from a different perspective. Technology companies in Silicon Valley in California have benefited from having people with autistic spectrum traits such as NASA, Microsoft and Apple for example. The employment rate for people in full-time paid employment on the autistic spectrum in the UK is at 16% according to the National Autistic Society.
What “Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me” has shown is no matter how many struggles we face, the most important thing is to be true to yourself and accept that Aspies are different. It’s a lesson I have learned my entire life and crucially has helped me and Chris become the people we are today.
Feature Image credited to The Mirror.