Chris Packham, 59, was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism that can affect the way a person communicates, in his late 40s. The naturalist revealed his daily struggle with the condition for the first time in 2017.
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In a BBC Two documentary titled Chris Packham Aspergers And Me criticised experts trying to cure autism claiming he wouldn’t have succeeded without the condition.
Travelling to the US to visit clinics and educational programmes which claim to be able to treat the condition, the presenter said he troubled to see the positive sides of autism were often ignored.
He said: “There is no doubt at all in my mind that a great number of people in the past that have led advances in our civilisation have had autistic traits.
“We have to see this breadth of neurological difference as extremely advantageous to our species. There are many aspects of Asperger’s which are enormously positive.
“I don’t like the idea of comparing autism to a cancer that requires a sort of educational chemotherapy.
“These charlatans and sharks circling round a vulnerable group of people throwing random science at it and then peddling it like snake oil over the fence. We found it quite disturbing.”
In the documentary, Chris revealed he’d always battled to communicate with humans, revealing he prefers the company of animals.
He also detailed how he had to develop a range of coping mechanisms to allow him to work as a television presenter, including learning to look people in the eye and suppressing urges to make inappropriate or unprofessional comments.
But Chris claimed Asperger’s has allowed him to acquire an encyclopaedia knowledge of the natural world.
He said: “I’ve spent 30 years on the telly trying my best to act normal, when really I am anything but.
“At times it’s been immensely difficult. I suspect many people find me a bit weird which is one of the reasons why I choose to live all on my own in the middle of the woods.
“I don’t have the need for that social contact at all. Very obviously I prefer animals to humans.
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“30 years on managing my autism on national television still requires an enormous effort.
“Sometimes I fail, I do just go off on one. But I realise now there is no way I could do my job without Asperger’s.
“What I do in terms of making programmes is afforded to me because of my neurological differences.
“Being able to see with things with perhaps a greater clarity, being able to see the world in a very visual way.”
Asperger’s syndrome symptoms
According to Autism Speaks, the condition generally involves:
- Difficulty with social interactions
- Restricted interests
- Desire for sameness
- Distinctive strengths
Strengths can include:
- Remarkable focus and persistence
- Aptitude for recognising patterns
- Attention to detail
Challenges can include:
- Hypersensitivities (to lights, sounds, tastes, etc.)
- Difficulty with the give and take of conversation
- Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills (distance, loudness, tone, etc.)
- Uncoordinated movements, or clumsiness
- Anxiety and depression
These symptoms can widely vary among people.
If you suspect any of these symptoms, contact your GP.
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