After watching Chris Packham’s story on Tuesday night on BBC2 about living with Asperger’s, the phrase that has stuck with me all day is “we don’t need to cure autism, but we need to re-engineer society”.
It was such an inspiring programme. Chris wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was in his 40s and the issue of “not knowing” why he wasn’t like anyone else nearly killed him. His uneasiness around people contrasted dramatically with his ease of being around animals and nature. His encyclopaedic brain contains an unmatched bank of knowledge on nature and wildlife, perfect for his TV presenter/broadcaster role, but he’s had to work so hard at learning to live alongside people.
Asperger’s is a form of autism and as many as 1 in 100 people may be on the autism spectrum. Chris pointed out that a very low percentage of people living with Asperger’s was in full time employment.
Why is this the case? I’ve always felt it is so wrong to judge people and that there is always a reason for acting in a certain way. If we were all the same, life would be very boring. But for someone on the autism spectrum, life can be a very scary place, due to potential social and communication difficulties, sensory overload and not fitting in.
When it comes to society’s attitudes, I do think we live in a much more open and accepting world than when I was growing up, but a lot more needs to be done. I’m not sure what the answer is, but programmes like this are one step closer to raising awareness and normalising the differences we all face.