Packham: Asperger’s and Me
recently watched a brilliant documentary about the great Chris Packham - the
naturalist and wildlife presenter.
have long been a fan of his since he first appeared on our screens as
the punky young upstart, co-presenting The Really Wild Show in the
was fascinated with his quirky sartorial and presenting styles, and impressed
with his passion for the natural world.
he became a presenter of Springwatch, delighting a slightly older audience with
his love for the wild world residing on our own doorsteps. He was, and still
is, an engaging, funny and slightly cheeky presenter. There was even one series
in which he delighted fans of The Smiths by dropping song titles of theirs into
his dialogue wherever possible. bit.ly/packhamsmiths
the film Chris Packham: Asperger’s and
Me, Packham revealed that he didn’t receive his diagnosis until he reached
his 40s. He painted a picture of a lonely childhood of exclusion and isolation,
defined by the feeling that his brain worked differently from other kids’, and
by a constant struggle to control and hide his autistic traits.
also acknowledged that his idiosyncrasies and his obsessive, encyclopaedic knowledge
of the natural world helped him to become the success he is today. His ability
to experience the world around him with an intense clarity that few others can
has undoubtedly furthered his career.
big question raised in the film is whether he would choose to be ‘cured’ of his
Asperger's if possible. He travelled to the US to see an innovative treatment
called 'Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation' in which the brain is altered
through repeated exposure to electromagnetic waves. Proponents of this therapy,
which has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of autism, claim that
it can modify autistic behaviour.
therapy reminded me of a scene from A
Clockwork Orange; and when Chris pondered whether he would personally
undertake TMS in an attempt to change his own brain, the answer was an
emphatic, 'Not a chance'.
in the US, he also visited Silicon Valley, where many tech companies are
breaking down the barriers placed in front of autistic people in an attempt to
tap into their unique talents—with amazing results. Techniques including longer
interview processes and work environments that are shaped to meet the needs of
the individual have been extremely successful.
approaches like these support Chris’s view that trying to force autistic people
to adapt to society’s view of ‘normal’, rather than adapting our approach to
embrace and understand people with autism, means that society misses out on the
opportunity to benefit from their unique world views.
all, history is rich with examples of extraordinary thinkers who are now widely
accepted to have been on the autistic spectrum, including such luminaries as
Einstein, Newton and Darwin. Did these gifted people just happen to live with
the condition, or was their unique experience of the world the fire that
fuelled their genius?
a world where people are actively encouraged to ‘think differently’, perhaps
it’s time to take a closer look at people who actually do.
If you would like to to get in touch with Arron, please contact him on ArronOHare@LEC.London. Or to find out more about LEC, OPEN Health's brand communications company, visit their website: https://www.lec-health.com/.