Last night I watched a moving, honest and fascinating documentary on Asperger’s Syndrome.
I have taught many children with Asperger’s & varying forms of Autism in my former life as a Deputy Head & Class teacher for 25 years. Here is a wonderful insight into the world of a person on the spectrum and also a wonderful positive way to see how their gifts can serve the world.
“My name is Chris Packham. What you probably don’t know about me, because I’ve been hiding it most of my life, is that my brain is different than yours because I’m autistic. I’ve spent 30 years on the telly, trying my best to act normal, when really I’m anything but.”
So went the presenter’s plain-spoken introduction to powerful, impassioned film Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me (BBC Two). The much-loved naturalist wasn’t diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger Syndrome until his forties but, as he explained with admirable candour, his condition has defined his entire life.
He fought it for years, determined not to be different. With painful honesty, Packham reflected on the struggles of his youth in Sixties Southampton, when he was bullied but found solace in his obsession with wildlife. He collected fox skulls, licked beetles (in case you’re wondering, they “tasted like a dirty old sixpence”) and ate live tadpoles (“little blobs of earthy semolina”).
Packham had a poetically evocative way with words. In an affecting sequence reminiscent of the 1969 film Kes, he recalled taking a kestrel chick from its nest, hand-rearing and flying it: “It was some sort of mental love missile. I just lit the touchpaper and fired myself into it. It sparkled, exploded and was totally beautiful.” When the bird died six months later, it was a “catastrophic event”.
He was eventually told by his fashion designer sister Jenny to “go on TV and bore the rest of the world about animals, not just your family”. From there, he forced a successful career. Asperger’s made him who he is today.
Read the review in The Telegraph
Watch the documentary here
I recently interviewed Sarah Wild Head Teacher of Limpsfield Grange School for Autistic Girls