Chris Packham health: ‘I’m anything but normal’ Star opens up about his condition

Chris Packham opens up about living with Asperger's

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Chis Packham is a naturalist, nature photographer, television presenter and author, best known for his work on the BBC nature series, Springwatch. Chris has always been passionate about certain things largely because of his condition, which he wants to remove the stigma behind.

“I’m anything but normal,” Chris told the Radio Times. “I experience the world in hyper-reality.

“Sensory overload is a constant distraction. I’ve just been for a walk in the woods, and it was very different for me than it would be for you – the sights, the smells, the sounds.

“We need to go to the supermarket later, and I’ll do anything to get out of it because supermarkets are a swamping of the senses. The lighting is hideous, it’s crowded, and the complex of smells is overwhelming.

“Bookshops are similar. I love books, but I hate bookshops – all the colours, the shapes, the geometry, books all over the tables – oh my God. I have lots of books, but I don’t like seeing their spines because my visual perception is hugely sensitive.”

Asperger syndrome, also known as Asperger’s, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.

People with Asperger syndrome don’t have the learning disabilities that many autistic people have, but they may have specific learning difficulties.

They may have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

In a BBC Two documentary titled Chris Packham Asperger’s And Me, Chris spoke of the limiting views many people have regarding the condition.

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.”

Chris also detailed how he had to develop a range of coping mechanisms and skills 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.

Medicine Net listed the symptoms of Asperger’s which include:

  • Lack of social awareness
  • Lack of interest in socializing/making friends
  • Difficulty making and sustaining friendships
  • Inability to infer the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others
  • Either gazing too intently or avoiding eye contact
  • Lack of changing facial expression, or use of exaggerated facial expressions
  • Lack of use or comprehension of gestures
  • Inability to perceive nonverbal cues or communications
  • Failure to respect interpersonal boundaries
  • Unusually sensitive to noises, touch, odours, tastes, or visual stimuli
  • Inflexibility and over-adherence to or dependence on routines
  • Stereotypical and repetitive motor patterns such as hand flapping or arm waving.

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