Chris Packham is a fairly well known face on TV, recently performing on BBC TV’s Autumnwatch programme about the changing face of nature around us, along with the effervescent Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games.
Now Chris’s presentation style is unusual and he can make some pretty amazing comments and has a phenomenal memory. Chris recently made a programme that gave a very precious insight into his character. In it he talked frankly about his Asperger syndrome.
Asperger is a form of autism which affects those who have it with how they relate to the world around them, both people and things. Chris describes himself as anything but normal, and there is the bravery. It is a human trait to want to be accepted and to fit in. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs includes belonging as one of the psychological needs. What Chris has underlined is that he does not fit into the structure of everyone else’s expectations of how people should behave.
In his programme he explored a scheme in the States which basically appeared to try and force those with autistic traits to conform or learn how to behave ‘properly’. It was plain how much it revolted Chris and there were some very painful scenes of distressed children. It is similar to the outdated attempts of another era when left handed children were punished into only being right handed. Thank heaven that has long gone! But clearly the same attitude lingers on in some quarters!
Those on the autistic spectrum can find their senses being overwhelmed by all the information coming at them from the environment around and that includes people. Thus Chris said that he loves books but hates bookshops and supermarkets are an absolute nightmare for his senses. Things that some people take for granted like giving someone who is troubled a hug would be the worst thing you could do for someone on the spectrum.
What this reveals is the richness of human experience and just how different we all are from one another. Within all of us lurks a secret membership of the ‘normality police’! We have our own concept of what is ‘normal’ and anyone who falls outside of that definition we either try to make them conform or else shun them as aliens! We all could do with learning how to accept one another more, and especially those who have the greatest difficulty in fitting in.
Chris Packham shows how someone ‘not normal’ can achieve so much, so when we meet someone a bit ‘different’ we need to see the qualities that set them apart and admire them as the people they are!