Asperger’s And Me review:
A stunning spotlight on the misconceptions of Autism / Aspergers
Chris Packham shows the bliss and affecting pitfalls of isolation in an excellent new documentary about living with Aspergers.
The 56-year-old presenter publicly announced his autism in last year’s memoir Fingers In The Sparkle Jar. Despite being in the public eye on countless wildlife programmes, including his breakout stint on CBBC’s The Really Wild Show, it wasn’t until 2005 he was officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. This documentary however isn’t simply Chris’s journey of self-discovery and realising his differences, instead Asperger’s And Me takes a challenging dive into why this diagnosis shouldn’t be seen as a handicap, while being startlingly honest in execution.
We’re introduced to Packham’s isolated safe haven at his New Forest Sanctuary where he lives with his poodle, Scratchy. His girlfriend of 10 years, Charlotte, doesn’t live here and instead presides on the Isle Of Wight where she runs a zoo. From here, we journey through Chris’s upbringing and how his autistic traits magnified his intense love of wildlife. From eating a tadpole to admitting how he’s never loved anything more in his life than a pet kestrel bird while growing up – the documentary isn’t afraid of spotlighting the strange habits which both sadly and unsurprisingly, left him an enigma to his fellow schoolmates.
uncertain It’s the positive outlook on autism however which shines through, with Chris visiting the bedrock of modern society in California’s Silicon Valley, where he discovers a large portion of Google’s employees are on the spectrum and hired specifically because of their capabilities. Reflecting on his own diagnosis and his career path, Chris states: ‘I realise now there’s no way that I could do my job without Asperger’s… because of my neurological differences.’ This however is contrasted with his visit to a pioneering facility of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) who effectively see autism as something to be ‘cured’. One particular concerning moment even sees a medical professional make a direct link between autism and cancer, as he describes their treatment as ‘educational chemotherapy’.
Chris, while remaining impressively professional following the comments, does show his disdain for the treatments errors; highlighting how the disjointed layouts, loud environment and uncoordinated colour schemes would have been unbearable with his hyper-sensitivity. Segments which roll back clips of his presenting on The Really Wild Show also demonstrate his pain at pretending to be ‘normal’ in front of the cameras, with an illuminating sporadic tangent which is eventually laughed off by the studio audience and his co-presenter showing how his difficulties were misunderstood at the time.
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