Documentary Review: Aspergers & Me

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A couple of weeks ago I sat down to watch a documentary called ‘Aspergers and Me’ and I found it very thought (and feeling) provoking. I wanted to write a little review of it here on my blog to share with others…

The documentary follows a man called Chris who happens to be a BBC wildlife presenter. So here’s a little introduction to him:

“For most of his life, broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham didn’t tell anyone about the one thing that in many ways has defined his entire existence. Chris is autistic – he has Asperger’s Syndrome, which means he struggles in social situations, has difficulty with human relationships, and is, by his own admission, “a little bit weird”. (BBC Media Centre, 2017)

Like 700,000 or so others in the UK, Chris Packham is autistic – he has a developmental disability affecting how he relates to other people, and also how he experiences the world. Specifically he has Asperger’s syndrome. His documentary invites us inside his autistic world to try to show what it’s really like being him. He lives alone in the woods with his ‘best friend’ who is called Scratchy. Scratchy is THE CUTEST dog; but Chris also has a long-term partner, Charlotte, who discusses the problems Asperger’s creates in their relationship – she describes Chris as being sometimes “like an alien”.

Chris experiences the world in a very different way, with heightened senses that can be very overwhelming. He grew up at a time when little was known about autism. Chris wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was in his 40’s.

However with todays modern and scientific advances new possibilities are being offered to treat his condition. In the documentary Chris travels to America to witness new and quite radical therapies that seem to offer the possibility of entirely eradicating autistic traits. On the flip side of this Chris also meets those who are challenging the idea that autistic people need to change in order to fit into society. He visits one of many special schools in the U.S where children undergo repeated behaviour modification, in order to try to make them more normal. This makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Chris continues his travels, this time to Silicon Valley, one of the places where people with autistic traits are making massive contributions. Tech companies are slowly breaking the stigma and learning about untapped talent of autistic people. These people who are considered and often referred to as weird, geeky or lonely are starting to run the world.

Chris ultimately explores the question of whether he’d ever want to be cured himself, or whether Asperger’s has helped make him who he is today…

Would he ever choose to be ‘normal’?

“I’m anything but normal,” he agrees, staring at the floor. “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.” He frowns, and glances at his partner, 41-year-old Charlotte Corney. “But 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.”                                                   (Chris Packham, Radio Times, 2017)

He is very good at getting across some idea of what it’s like to have a brain that is different, the sensory overload he experiences, sounds, smells and tastes. But what if there was a way of taking away these autistic traits?

“If there were a cure for Asperger’s, I don’t know if I’d want it. Humanity has prospered because of people with autistic traits. Without them, we wouldn’t have put man on the Moon or be running software programs. If we wiped out all the autistic people on the planet, I don’t know how much longer the human race would last.” (Chris Packham, Radio Times, 2017)

That’s the key, Chris says: not trying to change people, but learning to better understand and adapting to accommodate them. And, with this awesome and insightful documentary, he is really doing something to help with that.

The documentary was first aired (UK) on BBC Two, Tuesday 17th October at 9pm.

8 thoughts on “Documentary Review: Aspergers & Me

  1. “He visits one of many special schools in the U.S where children undergo repeated behaviour modification, in order to try to make them more normal. This makes for uncomfortable viewing.”
    That does sound really bad. Just thinking about this gives me anxiety.

    I haven’t watched the documentary, but it does sound very interesting. Especially because it’s about his life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and sorry for the late reply! I definitely recommend watching the documentary if you can still find it online. Very interesting although worrying about the behaviour modification going on in the U.S…

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  2. I often ask myself the same question about my daughter – would I “un-autistic” her, if I had the choice? She’s dyspraxic but there is also definite streak of autistic spectrum running through my family and she sometimes shows signs of that also, IMHO. These days, I think of her (and everybody really) as more or less neurodivergent. She’s a little bit further out from the neurotypical centre than most. I don’t think of her as “having dyspraxia” or “having autism”, any more than I think of myself as “having Englishness” or “having heterosexuality”. Her neurological status is an integral part of her, not a pathology to be eradicated. Yes, she – and we – can find life challenging in a neurotypical world but I am genuinely optimistic that awareness is growing and things will improve. I absolutely WOULD NOT remove any of her characteristics. But there’s no doubt I wish her life could be a little easier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks so much for your comment and sorry for the late reply. I do love your honesty and openness and that you do think about what it might be like to un-autistic your daughter. I definitely agree when you say you think of everybody being a bit neurodivergent these days, I do think everybody has their quirks and thats not a bad think at all. I absolutely would not remove any of my sensory problems because likes your say awareness is growing and these things are a part of who we really are. I also wish life would be a bit easier on us all but I guess there would be no fun in that! Thanks again for your comment 🙂

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  3. Hi, Emily, nice to meet you, I’m Miya from Taiwan (who now lives in France).
    I actually knew you before since I’ve already read your blog back in 2016 I guess… Because I saw your blog link through Kelly’s (blogger from “Eating off Plastic”) blog 🙂
    But I have never made a sound haha 🙂
    Today I happened to see this article (it’s awesome!) and I find exactly what I want to say WORD BY WORD throughout Mr. Chris Packham. Really word by word… which kind of stun me (in a good way).
    So here I am, saying hi to you because of being stunned by your article and Mr. Chris Packham’s words 🙂

    Nice to meet you ^_<

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Miya! Thanks so much for your comment – it means a lot that you took the time to write to me and make a sound 🙂 It’s interesting that you resonated so much with Chris Packham and I really think the way he speaks is super inspirational. Nice to meet you too and I’ve had a little look through your lovely tumblr! 🙂

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      1. Hi Emily,

        Thank you for your reply.
        I forgot to check this page so I just saw your comment 🙂

        He is truly inspirational 🙂
        I’m going to take a look of this documentary, since I’m in an English class and the documentary is in English, yay!

        🙂 Let’s keep in touch!
        Please be happy.

        xoxo,
        Miya

        Liked by 1 person

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