Available on BBC iPlayer for the next 27 days is a remarkable TV programme – Chris Packham: Asperger’s and me. It’s a beautifully made film, in which Chris Packham is ‘brutally honest’ about his autism – he has Asperger’s syndrome. He welcomes the cameras into his home – deep in the New Forest where he lives with his dog, Scratchy. With the assistance of actors, Chris recalls his childhood and teenage years.
While struggling with human relationships, Chris Packham has had very intense relationship with animals. He recalls a Kestrel he kept as a boy, and the deep bond he forged with it, and how terribly upset he was when it died. He also talks movingly about the imminent end of his beloved dog. He also has an unusually heightened perception of the environment, which can sometimes overwhelm him.
The gist of the programme is shown in a visit to the United States, where Packham witnesses radical therapies to treat autism. One doctor compares such treatment to chemotherapy – a comparison which causes raised eyebrows from Chris Packham.
The conclusion appears to be that Chris Packham would not want his autism to be “cured” even if it could be. He is an exceptional example of someone who has been able to harness his Asperger’s to great effect. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of nature, no doubt drawn from thousands of hours studying books and out in the great outdoors. But he also has an exceptional ability to draw links between different things. Often on his nature programmes, he will come out with a seemingly tangential link to a different topic, which usually leads to inspired insight. These skills, no doubt, flow from his Asperger’s.
We should be very grateful that Chris Packham has allowed this glimpse into his personal life, as it is very helpful in aiding society to understand autism.
You can watch the programme for the next 21 days on BBC iPlayer here.