Conservationist Chris Packham says he’s still scarred by the ‘horrific’ bullying he suffered as a child because he has Asperger’s syndrome
- The British presenter was diagnosed with a subtype of autism in 2005
- His life would have been ‘absolute hell’ if bullies could have abused him online
- READ MORE: Chris Packham cancels all TV work after feeling ‘burnt out
Conservationist Chris Packham has said people with autism should be understood not ‘tolerated’ as he voiced his fears about the impact of social media on youngsters living with the condition.
The presenter, from Southampton, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a subtype of autism, in 2005, said he is still ‘scarred’ from the ‘horrific’ bullying he faced as a child.
He added that his life would have been ‘absolute hell’ if his bully could have continued to abuse him online too.
Mr Packham said: ‘When I went to my bedroom in the 1970s and I closed the door and there was no way of reaching me, I found security. I was in that space where I could just carry on existing.
‘But now that bedroom has been penetrated by social media because those kids will have their phones and they will have access to those people who misunderstand them.’
Conservationist Chris Packham (above) has said people with autism should be understood not ‘tolerated’ as he voiced his fears about the impact of social media on youngsters living with the condition
He continued: ‘I can see, because of my visual memory. some of the most horrific things that other young people said to me when I was a kid and they still hurt now which means they’ve carried a burden to now.
‘They’ve tattooed something unpleasant in my psyche that will still have an influence now. If that’s coming through Instagram or TikTok or Facebook, that can be pretty damaging.
‘I’m so pleased that a particular child in my early life could never get to me in my bedroom because he made my life absolute hell… the damage is done. It just never goes away.’
Packham, 61, did acknowledge that social media could provide a space for ‘finding like-minded people who are not in your classroom’ and urged those with an ‘enormous voice’ to use it to raise awareness for autism.
Packham said he is so pleased that a particular child in my early life could never get to me in my bedroom because he made his life ‘absolute hell’
The presenter, from Southampton, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a subtype of autism, in 2005, said he is still ‘scarred’ from the ‘horrific’ bullying he faced as a child
‘We just need to find people who have a voice and have the bravery to speak out but that is hard,’ he said. ‘There are some great people with great voices who you know could be using for great good but they’re just not doing it. It’s pretty sad.’
The host of BBC’s Winterwatch and Springwatch went public with his condition in 2016, and the following year made a BBC documentary on the subject titled, Asperger’s and Me.
Packham, who was 44 when he was diagnosed, said the ‘overwhelming’ response to the show inspired him to make upcoming two-parter, Inside Our Autistic Minds, in a bid to help people to understand the complexities of autism.
He said: ‘It does take courage even as an adult to say “I acknowledge my difference”… [The] principal of what you’re saying is “I would like you to embrace it too. I’m asking you for understanding”.
He added that his life would have been ‘absolute hell’ if his bully could have continued to abuse him online too
‘Sometimes people say “tolerance” and I don’t think we should be tolerated. We should be understood.’
The new documentary sees Packham helping a stand-up comedian to reveal her true autistic self to her mother, as well as providing a voice for radio DJ Ken Bruce’s son Murray, who is non-verbal and communicates via an electronic letter board.
Packham said he spent years ‘masking’ his condition – suppressing certain behaviours that others may regard as weird – but would make ‘catastrophic mistakes’ that damaged close relationships when he accidentally dropped the habit.
‘I have to be constantly cautious about what I say to the people that I work with and the people that I live with because I don’t want to harm them,’ he said.
Packham recently revealed that he will be off our screens for three months to recover from feeling ‘burnt out’.
Inside Our Autistic Minds airs on BBC Two, February 14.
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