By Sam Farmer, Neurodiversity Advocate/Autistic Writer/Author/Public Speaker
Greta Thunberg has shown the world that nothing can interfere with the fulfillment of her mission of climate activism. Not cyberbullying. Not expressions of opposition, some from prominent power players. And perhaps most remarkably, not an autism spectrum diagnosis. In fact, her autism profile is arguably an asset as she sets forth in winning over hearts and minds across the globe.
Asperger’s Syndrome, which is Greta’s autism spectrum diagnosis, is frequently accompanied by other disorders. In her case, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is relevant, which likely contributes to her intense, passionate and unrelenting focus on speaking truth to power in urging action on climate change. Inspiring what has become a worldwide movement no doubt requires a degree of “thinking outside the box”, a common attribute among folks with Aspie (a more feel-good way of saying Asperger’s) profiles. The decision to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered yacht on her way to the UN Summit on Climate Emissions is but one example of such thinking.
Like Greta, I, too, am an Aspie who hyper-focuses on what matters most to me, and with solid results. I could have given up early on my almost lifelong struggle at building self- esteem. Instead, I fought through and eventually learned how to love myself. I, too, have endured more than my share of bullying and survived, stronger than before. For both of us, it’s all about using what most would consider a handicap or a burden as an advantage!
Asperger’s Syndrome is widely thought of as a disorder, but this is not how I look at it, and Greta probably feels the same way. Rather, Asperger’s is an integral part of who we are, a way of being that carries unique personality traits, challenges and strengths as well. I praise Greta for being who she is, for not hiding her true self, in spite of knowing she is different and a figure of controversy.
Let the Australian prime minister try to undermine her efforts by publicly stating “more learning and less activism”. Let the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) call her “the greatest threat to the fossil fuel industry” to which Greta appropriately replied “thanks”. Let the bully who responded to a video of one of her speeches at the UN Summit on Climate Emissions state on Twitter that she is “so obviously deeply disturbed”. Greta’s response to this statement: “when haters go after your looks and differences, they have nowhere left to go, and then you know you’re winning...being different is a superpower."
The sheer force of Greta’s personality, to which Asperger’s and OCD are integral, has led to several impressive accomplishments which could be construed as epic in light of her age and profile. The President of the European Commission, standing next to her, announced during a speech that hundreds of billions of Euros would be spent on climate change mitigation. The scientific community has been paying attention and supporting her. An invitation to speak at a UN summit speaks for itself. And perhaps the greatest of all of her feats to date, being the single most inspirational voice behind this month’s week-long Global Climate Strike, millions of young people and older like-minded folks supporting them, joining her in solidarity, taking a stand for what they believe in and against a very real and shared fear.
What a beautiful and special young woman! Arguably a force of nature. Perhaps you agree, even if you don’t agree with Greta’s platform? Either way, take a stand for what you believe in, no matter what may stand in your way.
SAM FARMER wears many hats, among them father, husband, musician, computer consultant, and autism spectrum community contributor. Diagnosed later in life with Asperger’s Syndrome, he writes blogs, records coaching videos, and presents at conferences and support groups for the Asperger/Autism Network. In this fashion, Farmer aims to share stories, ideas and insights as to how one can achieve greater happiness and success in life despite the challenges and adversity which both autistic and non-autistic folks often face.