Inside Our Autistic Minds viewers break down as Chris Packham reveals ‘relatable’ daily struggles

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Inside Our Autistic Minds viewers broke down in tears last night as Chris Packham opened up about his ‘relatable’ everyday struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The Springwatch star, 61, explained how he been avoiding going into his study since having shelves built as the disorder makes him feel ‘out of control’.

In the opening moments of the documentary, Chris was seen carrying a cardboard box into the annex of his New Forest home.  

Describing how tidying the space is proving such a challenge, he said: ‘I don’t like coming in this room.

‘I moved here a couple of years ago, which meant that I had to take my library to pieces so I’ve had all of these shelves built to get it up and running again.

Inside Our Autistic Minds viewers break down as Chris Packham reveals ‘relatable’ daily struggles

Chris Packham (pictured) allowed cameras in the study of his New Forest home after admitting that the disorder made him feel ‘out of control’

‘But that’s a massive challenge because that means I’ve got to deal with something my type of autistic experience doesn’t welcome – change.’

In one poignant moment, the presenter goes to place a book on one of the top shelves before then second-guessing himself. 

Getting frustrated, he said: ‘It’s just not going to work, is it? It’s not going to live there, is it? […] Well it’s not now.’ 

Covering his face with his hands, the conservationist – who was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was 44 – said he was worried about this particular moment being shared with viewers. 

He said: ‘I’m just self-conscious of the fact that you might be thinking, “just get a grip – put the books in order of subject and get them on the shelves man.”

‘Change is disastrous. For me, change becomes difficult because it represents a loss of control. I’m not in control of this situation, I’ve lost control of my library.’

However, the presenter says that the library was a sanctuary for him when everything is in its proper place – which allows him to be ‘confident and comfortable enough to be [his] real self.’

After sharing this vulnerable moment, viewers were full of praise for the presenter and the documentary as a whole. Elsewhere in the show, Chris meets with teaching assistant Anton, who also struggles with his desire for control, and 19-year-old student Ethan, who is hypersensitive to sound.

The presenter, 61, he was worried about this particular moment being shared with viewers as he thought some may tell him to 'get a grip'

The presenter, 61, he was worried about this particular moment being shared with viewers as he thought some may tell him to ‘get a grip’

Chris said he had been avoiding sorting out his books. He added: 'It means I've got to deal with something my type of autistic experience doesn't welcome - change.

Chris said he had been avoiding sorting out his books. He added: ‘It means I’ve got to deal with something my type of autistic experience doesn’t welcome – change.

One tweeted: ‘Oh god, I had such empathy watching Chris trying to deal with change. His anxiety, panic and discomfort was palpable.’ 

Another added: ‘I don’t get emotional often but Chris Packham’s all-too-short series on autism was so beautiful and wonderful that I welled up.

‘This is the BBC at its best and encapsulates [former Director-General] Lord Reith’s vision: “Inform, educate and entertain.” Superb.’ 

Discussing the parallels in their own life, a third said: ‘It makes me so emotional in relation to my son and I see a lot of me in it too. Incredible programme.’

Meanwhile, a fourth wrote: ‘So beautiful, I just spontaenously burst into tears. No longer crying but tears rolling down my face.

‘I still don’t know what triggered it. A feeling I have a tribe out there.’

Describing the show as ‘very relatable’, a fifth said: ‘The preference for patterns, the seeking sensory experiences for comfort, the strict routines and times I need to keep to, the overwhelm I get when things suddenly change.’

The poignant moment struck a chord with viewers - who commented that Chris' 'panic was palpable'

The poignant moment struck a chord with viewers – who commented that Chris’ ‘panic was palpable’ 

Later on in the programme, Chris met with Dr Luke Beardon from Sheffield Hallam University, an expert in autistic hypersensitivity, to learn about his own restrictive behavior.  

When asked if he ever repeats daily tasks until he gets them ‘just right’, Chris said: ‘Redoing things is the story of my life.

‘I’m constantly redoing everything to try and get it “righter”.’  

Demonstrating how he also organises things in ‘rows or patterns’, Chris then invited Dr Beardon to take a look in his wardrobe – where he has colour-coded his t-shirts collection.

He said: ‘These are my everyday t-shirts. What’s important is that there is a spectrum order here.

‘I also like to have a uniformity of hangers and the hangers need to be equally spaced.’

Later on in the show, Chris met with Dr Luke Beardon from Sheffield Hallam University, an expert in autistic hypersensitivity

Later on in the show, Chris met with Dr Luke Beardon from Sheffield Hallam University, an expert in autistic hypersensitivity

Chris invited Dr Beardon to take a look in his wardrobe - where he has colour-coded his t-shirts collection

Chris invited Dr Beardon to take a look in his wardrobe – where he has colour-coded his t-shirts collection

What’s more, the Springwatch star says even being immersed in the natural environment he loves so much can be ‘overwhelming’ for him.

Describing how people without Asperger’s syndrome might just see a beautiful woodland scene when they venture into a forest, he explains that he experiences it very differently, seeing ‘every trunk, every branch’. 

Packham says his version of autism is ‘enormously beneficial’ for a naturalist, but also admits that sometimes the ‘visual part of my world’ is simply too much, saying ‘it becomes utterly overwhelming’.

Last month, the nature lover revealed he’s cancelled all TV work for the next three months after feeling completely ‘burnt out’.

Career: Chris says this is the first time in his TV career he has taken a break (pictured filming The Really Wild Show which ran from 1986 to 1995)

Career: Chris says this is the first time in his TV career he has taken a break (pictured filming The Really Wild Show which ran from 1986 to 1995) 

Scars: Packham says he was bullied at school and feels relief that there wasn't social media around at the time so his tormenters 'could never get to me in my bedroom'

He tells viewers in the programme that people with autism should be tolerated but should be understood

Scars: Packham says he was bullied at school and feels relief that there wasn’t social media around at the time so his tormenters ‘could never get to me in my bedroom’ (Pictured as a child, and in the new BBC2 series)

Signs of Autism in adults: 

  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • getting very anxious about social situations
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • finding it hard to say how you feel
  • having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes
  • noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not 
  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities 
  • liking to plan things carefully before doing them  

Source: NHS 

The host of BBC’s Winterwatch and Springwatch went public with his own Asperger’s syndrome in 2016, and the following year made a BBC documentary on the subject titled, Asperger’s and Me.

He says 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 says he is still ‘scarred’ from the ‘horrific’ bullying he faced as a child and said his life would have been ‘absolute hell’ if one particular bully could have continued to abuse him online too.

He 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.’

Explaining how it’s estimated that 700,000 people in the UK could have autism, 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 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.

‘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.’

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