Springwatch presenter Chris Packham was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in 2005.
Having not told anyone for much of his life about his diagnosis, he invited BBC cameras into his world and showed what it's really like to be him in his show Chris Packham: Asperger's & Me on BBC One.
While most people have heard of autism and Asperger’s, many don’t understand the differences. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
2. More than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, including an estimated 700,000 people in the UK.
3. Asperger’s Syndrome is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism, including the classic most common and severe type autistic disorder, and Rett syndrome, that are now grouped into the single diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
4. It’s not yet known exactly what causes ASD, although both genetics and environment are thought to play a role. Studies have shown differences in the development of several regions in the brains of people with ASD. This disruption in normal brain development may be linked to genes.
5. Symptoms of autism are present from early childhood, although the condition may not be diagnosed until adulthood. Boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls.
6. In widely varying degrees, autism can lead to difficulty with social interaction and developmental language and communication skills, combined with rigid, repetitive behaviours.
7. People with Asperger’s may only be mildly affected by their condition, compared to those with classic autism - ASD varies in severity from a handicap that can limit an otherwise normal life, to a severe disability.
8. People with Asperger’s often have good language and cognitive skills, unlike people with more severe forms of ASD.
9. Rather than seeming aloof and uninterested in others as someone with severe ASD might, people with Asperger’s often want to fit in and interact with others, but don’t know how.
10. Although Asperger’s symptoms are subtler than those of a more severe ASD, people with Asperger’s may still be socially awkward, not understand conventional social rules, or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem uninterested in conversations, and fail to understand gestures or sarcasm.
11. Unlike those with a more severe ASD, people with Asperger’s often have good language skills, although they may sound slightly different, possibly speaking loudly, or very formally, for example. They may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.
12. People with a severe ASD often have cognitive problems or disabilities, but those with Asperger’s tend not to have significant cognitive delay, and most have average or above-average intelligence.
For more information on autism, visit www.autism.org.uk, or call the NAS Helpline on 0808 800 4104.