Greta Thunberg has spoken about her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis after she was criticised over the condition, saying it makes her a “different”, but that she considers it a “superpower”.
Thunberg, the public face of the school climate strike movement said on Twitter that before she started her climate action campaign she had “no energy, no friends and I didn’t speak to anyone. I just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder.”
She said she had not been open about her diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum in order to “hide” behind it, but because she knew “many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’, or something negative”.
“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” she wrote, using the hashtag #aspiepower.
While acknowledging that her diagnosis has limited her before, she said it “sometimes makes me a bit different from the norm” and she sees being different as a “superpower”.
Asperger’s syndrome was named after the Austrian paediatrician, Hans Asperger, who, in the 1940s, described some of its characteristics, including difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, including difficulties reading body language. In 2013, Asperger’s was folded into the wider diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Tony Attwood, a world authority on Asperger’s, has said people diagnosed are “usually renowned for being direct, speaking their mind and being honest and determined and having a strong sense of social justice”.
Boys are more widely diagnosed than girls.
Thunberg was diagnosed four years ago. She has acknowledged that her passion for her climate crisis work was partly down to viewing the world in stark terms.
In July, Thunberg hit back at the Australian News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt for writing a deeply offensive column that mocked her diagnosis.
He criticised her two-week trip across the Atlantic on a solar-powered yacht because, he said “she refuses to fly and heat the planet with an aeroplane’s global warming gasses”.
Bolt repeatedly referred to Greta’s mental health, saying she was “deeply disturbed”.
Thunberg responded by tweeting that she was “deeply disturbed” by the the “hate and conspiracy campaigns” run by climate deniers like Bolt.
On Friday Thunberg was joined by crowds of American teenagers at a protest outside the UN headquarters in New York following her transatlantic crossing.