Greta Thunberg teaches us about autism as much as climate change


The young environmental activist has shown that being different is a gift. But too many people with autism still face cruel treatment

Image:European Parliament from EU [CC BY 2.0 (]

Greta Thunberg is an impressive individual. Just 16 years old, she has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize after sparking environmental protests around the planet. There is a glorious simplicity to her arguments that makes them hard to refute. What, she asked, was the point of pupils like her learning anything if politicians ignored the glaring facts on climate change? So she sat down outside the Swedish parliament with a hand-painted banner declaring a school strike – and eight months later, is a global icon who has helped to fire up a resurgent green movement.

Thunberg’s parents say their daughter, once painfully introverted, was always a bit different to other children. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s, on the autism spectrum, which helps explain her remorseless focus on the core issue of climate change after overcoming depression. “Being different is a gift,” she told Nick Robinson when interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme. “It makes me see things from outside the box. I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through things. If I would’ve been like everyone else, I wouldn’t have started this school strike for instance.”

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