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Why Greta Thunberg Matters to Kids Like My Son on the Autism Spectrum

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Greta Thunberg is an amazing advocate for climate change. She is well spoken, passionate, knowledgeable, and will hopefully help to lead a worldwide movement to change our laws and policies and curb climate change. But that is not why she is important to my son. My son has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. His diagnostic report reads “he has what used to be called Asperger’s.” Like my son, Greta Thunberg also has Asperger’s.

One day my son will ask me who else is on the autism spectrum and I will look to answer that question. While there are lots of incredibly successful people definitely or believed to be on the autism spectrum — Albert Einstein, Tim Burton, and Hans Christian Andersen to name a few — Thunberg is an amazing example for him, in part because of her age. She is 16, making her the same generation as my 7-year-old. She’s not a historic figure or an adult, she is a young person making a major impact with, not in spite of, being on the autism spectrum.

She has also responded to critics by talking about how her autism affects her positively. She was recently attacked by those disagreeing with her climate change stance. They attacked her personally. A Fox news guest called her “a mentally ill Swedish child.” Donald Trump tweeted a video of her speaking at the UN with the sarcastic comment, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” One day my son may face criticism because of his autism and I can only hope he responds in as a composed and thoughtful manner as Thunberg has. She has talked about the perks of neurodiversity and “thinking out of the box,” especially when dealing with a crisis such as climate change.

Thunberg previously tweeted, “I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And — given the right circumstances — being different is a superpower.” I can only hope my son is so direct and secure in his neurodiversity and that he too learns it is a superpower!

Originally published: October 7, 2019
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