Despite there being over 700,000 people in the UK diagnosed with Autism, Asperger Syndrome is still wildly misunderstood. Many people are under the impression that people on the spectrum cannot lead full lives. Anne Hegerty, most famously recognised as The Governess on The Chase, has been praised by I’m a Celebrity viewers for speaking openly about her experiences living with Asperger Syndrome. Raising awareness of the disability has sparked important discourse about our attitudes towards those with disabilities.
Asperger’s comes under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD can affect communication, social interaction, behaviours, and interests. People who have Asperger’s are usually of average or above average intelligence as they do not usually have the learning difficulties that others with Autism may have. As Asperger’s usually does not cause developmental delays, a diagnosis may be given a lot later in life comparative to other disabilities. Anne revealed that although she felt ‘different’ to other children whilst growing up, she only received her Asperger’s diagnosis at age 45 in 2003.
One of the most challenging symptoms for those on the spectrum is struggling to cope with sudden changes to environment or routine, something that Anne has highlighted as being especially difficult to cope with in the jungle. After a thorough medical evaluation, Anne has been deemed as capable to be part of tasks, but accommodations have been made to avoid overexertion and many people have taken to Twitter to express their anger towards those who have continuously voted for her to participate in Bushtucker trials. Quickly becoming one of the fan favourites, many people have expressed their support for Anne as she struggles through the competition. One of the most touching messages came from an eleven-year-old boy, who penned a letter to Anne to share his experience as a fellow person with Autism. Proving the importance of representation, Joseph wrote in his emotional letter “watching you makes me see that other people can have Autism too and maybe I can have a cool job like you when I’m older”.
On the launch show, Anne broke down and told her fellow contestants, “I’m really, really close to saying I can’t do this” but as time passes, she seems to be settling in and coping better with the change. With a nation avidly supporting The Chaser for perhaps the first time in British history, we can only hope that Anne continues to bravely take the I’m a Celeb experience in her stride, whilst educating others about the realities of living with Asperger’s and proving that those with disabilities are just as capable as those without.