Is Greta Thunberg autistic

What Greta Thunberg's illness means

Asperger's autistic people are often considered particularly talented child prodigies - like Greta Thunberg. But many have the wrong idea about the disease. In fact, Asperger's autism doesn't even exist.

When Greta Thunberg gave an angry speech at the UN climate summit in New York, some viewers were surprised. Isn't Greta autistic? And do they even have feelings?

Thunberg describes himself on Twitter as a “16-year-old climate and environmental activist with Asperger's”. In fact, before that she almost always seemed rationally cool.

The Swede has become a role model for millions of people. For others a figure of hatred. Opponents also insult her because of her autism. Greta is a robot, belongs in psychiatry, and projects her problems onto climate change.

Lots of myths about Asperger's Syndrome

The public image of Greta fluctuates between “child prodigy” and “pathological”. There are a number of myths about autism and Asperger's Syndrome. In some aspects, even scientists do not yet agree.

According to the diagnostic criteria, autism means, on the one hand, that those affected are limited in social and communication skills. For example, they find it difficult to interpret facial expressions or understand irony. On Facebook, Greta Thunberg names her lack of skills in “socializing” as the main reason for initially protesting alone. "If I had been" normal "and sociable, I would have joined an organization or started one myself."

The second defining characteristic of autism is that people tend to be monotonous. For example, you have the desire for rituals, the same dishes or themes. Mostly they also suffer from strong sensory impressions: light and noise appear extremely bright or loud to them.

Affected people are not without empathy

Autistic people are said to be unable to empathize with other people. "It is not the case that autistic people have no empathy," contradicts the autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen from the University of Cambridge. Many would have difficulties to put themselves mentally in other people. But empathy - besides this cognitive - also has an affective part, i.e. an emotional reaction to other people.

While autistic people usually have problems in social areas, in others they are sometimes considered true geniuses. Asperger's autistic people in particular are often portrayed as highly intelligent. For example in the film Rain Man, in which Dustin Hoffman plays an autistic person whose extremely good memory pays off when playing cards.

Some companies even specifically employ autistic people because they are considered to be particularly detail-oriented. This can be helpful for error analyzes in the IT area, for example. "Autistic talents can show up in any area where patterns can be analyzed," said Baron-Cohen. For example in music too.

But people with autism are by no means always highly gifted - not even all Asperger's autistic people. Exceptional ability is usually a savant ability, that is, an island ability that only affects one area. And only a few autistic people are savants.

The intelligence can be very different. Doctors and psychologists have long distinguished between different types of autism based on their level of intelligence. People with Asperger's or so-called high functioning autism have a higher intelligence than people with "classic" autism, Kanner autism. Leo Kanner first described the autism disease in 1943. A year later, Hans Asperger published his habilitation, which gave the other variant of autism a name. But higher intelligence does not mean gifted.

Does Asperger even exist?

In the meantime it is even controversial whether Asperger's Syndrome even exists. The syndrome no longer appears in the current diagnostic catalog according to which psychiatrists classify illnesses. In 2013, the so-called DSM V (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) summarized the previously separate clinical pictures for the so-called autism spectrum disorder. Since then, autism has been considered a continuum.

The history of Asperger's Syndrome would be short: it was not included in the diagnostic catalog until 1980. But the discussions continue. Scientists continue to investigate whether differences between autistic people are just nuances or indicate separate diseases. Autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen advises having a generic term with subtypes - as in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Among other things, this would make it easier to understand which offers of help help whom.

Those affected do not agree either. Some see autism as a disability. Others use the keyword neurodiversity to argue that they just have a different type of perception. Indeed, where autism begins is unclear. According to the new diagnostic criteria, many Asperger's autistic people would no longer be considered autistic - according to a meta-analysis, this would apply to every fourth person.

For many autistic people, the diagnosis is part of their identity. Greta Thunberg also wrote on Twitter: “I have Asperger's and that means that sometimes I'm a little different from the norm. And - under the right circumstances - being different can be a superpower. "

Whether autism is a blessing or a curse is likely to remain controversial for a long time to come. The term Asperger's autism has fallen out of favor for another reason: Hans Asperger (1906-1980) is said to have been involved in the Nazis' euthanasia program. Scientists have long advised against naming diseases after people.

Greta Thunberg and Co .: These teenagers change the world
Greta Thunberg and Co .: These teenagers change the world

Politically disgruntled? I-related? The “youth of today” is better than its reputation. The gallery shows 21 young people who are changing the world.

Image: Maja Hitij / Getty Images

Flint in Michigan often represents the forgotten American Midwest. The car industry that emigrated left behind only unemployment and contaminated water. In 2016, when she was eight, Mari Copeny wrote a letter to Barack Obama, which was followed by a visit from the President. Since then, Mari (11) has been successfully collecting donations for her city.


Her school books are always about white boys and their dogs. That's why Marley Dias called in 2015 as a ten-year-old with # 1000BlackGirlBooks to donate books with a greater diversity. Thousands gathered for schools in the United States and the Caribbean, and more revised their standard reading. In 2018, Marley (now 14) published her first book of her own.


Not only for “Entertainment Weekly” she is one of the best actresses of her age: Marsai Martin plays a leading role in the sitcom “Black-ish”. If that wasn't enough, a film called “Little” starts in the USA in April, for which she submitted the idea and worked as an executive producer - at the age of 14.

Image: www.instagram / marsaimartin

It is not only in demand among teenagers: Millie Bobby Brown even made it onto the “Time 100 List” of the most influential people in the world - alongside Donald Trump, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey. The 15-year-old Unicef ​​ambassador is the face of the Netflix series “Stranger Things”, models and has 18.4 million Instagram subscribers.

Image: Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images for Moncler

With her debut in “12 Years A Slave” (2013), Storm Reid is unlikely to have made a name for herself among her peers - the Oscar-winning drama is too heavy a burden for that. However, the 15-year-old found many fans among Hollywood filmmakers. So she recently got hold of major roles, including in Disney's "The Puzzle of Time".

Image: Chris Jackson / Getty Images for Disney

Lisa and Lena Mantler from Stuttgart are 16 years old and probably the best known Germans among teenagers worldwide. The two have been distributing lipsync videos of international pop hits via the TikTok platform since 2015. Over 14 million Instagram subscribers, various advertising deals and a fashion brand are more than good side business.

Image: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

Danielle Bregoli from Florida put on the US talk show “D. Phil »made a cheeky appearance that should be remembered for a long time through memes and YouTube videos. At the age of just 16, she is now a top 100 rapper, reality show star and founder of a make-up company under the stage name Bhad Bhabie.

Image: www.instagram / bhadbarbie

The Swede Greta Thunberg started a "school strike for the climate" alone in August 2018. Hundreds of thousands are now imitating it and walking through cities and towns, from Washington to Wellington, every Friday under the motto “Fridays for Future”. The 16-year-old was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Image: Adam Berry / Getty Images

Environmental protection is certainly not at the top of the political agenda in Indonesia. Nevertheless, a ban on plastic bags was obtained for the popular holiday island of Bali in 2017. The drivers behind it all were the siblings Melati (17) and Isabel (16) Wijsen, who have been giving speeches and gathering like-minded people since 2013 under the motto “Bye Bye Plastic Bags”.

Image: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

An ear operation in childhood aroused Krtin Nithiyanandam's interest in medicine and science. Since then, the Brit seems to be unstoppable. When he was 15, he discovered an antibody that recognizes Alzheimer's disease at an early stage, followed by a bioplastic that can rid water of toxins. He is currently 17 years old and is researching breast cancer.

Image: Krtin Nithiyanandam / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Dave Grohl himself recently compared Billie Eilish to his former band Nirvana. The 17-year-old Californian does not play dusty grunge, of course. Their amalgamation of pop, electro and hip-hop triggered a similar hype among his daughters and like-minded people as he experienced himself almost 30 years ago.

Image: Kenneth Cappello / Universal Music

Transsexuality is a topic that has long been concealed, not taken up first or merely laughed at. Activists like Jazz Jennings (18) are working against it. First on YouTube, then on the US broadcaster TLC, she tells her story and that of other transgender people. In 2016 she published her first book.


Boulder, Colorado, where Xiuhtezcatl Martínez is from, is a Mecca for left-wing and green activists. The 18-year-old practically soaked up the spirit of his surroundings, led extensive lawsuits against the state and spread his messages in writings, a book and rap texts.

Image: W-film / fechnerMEDIA

With Kiernan Shipka, being in front of the camera at the age of six was not a bad omen. She played Don Draper's daughter Sally Beth in “Mad Men” in 60 episodes, stayed on the ball with TV and cinema films and at the age of 19 now embodies the title character of the Netflix series “Sabrina”.

Image: Samuel de Roman / Getty Images for Netflix

Adut Akech and her family started a new life a good ten years ago. With new possibilities. They ended up in Australia as refugees from South Sudan. At the age of 13, model agencies fought over her there. Today, 19 years young, she has already looked at several Vogue covers and presents Prada, Versace and many, many more.

Image: John Phillips / Getty Images for The Business of Fashion