Thunberg Haters Off-Base in Criticism of ‘Mental Illness’

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations on Monday, delivering an impassioned and scathing plea to the international body to move on climate change. Her continued advocacy has inspired countless numbers — especially fellow young people — and earned her a nomination for the Nobel peace prize.

She has testified before Congress, inspired a youth climate strike, and led suits against five countries over climate change. Many see an inspiring and inspired young woman fighting for the future of our planet. But some apparently see a mentally ill tool of the left.

Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham compared Thunberg to characters in Stephen King’s horror story Children of the Corn, and Fox News guest and contributor Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire described Thunberg as a “mentally ill Swedish child” who is being exploited by liberal interest groups (Fox News did apologize for Knowles’ comments).

Thunberg identifies as having Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. While it is true that some autistic persons are highly impacted and their cognitive and emotional reasoning is impaired, it also is true that there are many autistic people who are extremely intelligent, who have higher education degrees and/or have made extraordinary contributions in sciences and many other fields.

Thunberg herself says being on the spectrum can be a superpower.

“Autism makes me different, and being different is a gift, I would say,” she told BBC Radio earlier this year. “It also makes me see things from outside the box. I don’t easily fall for lies. I can see through things.”

Those who understand systems and understand nature and climate as part of a complex system can comprehend the impact of manmade pollutants and other damaging behaviors. The “mentally ill” Swedish girl is not mentally ill. It is more likely that she has the intellectual capacity to understand the complexity of the planet’s natural systems and sees the potential issues with far greater clarity than these commentators.

In addition, all citizens — American or otherwise — have a right to protest and advance their opinions. This applies no less to people on the spectrum. Comments like those from Ingraham and Knowles not only are mean-spirited, but also reflect a total lack of understanding of neurodiversity.

“We must recognize the gifts that these unique brains have,” said Dr. Susan Baum, director of the Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development. “Small-minded people will focus on a label when we at Bridges focus on talent and potential because great minds have great ideas.”

As for Thunberg being exploited, she has explained the origins of her school strike for climate change and specifically debunked theories that others were pulling the strings behind her efforts.

What is clear is that this young woman is passionate about the most serious issue of our time and is in good company with millions of others. Hopefully this movement continues with the involvement of even more scientists, politicians, athletes, musicians, clergy, those on the spectrum, dyslexics, and everyone else who comprehends the threat.

*Editor’s Note: The Bridges 2e Center is part of the Bridges Education Group, which also oversees

Thunberg Haters Off-Base in Criticism of 'Mental Illness':
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