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The Chase: Anne Hegarty reveals she's a Bruce Springsteen fan

After a stint in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2018, Anne Hegerty shared with her jungle camp mates that she has Asperger’s. What is it? And what are the symptoms?

Speaking with former EastEnders actress Rots Simon Down Under (before the show got relocated to Gwrych Castle in Wales), xenical insurance Anne opened up about her diagnosis.

“If someone else raises it then I make it quite clear that I’m happy to talk about it,” she said.

Diagnosed much later in life, at the age of 45, Anne has been an inspiration to younger generations who also have Asperger’s.

The National Autistic Society explained the term “Asperger syndrome” was introduced by British psychiatrist Lorna Wing in the 1980s.

However, many people who “fit the profile” for Asperger syndrome are now diagnosed with “Autistic Spectrum Disorder” instead.

People are able to choose whether they refer to themselves as autistic, or on the autistic spectrum, said the National Autistic Society.

The autistic spectrum “isn’t an illness or disease”, thus it can’t be “cured”; instead, people may feel Asperger syndrome is “a fundamental aspect of their identity”.

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The charity added: “Some people with Asperger syndrome say the world feels overwhelming.

“In particular, understanding and relating to other people, and taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder.”

Some people may see a formal diagnosis as an unhelpful label, whereas others appreciate the access to services and support a diagnosis can provide.

There are two key characteristics of Asperger syndrome that autistic people share:

  • Persistent difficulties with or differences in social communication and social interaction
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests since early childhood, to the extent that these impact negatively on day to day life.

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Diagnosis can be difficult, and a team of medical professionals are needed to do so.

Signs of autism

Autistic people, including those with Asperger syndrome, may have difficulties with communication.

For instance, those on the autistic spectrum can have trouble interpreting or understanding:

  • Facial expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Jokes and sarcasm
  • Vague or abstract concepts

Asperger syndrome can reveal itself when a person “repeats what the other person has just said (echolalia) or talking at length about their own interests”.

Difficulty with “reading” other people and expressing their own emotions can result in the following behaviours:

  • Appearing to be insensitive, even if they don’t intend to be
  • Seeking out time alone when overloaded by other people
  • Not seeking comfort from other people
  • Appearing to behave “strangely” or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate.

In many cases, those on the autistic spectrum “can be more empathetic or emotionally aware than non-autistic people”.

However, “they may have trouble expressing their feelings in a conventional or socially appropriate way”.

A daily routine is preferred by those on the autistic spectrum, such as eating the exactly same foods for breakfast.

Intense and highly focused interests often develop from a fairly young age, which can evolve over a lifetime or become lifelong.

This can be very beneficial to society, as a person with an intense dedication to outer space, for example, could pursue a career in space exploration.

Watch Anne Hegerty on ITV’s Beat The Chasers, on Friday, January 8 at 9pm.

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