After seeing comments on various posts on social media about Anne Hegerty, ‘The Governess’ in the jungle this week, I wanted to share my observations as someone who works with autistic adults.
As many people have already pointed out, the fact that Anne has put herself forward as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is amazing, and I am so incredibly inspired by her bravery to do this for a number of reasons.
By going in to the jungle and being open about being autistic, Anne is raising awareness of what autism is, and helping to dispel myths and misconceptions about what autism is not. This is so incredibly important for other autistic individuals who often feel misunderstood due to many incorrect assumptions or a general lack of understanding about autism in society.
Anne may be facing challenges that none of us can really truly understand. However we see her behaving or responding in the jungle, there is a risk of misunderstanding her due to neurotypical (non-autistic) ways of interpreting behaviours. I have seen comments criticising Anne for not ‘doing much.’ The reality may be that just being there may well use up all of her resources.
Autistic people may find some situations that neurotypicals take for granted incredibly difficult. Some of these things include:
• New environments: For some autistic individuals, new environments are really difficult. For some, sensory differences like smells and sounds can be really unsettling and uncomfortable.
• Uncertainty: Changes in routine, a lack of structure in the environment, and unpredictability are things that can cause huge amounts of anxiety for the autistic person.
• Social situations: The autistic person often works in a very logical way. Understanding social ‘rules’ and ‘norms’ can be confusing as these rarely follow any kind of logical process.
All of these things can use up an autistic person’s resources very quickly. Constant low level anxieties can be exhausting and draining. Anne has done brilliantly in the trials, and has really pushed herself out of her comfort zone. But I imagine the minute she shouts ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here,’ she has used up every last resource she had to tolerate her own anxieties for as long as she has.
I think one of the bravest things anyone can do is show their vulnerabilities. As a counsellor, I see every day how difficult it can be for people to trust others enough to do this. Anne has risked judgement from millions of viewers by showing herself at her most vulnerable, in an environment which is completely unforgiving in many ways for the autistic person.
I think the camp mates this year are all fabulous, and the support they have given Anne makes them all winners in my view, but for all the reasons above it will be Anne that gets my vote to be Queen of the Jungle this year.