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Greta Thunberg Answers Asperger's Twitter Trolls: 'It's a Superpower'

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations warns that climate change could unravel all the progress that's been made so far on the Global Goals. Greta Thunberg is galvanizing a movement to overcome the challenges of climate change. You can join us in taking action here to help achieve Global Goal 13 to combat climate change. 

It’s quite easy nowadays to locate the worst people in the world: they’re all having a go at Greta Thunberg.

There are those who gloat in the climate activist’s face about guzzling fossil fuels — while certain sons of actual Barons have had a pop at her for being too privileged (really). Some call the 16-year-old “deeply disturbed”, while others seem to think it’s fine to freely joke about her death.

For many of these trolls, Thunberg having Asperger’s syndrome is a reason to disregard her world-changing activism. 

But now, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominee has called them all out, addressing the “haters” in a series of tweets where she described her diagnosis as a “superpower.”

Thunberg arrived in New York on Aug. 28 after sailing for 13 days and 18 hours across the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-emissions boat powered by wind and solar energy. 

She was greeted by hundreds of cheering activists and a procession of boats sent by the UN to represent each of the Global Goals, the 17 step roadmap to ending extreme poverty by 2030. Almost immediately she was given a microphone to address the press, the ground “still shaking” beneath her.

But her inspiring speech was met by a torrent of abuse online. Twitter trolls targeted moments where she stumbled over her words, highlighting her Asperger’s with a litany of jibes and insults.

But when they go low, she goes high.

“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” Thunberg tweeted afterwards. “I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And — given the right circumstances — being different is a superpower.”

“I'm not public about my diagnosis to ‘hide’ behind it, but because I know many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’, or something negative,” she added. “And believe me, my diagnosis has limited me before.”

On Friday, Thunberg was joined by up to 1,000 teenagers to protest inaction on the climate crisis outside the United Nations’ headquarters in New York — a continuation of her global #FridaysForFuture campaign that led to students striking from school all over the world this year. 

The Guardian reports that two campaigners were spontaneously invited inside to meet a senior UN official as a result.

Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome four years ago.

Asperger's is not a disability, illness, or disease. It’s simply a form of autism. That in itself is also not an illness — the NHS describes it as your brain working in different ways to others. 

People’s experiences vary on a spectrum, but those diagnosed can often struggle to interact with others. It can mean being quite “direct” in how you communicate. Indeed, Thunberg has previously pointed to her Asperger’s as having helped her realise the scale of the climate crisis — while motivating her to take action in radical ways.

“Before I started school striking I had no energy, no friends, and I didn’t speak to anyone,” Thunberg continued on Twitter. “I just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder.”

“All of that is gone now, since I have found a meaning in a world that sometimes seems shallow and meaningless to so many people,” she added.

While some responded to her declaration with more mockery, the vast majority offered up their overwhelming admiration for the teenager.

“They are trying to humiliate you because they are so embarrassed,” actress and activist Jameela Jamil commented on Instagram. “Because you have shown the world how pathetic, greedy, and useless they all are.”

“They won’t succeed in humiliating you because you’re bigger than them,” she added. “You’re bigger than all of us. And we are all behind you, pointing our fingers at them with you. Thank you for your tireless efforts. You’re going to win, and change the world.”

"Amen to that,” Princess Martha Louise of Norway added. “Don't let anyone stop you on your quest. The world needs you!”