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#AutismPower - Sweden's Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel prize for climate change activism

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who grabbed headlines the world over in March 2018 when she spearheaded a student walk-out across 112 countries demanding government action for climate change, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta, who is on the autism spectrum, is single minded in her focus on climate change. She first heard about it at the age of nine and started researching it ever since. In an interview to the New Yorker, she gave credit to autism for her concentration abilities, saying "I can do the same thing for hours,.

It is this dedication that prompted Freddy André Øvstegård, Member of Parliament, Norway to nominate her for the prestigious award. "Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace, said Øvstegård.

Greta also walks the talk in her personal life and has convinced her family to adopt an eco-friendly way of life be it using solar energy for power, growing their own food and using an electric car or cycle for transport.

International acclaim

Efforts that have won her worldwide attention. She was featured in TIME magazine's list of 100 most influential people of 2019 and nominated for France's Prix Liberte or Freedom Prize award. She has also received an award from the German government for her commitment towards climate change action.

Greta has been candid about how being on the autism spectrum has shaped her development as a person.

Without my diagnosis, I would never have started school striking. Because then I would have been like everyone else. Our societies need to change, and we need people who think outside the box and we need to start taking care of each other. And embrace our differences. - Greta Thunberg, Nobel Peace Prize 2019 Nominee

Her efforts, says Tatyana Dias, neurobiologist and founder of the organization Veruschka Foundation, which empowers youth with intellectual and developmental disorders, are an example of the impact neurodiverse people can make due to the different way they see the world. She points to Mary Temple Grandin, an American professor of animal science on the autism spectrum to make the point further.

"The change Mary Temple Grandin has been able to bring about in animal husbandry and studies into animal behaviour is incredible and that comes from the fact that they think differently about how to make an impact from the rest of us, says Dias. "It is important that society starts to recognize that being differently abled is not 'divyang' or 'viklang'. That there are people who have capacities to behave and think differently from the norm and this is okay.

Nalini Srivastava, parent to a teenager on the autism spectrum agrees, "Special needs people definitely know how to look at things with a different perspective, like the instance of Greta shows. It also tells us that if we empower our special needs children, they become more responsible citizens of the world. Sadly, the neuro-typical have not taken this responsibility seriously. Our neuro diverse children are no lesser than them so let us empower them so as to have a better world."

Dr Sumithra Prasad, founder, of the Chennai-based DORAI Foundation, that works with people with intellectual disorders, adds that the Greta's story also illustrates that people can make an impact in different ways.

"This shows that you don't have to be cognitively superior with your words. In their own special ways people with such disorders stand up for what is the right thing to do, not just for themselves but for others too. And this honour is important because people with intellectual disorders tend to be discounted or side-lined, unlike say someone on a wheelchair or whose disability is obvious, for whom there is immediate empathy.

Regardless of whether or not Greta wins the Nobel Peace Prize, the very fact that she has been nominated is a powerful statement in itself, believes Dias.

"It is an incredible moment that committees right up to that level are celebrating neurodiversity and it makes a statement that it is essential to accept people who are different. Society needs to start taking notice of this and give a platform to people who are capable. This really rings out for me because this is about celebrating capability and passion for a cause. How is this different from any one of us?

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