Anna Lina Litz

Autism and Activism

Greta Thunberg's uncompromising life and work

Greta Thunberg became famous when, in 2018, she started to skip Fridays at school to instead sit in front of the Swedish Parliament in protest against politicians’ inaction in the face of the climate crisis. Her strike inspired millions of young people worldwide to take to the streets and quickly developed into the global climate movement Fridays for Future. 

During all this, she has also spoken openly about her autism diagnosis, serving as a role model for other young neurodivergent people to stand up for their convictions and finding belonging and community in the process. 


Greta Thunberg at Climate Change Rally In Denver Colorado 2019 - Image by Anthony Quintano . Found on Flickr . 

“The diagnosis was almost only positive for me“

Greta Thunberg has been open about her autism diagnosis ever since she started receiving media attention in 2018. She has since shared that her autism diagnosis helped her out of a dark place: when she was 11, she was depressed, suffering from an eating disorder and selective mutism. In a 2021 interview in the Guardian she said: “When I felt the most sad, I didn’t know that I had autism. I just thought, I don’t want to be like this. The diagnosis was almost only positive for me. It helped me get the support I needed and made me understand why I was like this.”

Special interests as superpower 

When asked why she considers autism as her superpower, she replied referring to hyper-focus and special interests: 

“A lot of people with autism have a special interest that they can sit and do for an eternity without getting bored. It’s a very useful thing sometimes. Autism can be something that holds you back, but if you get to the right circumstance, if you are around the right people, if you get the adaptations that you need and you feel you have a purpose, then it can be something you can use for good. And I think that I’m doing that now.”


Greta Thunberg urges MEPs to show climate leadership - Image by European Parliament found on Wikimedia . 

“In the Fridays for Future movement, so many people are like me“ 

In the interview, Thunberg also shared that translating her strong convictions with regard to the climate crisis into activism has helped her find a community of friends and likeminded people as well: “In the Fridays for Future movement, so many people are like me. Many have autism, and they are very inclusive and welcoming.”  The article further states:“ [Thunberg] believes the reason that so many autistic people have become climate activists is because they cannot avert their gaze – they have a compulsion to tell the truth as they see it.“ Many of these people, no doubt, have been inspired to become activists by Thunberg herself. 

The article reflects that since 2018, Thunberg has not only become the world’s best-known climate change activist, but also its best-known autism activist, simply by taking an open and largely positive stance on the topic of her own autism. 


Article in The Guardian: Greta Thunberg: 'I really the the value of friendship. Apart from the climate almost nothing else matters.'