Susan Boyle: The Asperger’s Diagnosis
Singer Susan Boyle first shot to fame after her amazing audition on the television talent show, Britain’s Got Talent, in 2009. Looking awkward as she walked out on to the stage, nobody could have predicted the shy Scot’s rendition of I Dreamed a Dream would bring the house down.
Standing alone, in front of a massive Glasgow crowd, the 48-year-old’s rather eccentric appearance and manner caused Simon Cowell to raise his eyebrows. It appeared Boyle had been pre-judged before she even sang the first note. The camera panned in on members of the audience, who were pulling faces and seemingly mocking her.
In her pre-performance interview with presenters Ant and Dec, she said she lived alone with her cat, Pebbles, admitting she had “never been kissed”, but her promise to “make that audience rock” was realised as soon as she began to sing – jeers turned to cheers within seconds.
Her stunning rendition of the famous song from Les Misérables delighted Cowell, the rest of the judging panel and the audience. It also set Boyle on the road to global superstardom.
The reaction to her first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, on 11th April 2009, left her “absolutely gobsmacked”, in her own words. The clip has had an astounding 225 million views on YouTube.
Although she was runner-up in the final, being beaten to the winning slot by dance group Diversity, Boyle went on to become one of the show’s biggest ever success stories.
Her first album, I Dreamed a Dream, was the best-selling debut album of all time. She has released seven hit albums to date, selling more than 19 million records worldwide. Her net worth is estimated to be more than £22 million and she has sung all over the world, including in Las Vegas with pop legend Donny Osmond.
It was Boyle’s personal life rather than her singing abilities that began to hit the headlines, with reports of behaviour described as “erratic”. She was said to be “emotionally drained” and had checked into the Priory Clinic in London to recover. Cowell was kind to the troubled singer, offering to waive her post-show contractual obligations to assist in her recovery.
However, it wasn’t until 2013 that the reason for the star’s behaviour was revealed. In a media interview, Boyle said she had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2012.
As one of the autism spectrum disorders, Asperger’s affects communication skills and social interaction. Sometimes, it can hinder a person’s abilities to gauge appropriate behaviour, or to form relationships.
Boyle is now very open about her condition, explaining how it has affected her since childhood. Born in Blackburn, West Lothian, in 1961 – the daughter of miner Patrick and typist Bridget Boyle – she had been bullied at school for being “different”.
However, she was misdiagnosed and was labelled as being “brain damaged” after complications at birth. Boyle admitted that even as a child, she knew this label was unfair. However, it stuck with her throughout her childhood and much of her adult life.
In 2012, she finally received the correct diagnosis and was told she had Asperger’s – a realisation that she described as a “relief” after years of not knowing. She said she felt “more relaxed” about herself now she had the correct diagnosis, despite having felt nervous before attending the consultation.
While classmates had bullied her and called her “simple”, Boyle revealed her IQ was actually higher than average. However, people with Asperger’s can feel anxious and unable to cope with situations that others may take in their stride. She revealed she had fought depression, mood swings and feelings of vulnerability.
She said that when she had the support of people around her, she was fine, but didn’t feel strong on her own. Once the diagnosis had been made, Boyle ensured she had a “great team” around her to provide continual support.
Today, her confidence has grown, and she has become a successful singer and businesswoman who is a multi-millionaire. She attributes her success to her late mother, Bridget, who died just before the singer’s meteoric rise to fame.
Boyle told interviewers that she had made a promise to her mum to do something with her life. She was determined to keep the promise and felt her mother was with her in spirit all the time.
Her frankness about her Asperger’s diagnosis is inspirational to other people with the condition, as she has proved it doesn’t hold you back from achieving your dreams and getting to the place where you want to be in life.
Asperger’s was named after Austrian paediatrician and medical theorist Hans Asperger, who first defined the form of autism in 1944. However, it wasn’t until after his death in 1980 that his ground-breaking work was recognised. As a result, the condition was named after him in 1981.
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