The Chase’s Anne Hegerty didn’t have the easiest start to jungle life in I’m a Celebrity.
In the first episode, she broke down in tears in Snake Rock and confessed she didn’t know if she could handle staying in the camp.
Her fellow celebs rallied around her and the next day former EastEnders star Rita Simons asked about her autism, which led to a frank conversation about Anne’s Asperger’s syndrome.
The Governess revealed she wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her 40s and explained some of the difficulties people with autism often face in daily life.
Anne has been opening up about her experiences
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Anne’s candid conversation about the condition, which isn’t often talked about on television, led to so many people searching for it online that the National Autistic Society’s website broke.
The society tweeted last night: "Very big thank you to the # imacelebrity production team for sharing the footage of @ anne_hegerty explaining autism to the nation in tonight’s episode. Even if it did break our website # ImACeleb
" When it’s calmed down again, you can find us at http://www.autism.org.uk ".
Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said: "We’ve loved seeing the outpouring of support for Anne Hegerty. We hope this will be the start of better representation of autistic women in the media and help everyone understand the diversity of autism.
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"There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK. But public understanding of autism is nowhere near as good as it should be – especially the often unique experiences of autistic women and girls.
"Far too many autistic people, like Anne, aren’t diagnosed until well into adulthood. This means they’ve grown up without any understanding of who they are and access to the right support, which can make life incredibly difficult.
"By talking about her diagnosis so openly, Anne is bringing these important issues to everyone’s attention. This is fantastic and should really help create a society that works better for autistic people.
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"Every autistic person is different. You can find out more about the autism spectrum and what it can mean to be autistic by visiting the National Autistic Society website, autism.org.uk ."
Anne also inspired an autistic 11-year-old boy to write a letter to her, in which he called her a ‘hero’ and told her she was ‘very brave for going in the jungle’.
He added: "Sometimes people are mean to me because I am autistic but watching you makes me see that other people can have autism too and maybe I can have a cool job like you when I am older."
- Autistic boy, 11, pens moving letter to hero Anne Hegerty: ‘Maybe I can have a cool job too’
Viewers also defended Anne when people branded her ‘the new Gemma Collins’ and called her a diva for getting upset on the first day.
One said: "Some of the comments being made about Anne Hegarty on I’m A Celeb are horrendous.
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"Seems to be the general opinion that you don’t have the right to find situations stressful so long as there is a financial incentive to what you’re doing.
"Referring to her as this year’s Gemma Collins is simply undermining the fact that Anne Hegarty has autism."
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Another Twitter user wrote: "I hope everybody watching at home appreciates just how far @anne_hegerty is going outside of her comfort zone. I’m proud of her for being so incredibly brave and challenging herself."
Others are hopeful her appearance on prime time television will help people to learn more about the condition.
I’m a Celebrity continues tonight at 9pm on ITV1.