Pop Culture

Singer Susan Boyle says she has Asperger's syndrome

Scottish singer Susan Boyle says she has a form of autism known as Asperger's syndrome, a diagnosis she says came as a relief after years of believing she had brain damage.

Boyle, 52, told the Observer newspaper in an interview published Saturday she had sought help from a Scottish specialist a year ago believing her childhood diagnosis of brain damage was incorrect.

Boyle said she had been teased throughout her life for her unusual behavior and was called "Susie Simple" by children in her hometown of Blackburn, Scotland.

She had kept secret for the past year that she was diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism marked by social awkwardness and narrow interests that can make relationships challenging.

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    Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images Europe

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    Holiday offering -

    Scottish singer Susan Boyle attends a photocall to announce a charity single for Save the Children at Sony Music in London on Oct. 28, 2013.

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    Sacred visit -

    Boyle holds a banner with an image of the Virgin Mary as she poses for a photograph in a hotel during her pilgrimage to the city of Lourdes, France, on May 21, 2013.

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    Her 'Standing Ovation' -

    Boyle attends an album signing at HMV in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 20, 2012. Dozens of fans lined up to get signed copies of her new album titled "Standing Ovation."

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    Great pride -

    Boyle attends the Pride of Britain awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Oct. 29, 2012.

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  • Image: Susan Boyle Launches Poppy Scotland Appeal

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    Poppy appeal -

    Boyle and the Scottish Military Wives choir launch the Poppy Scotland appeal in Glasgow on Oct. 24, 2012. Boyle and the choir called for help to raise vital funds for Scotland's Armed Forces community during the campaign.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Her dream -

    Boyle performs during her musical "I Dreamed A Dream" at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, England, on March 27, 2012.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Susan Boyle Visits SiriusXM

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    Hearing her now -

    Boyle visits SiriusXM Studio on Nov. 1, 2011, to talk up her new album, "Someone to Watch Over Me." Though the title Gershwin tune is included, much of the other selections are takes on rock tunes.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Susan Boyle Attends Press Conference In Shanghai

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    Lady in red -

    Boyle spent time in "China's Got Talent" in July 2011, where she met Cai Hongping, a Shanghai market stall owner considered to be the Susan Boyle of China. Hongping's rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the Chinese version of YouTube garnered her 10 million hits within 10 days ... and landed her a slot on "Talent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Scottish singer Susan Boyle stands with her new wax work model at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool, northern England

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    Beside herself -

    A wax figure of Boyle was revealed at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool, England in April 2011... and the original apparently approves.

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  • Image: Scottish singer Susan Boyle performs at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow

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    Her 'Dream' job -

    Boyle performs at a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sept. 16, 2010. In a pre-Mass statement, the Scottish-born Boyle said "it's a great honor to sing for the pope and it's something I've always dreamed of."

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" - Season Nine - Week Eight

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    Knock 'em dead, Susan -

    Boyle performed "I Dreamed a Dream" on the "Dancing With the Stars" results show on Nov. 10, 2009. Accompanying her performance were professional dancers Tony Dovolani and Chelsie Hightower.

    The 47-year-old singer became a worldwide phenomenon after her rendition of the Les Miserables song on the reality TV show "Britain's Got Talent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celtic v Hamburg - UEFA Europa League

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    Celtic pride -

    Boyle holds up a celtic scarf during the UEFA Europa League Group C soccer match between Celtic and Hamburg at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 22, 2009.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Fame takes its toll -

    Boyle entered The Priory, a private clinic in north London, on May 31 2009, to be treated for exhaustion according to the "Britan's Got Talent" producers and a newspaper report. Television company TalkbackThames said on June 1, 2009 that Boyle was “exhausted and emotionally drained” and was taking a few days off.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
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    The pressure mounts -

    Boyle leaves Wembley Plaza Hotel in London on May 27, 2009. Britain's tabloid newspapers wrote about how the singer had lost her temper and swore at two journalists who were taunting her in the days before the finale.

    Zuma Press file / Zuma Press file
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    Larger than life -

    Locals gather at Blackburn community center to watch Boyle on TV during the final of "Britain's Got Talent" on May 30, 2009.

    AP / AP
  • Fans of television show 'Britains Got Talent' singer Susan Boyle react in their local community centre in Blackburn, Scotland after it was announced that Boyle came second in the competition

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    Sad song -

    Boyle fans show their frustration after she finished second in the "Britain's Got Talent" finale on May 30, 2009. Boyle's financial future is seen as secure, as Simon Cowell and his Syco music label are widely expected to sign her up for an album and there is talk of a Hollywood movie.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Friends Gather To Watch Susan Boyle In the Final Of 'Britain's Got Talent'

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    A little Susan in all of us -

    Friends and fans at Blackburn community center show their love for Boyle. Although she lost to the dance troupe Diversity, Boyle remains a winner to millions.

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    Thumbs up, Mum! -

    “I did this for my late mother,” the unemployed Boyle said about her appearance on "Britain's Got Talent." “I wanted to show her I could do something with my life.”

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    The world at her doorstep -

    Boyle faces the media outside her home on Thursday, April 16, 2009.

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    Singing telegram? -

    Boyle receives a well wishing message from an unidentified fan at her home on April 16, 2009. In a telephone interview, Boyle did express some impatience with questions over her love life: She raised eyebrows when she told the "Talent" audience that she'd "never been kissed." "It was said as a joke, not an advert. Can we move on?" Boyle said, laughing.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Susan Boyle

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    A new look -

    Boyle, pictured outside her home in Blackburn, Scotland, reveals a new hair color and style after undergoing a makeover on April 24, 2009.

    PA via AP / PA via AP
  • Susan Boyle Seen At Home After Her Recent Success On Britain's Got Talent

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    Wardrobe change -

    Boyle returns to her home in Blackburn, Scotland, on April 21, 2009 sporting a new leather-type jacket and print dress.

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  • Susan Boyle Seen At Home After Her Recent Success On Britain's Got Talent

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    Caught in the Web -

    A young boy watches Boyle on YouTube on Monday, April 21, 2009 in Glasgow, Scotland. The boy is not alone. Millions of people around the world have watched Internet clips of Boyle singing on "Britain's Got Talent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • "Britain's Got Talent" contestant Susan Boyle poses with fans outside her home in Blackburn in West Lothian, Scotland

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    Instant fame -

    Boyle poses with fans outside of her home in Blackburn, Scotland, on April 21, 2009.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Town shows support for Britains Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle

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    Town pride -

    Locals in the town of Blackburn show their support for Boyle on April 18, 2009. To friends and neighbors in the community of 4,750 people 20 miles west of Edinburgh, it was not surprising that the talent of a local treasure should finally be recognized. “Susan can’t help herself. She just sings whenever she can sing,” said Jackie Russell, manager of Blackburn’s Happy Valley Hotel, where Boyle sings karaoke.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

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    King and singing queen -

    Boyle appears on "Larry King Live on April 17, 2009. She asserted that she wouldn't be opting for a new look. "Why should I change?" she said, according to the show transcript. But she conceded, when King mentioned that she's been receiving a lot of fan mail: "I certainly won't be lonely anymore."

    AP / AP
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    Brush with fame -

    Boyle poses singing with a hairbrush at her home in Blackburn, Scotland, on April 16, 2009. The unlikely star said she loves the attention and isn't bothered by those who poke fun at her unpolished appearance. "It goes with the territory. It doesn't bother me."

    AP / AP

"I was told I had brain damage. I always knew it was an unfair label," she said. "Now I have a clearer understanding of what's wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself."

Boyle shot to international fame in 2009 after appearing on the variety TV show "Britain's Got Talent" and performing a flawless rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables." Her life story from unknown Scot to multimillion-selling recording artist has been made into a musical.

Boyle told the Observer she visited the specialist on her own because "I thought I had a more serious illness and couldn't function properly."

She said she was learning to manage her Asperger's and hoped the diagnosis would make people more empathetic.

"I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do," she said.


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