Sunday, April 1, 2007

Amanda Baggs - In My Language

In My Language

I would like to share Amanda Bagg's video with you, and therefore her story, because in my opinion:

"Opening our minds is the beginning to opening our hearts to people with disabilities" - I. Zehnder


Amanda starts off saying: "The first part is in my "native language," and then the second part provides a translation, or at least an explanation. This is not a look-at-the-autie gawking freakshow as much as it is a statement about what gets considered thought, intelligence, personhood, language, and communication, and what does not."

Amanda Baggs has autism and she has her own way of communicating with the world. She is no less of a thinking, caring, and loving human being because she has autism. She just speaks a different language and it is my hope that people will watch, listen, and learn.

Amanda said:

"I would honestly like to know how many people, if you met me on the street, would believe I wrote this. I find it very interesting by the way that failure to learn your language is seen as a deficit, but failure to learn my language is seen as so natural that people like me are official described as mysterious and puzzling rather than anyone admitting that it is themselves who are confused, not autistic people or other cognitively disabled people who are inherently confusing…. In the end I want you to know that this has not been intended as a voyeuristic freak show where you get to look at the bizarre workings of the autistic mind. It is meant as a strong statement on the existence and value of many different kinds of thinking and interaction in a world where how close you can appear to a specific one of them determines whether you are seen as a real person or an adult or an intelligent person."

She said that her language is not about designing words or visual symbols for people to interpret. She says people judge her existence, awareness, and how she acts, reacts, and interracts. But who has the right to judge her any more than they have the right to judge you or I?

She says she smells things, she listens to things, she feels things, she tastes things, and she looks at things. She expresses herself in a language foreign to us but fluent to her. Fortunately, she is able to communicate her feelings through the use of a keyboard.

I hope you will take the time to watch this video from beginning to end because it is at the end that it really begins to make sense to people who are not familiar with autism. I believe that because autism is on the rise - some estimate that 1 in every 150 people are diagnosed with it - that we all need to become aware of its existence, how it affects lives, and what we can do to help make the lives of those effected lives better. It is only a matter of time, at this rate, that each of us will be touched by someone who is autistic.