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The Language of Autism


In My Language – The language of autism by Amanda Baggs.

Autism is generally though of as a disability, but are people with autism really trapped in “their own world”? Or is it the rest of us who are trapped in ours?

This is a question that is gathering a lot of attention thanks to an internet video called “In My Language” created by Amanda Baggs.

Ms. Baggs, 27, lives in Burlington, Vt. She is autistic and doesn’t speak but despite her condition, she types 120 words a minute and uses a synthesized voice generator to communicate.

In the first half of the video Amanda can be seen rocking, flapping her hands, burying her face in book, repeatedly running her fingers across a computer keyboard, all whilst humming a haunting melody.

Then the words A Translation appear on the screen, Amanda is then able to describe what’s going on inside her mind and giving us a new insight into the mind and world of autistic people.

She describes how her behavior and actions are all part of a native language, a language that allows her to have a constant conversation with her surroundings.

“My language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment, reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings.

“Far from being purposeless, the way that I move is an ongoing response to what is around me.The way I naturally think and respond to things looks and feels so different from standard concepts or even visualization that some people do not consider it thought at all. But it is a way of thinking in its own right.”

Ms. Baggs video is revolutionary for other people with cognitive disabilities whose way of communicating isn’t understood by the rest of the world.

Watching Ms. Baggs rock and flap is to see a person most of us would define as disabled. However the impact of her intelligence portrayed in later half her video is so powerful it forces us to think again.

“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 the world. Only when the many shapes of personhood are recognized will justice and human rights be possible.”


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