Of language and communication

Via Helge

I’m completely ignorant of Autism, not a clue to be honest, I’m sure like so many more. When I hear or read about it I think of the wonderful Sharon and her Family Voyage blog and the passion she has on the subject. This video blew my mind wide open. Worth every second of your time. Not blew my mind in a “my god people with Autism can communicate” but in how Amanda Baggs has shown in this eight minute video just how limited my interaction with the world around me is. The first part of this is 3 minutes or so long, then comes the “translation” from Amanda’s language to ours.

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8 Responses to “Of language and communication”

  1. James says:

    Wow. That’s just brilliant, fair play to her. Love this Internet thing!

  2. that is amazing – i’m speechless about it.

  3. emordino says:

    > how Amanda Baggs has shown in this eight minute video just how limited my interaction with the world around me is.

    But your interaction with the world isn’t limited. It’s vast and constant and almost inconceivably complex, and the things you notice and the little clump of neural activity that you perceive as your conscious self is a miniscule fraction of of what your mind is doing at any given time. The inner workings of human consciousness are awe-inspiring, and I really hope that seeing exceptional cases like Amanda Baggs will nudge people into reading up on psychology in more general terms, because honestly it will change your life.

  4. Niall says:

    Encouraging interest in autism is a good thing. However, Amanda Baggs seems to be something of a controversial figure. There are those who think she is something of a fraud in certain respects. I don’t enough to make a judgement one way or another. If her story is true, then she’s very unusual, even by the standards we encounter in people with autism. If not, she’s just another example of the lengths some people will go to in order to get some attention.

  5. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the link and very kind words. Amanda has done something very special with this video. So many people have seen it and been fascinated by how she portrays differences in communication and how people look and act and are judged. She has as a result been asked onto a few US tv shows and appeared in interviews which has caused her to come under the spotlight. Some people who are angry with her message, have sought to diminish her voice by claiming she is a fraud. This is probably how Niall above got to hear this rumour. But then, just about all the autistic self-advocates I know have had their authenticity questioned, and Amanda said it had happened to her even before she became more well known.

    I have known Amanda online for years. She is not a fraud but a fantastic advocate for disabled people including but not limited to, autistic people. She wrote a blog post talking about some of the assumptions and assertions people have made about her. Her blog by the way, is utterly fantastic. I have had my assumptions and prejudices challenged loads of times by her words.

    I discovered this week, a new blog by an autistic Irish woman. It’s well worth a look, and a bit of a fluffy link perhaps?

  6. Niall says:

    Hi Sharon, just in regards Amanda, I’m finding it hard to find reliable information regarding her online. Is it true that she wasn’t diagnosed as autistic unitl her mid-teens? Also, is it true that she had a pretty typical language until around that point? To be honest, it just seems pretty odd that a person could go from a relatively high functioning language level to a low level in regards spoken language at such a late point in her development. That’s not to say that I think such a turn of events is impossible, but it seems like the kind of event that’s rare enough that it’s not unreasonable to be cautious about taking any particular report of such an event at face value.

    Even if she is genuine, she’s such an unusual case that it could prove unwise to assume that her voice is that of those with autism. As she herself emphasises, she’s not typical of those with autism (though who is) so while it’s good to see autistic people speaking out about their experiences, it often seems that it’s those who are on the high end of the spectrum that end up voicing their opinions and its probably not a good idea to assume that they speak for all autistic people, especially those on the lower functioning end of the spectrum.

    For example, if you look at Temple Grandin, there’s a person who doesn’t particularly value the teaching of certain social skills to autistic children, and if you look at her life, its easy to see why she might hold such a belief, but for other children, such skills could prove essential in later life.

  7. Not that I have made assumptions about autism, but rather, like Amanda explaining the depth of her communications skills, that I haven’t made nearly enough of them. What an extraordinarily limited spectrum I communicate from. It’s akin to forgetting that our planet is the sub-atomic particle of belly button fluff that it is, in a multiverse of infinities. Humbling, in a much-bigger-than-Susan-Boyle way.

  8. Sharon says:

    Hello Niall. I think a good place to get reliable information about Amanda for those interested enough in doing so, would be her own blog (link in my previous comment) on which she writes quite often about her experiences and history. Amanda is autistic but has a whole load of other medical conditions as detailed in the post I linked to. It is not so unlikely that people can develop conditions that prevent them being able to do things they were once able to do.

    You said, “Even if she is genuine, she’s such an unusual case that it could prove unwise to assume that her voice is that of those with autism. As she herself emphasises, she’s not typical of those with autism (though who is)”
    Well, like you acknowledged, she is not claiming and never has claimed to speak for all autistic people. She knows more about being autistic than I do as the non-autistic parent of a very autistic boy. She didn’t make the video to be the voice of autism, but to put something out showing that there are a variety of kinds of people and communication types.

    “while it’s good to see autistic people speaking out about their experiences, it often seems that it’s those who are on the high end of the spectrum that end up voicing their opinions and its probably not a good idea to assume that they speak for all autistic people, especially those on the lower functioning end of the spectrum.”
    I don’t agree with the idea of functioning level as a linear thing when in reality, people are more complicated than that. Some people are great at a certain type of writing requiring great memory and a skill for parsing complex details but unable to tie shoe laces or cook. Another person might be great at technical drawing but unable to speak. I know people who have very great strengths and very real skill deficits. I know a lot of autistic bloggers who wouldn’t fit any kind of “high functioning” stereotype. And none of the autistic self advocates I know or know of have ever claimed to speak for all autistic people.

    I’ve not read much of Temple Grandin’s work. My own experience is that autistic children need a decent education optimised to their particular learning style and sensory preferences, understanding and supportive parenting and the chance to live in an society accepting of their neurological differences and wiling to make some adaptions in services and attitudes to support them into adulthood.