Friday, February 29, 2008

Living with autism�in a world made for others -


From the NYTimes: After seeing 27-year-old Amanda Baggs, featured in this month’s Wired magazine, you may rethink your views of the so-called “normal” world. Ms. Baggs, who lives in Burlington, Vt., is autistic and doesn’t speak. But she has become an Internet sensation as a result of an unusual video she created called “In My Language.'’

For the first three minutes of the video, she rocks, flaps her hands, waves a piece of paper, buries her face in a book and runs her fingers repeatedly across a computer keyboard, all while humming a haunting two-note tune.

Then, the words “A Translation” appear on the screen.

Although Ms. Baggs doesn’t speak, she types 120 words a minute. Using a synthesized voice generated by a software application, Ms. Baggs types out what is going on inside her head. The movement, the noise, the repetitive behaviors are all part of Ms. Baggs’ own “native” language, she says via her computerized voice. It’s 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.

More, in a follow up on CNN:

Living with autism�in a world made for others - "Thirty or 40 years ago, life would have been different and much harder for Amanda, says Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a cognitive psychologist who specializes in autism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 'The Internet is providing for individuals with autism, what sign language did for the deaf,' she says. 'It allows them to interact with the world and other like-minded individuals on their own terms.' (Ask Amanda your questions about autism. )

These days, Amanda Baggs lives on her own terms. With the help of an agency, she moved from California to Vermont about a year and a half ago to be closer to a friend.

And what does Amanda think is the hardest thing about living with autism? 'Having to navigate a world that is, on all levels, is built for the abilities and deficits of people who are not built remotely like me.'"


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