Thursday, February 22, 2007
Amanda Baggs answers your questions
BURLINGTON, Vermont (CNN) -- Amanda Baggs, a 26-year-old woman with autism, became a bit of an Internet sensation after she posted videos she made about how someone with autism experiences reality.

Amanda, who has been featured on "Anderson Cooper 360" and in a story on CNN.com, graciously offered to take questions from the audience.

Below you will find her answers to a selection of the approximately 1,000 e-mails we received.

Q: I watched you on TV last night and you are amazing. I teach students with autism. I am working with a third grader and a fourth grader right now. What is the best way to teach someone with autism? It seems that my students have a hard time focusing on one thing. What can I do to help them learn in the classroom? How did you learn best in elementary school?
Lori Blaire, Elizabethtown, Kentucky

AMANDA BAGGS: I don't have a lot of good advice about schools, because even when I could pass tests and stuff I did not learn well in school. I learned from continuing exposure to a lot of experiences and books, outside of the classroom. School taught me more about sociology than it did about the classroom subjects. I'm not every autistic person, but I don't learn well, not in a retainable way, when you try to hammer things into me in a conscious symbolic way.

The best way I learn is to absorb the information without necessarily knowing it's being absorbed, and then have the information triggered later by something else. Nothing else has been reliable, things I learn by abstract thinking fade away when my mind puts the abstractions away, and must be re-learned over and over. Things I learn in the deeper but slower and harder to control way stick better, but can't be pulled out on demand, only in response to a situation.

Q: There are three persons with autism in my family. How do you think an island, populated only by autistic persons such as yourself, would function?
Lawrence Decker, Floyd, Virginia

BAGGS: I don't know. I don't think I would want to live on an island with people of only one neurological configuration, no matter what it was.

Read more of Amanda's answer to your questions


Also visit Amanda's Web site
Posted By CNN: 9:55 PM ET
  14 Comments
i have an autistic brother at age 12. Was it hard for you to get along with other people with non-autism ability.
Posted By Anonymous Daniel Salinas, Bayside, New York : 10:36 PM ET
Thank you so much for giving us a window for communication. I'm currently pursuing a Music Therapy degree and wonder if you could advise me on how music might be of help with autism. I noticed in you Utube video that you were singing certain tunes and syllables. Was that significant! I'm working with some elementary children with autism that I believe could benefit from your input!
Thanks again!
Posted By Anonymous Denise Lee, Chester, VA : 10:38 PM ET
I was not able to see the installment of Amanda's special last night, but was able to view tonight. I just wanted to wish Amanda the very best. I also wish to thank Anderson for bring her story to light. Its this type of story and more importantly, this type of person who inspires me, just by being who she is. Praises. Rickie
Posted By Anonymous Rickie Guthrie, Lavergne, Tennessee : 10:41 PM ET
My name is Erika and I have a son Joey(6) who was diagnosed with autism. Joey runs around pinching when he is up set and when he is happy. Was wondering if anyone had any ideas on how I should deal with this because I am having no luck. thanks
Posted By Anonymous Erika Young, Philadelphia PA : 10:45 PM ET
Thank you, for presenting this important story. I've known, and been around people with autism, and so, it was very, very, heartening to see this look into a very little understood world...

Three cheers, to Amanda & Anderson Cooper.

Sincerely, William H. Balzac.
Posted By Anonymous William Balzac, Deer Park, New York. : 10:51 PM ET
I am curious about what caused your weight gain and how you ended up in a wheelchair.
Posted By Anonymous Marcie Martelli,Maplewood,NJ : 10:54 PM ET
"BAGGS: i don't know. I don't think I would want to live on an island with people of only one neurological configuration, no matter what it was."
AMEN AMANDA! That is a profound statement. I never thought about it that way, but living with people of only one neurological configuration would be so boring! Keep writing Amanda, we're listening and learning.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 10:55 PM ET
I saw the interview with Amanda Baggs,
with Amanda typing on her computer and
the computer speaking for her a la
Stephen Hawking. I also saw her
gesturing at her computer and the
computer talking. How does the
computer interpret her finger wavings
without her touching her keyboard?
Posted By Anonymous Timothy Bruening Davis CA : 1:40 AM ET
Just wondered why Amanda wasn't typing while speech synthesizer going - was the time typing cut out? This made it look like some of this was faked.
Posted By Anonymous Linda Bushyager, Las Vegas NV : 3:02 AM ET
SUE RUBIN...AUTISM IS A WORLD..mention it!

i THINK SANJAY NEEDS TO ATLEAST REFER TO sue rubin's AWARD WINNING cnn SPECIAL....sanjay is giving the impressiob that Amelia is unique in being bright and communicative..\
(i watched autism is a world
but i am not related to sue..she should be commended for her documantary on autism..j zarling PhD
Posted By Anonymous joyce zarling,santa barbara ca : 3:04 AM ET
That's why I enjoy Anderson Cooper so much since I lived in the United States and now in my home country Kenya. This morning was no exception. I am recently volunteering at a school with students having autism. It was great to tune in to CNN and find a great show. Keep up the great work. Autism is such a mystery.
Posted By Anonymous Elly, Nairobi, Kenya : 7:31 AM ET
This is highly relevant also to the understanding of ME (myalgic encephalopathy) in children and young adults. I would say an important breakthrough in all issues related to the pocessing of information, and, communication between species.
Thank you!
Posted By Anonymous Sidsel Kreyberg, Oslo, Norway : 11:01 AM ET
Your description of your learning style and the school system's ineffective teaching methods were achingly familiar. I have Asperger's Syndrome, undiagnosed until adulthood. I found formal schooling as offered by the public school system to be at best a waste of my time, and at worst, traumatic and emotionally scarring. I absorb knowlege continually and eagerly, as you do, by free and willing exposure to it, rather than by being force fed. There's plenty of studies on teaching people with autism spectrum "disorders", but I wonder, how often do the would-be teachers, ever simply ask us how we need the information conveyed? It's probably a moot point, since the likelihood that a highly trained professional educator is going to accept my answer to simply leave me alone with a stack of relevent books, a computer, and the freedom to walk outside the four walls and observe and experience the subject firsthand, is practically non-existant.

I differ, however, in the response regarding living on an island with others. In my case, I'd prefer to live on an island with no other people at all, regardless of their perch on the spectrum.

An asocial bunny is me!
Posted By Anonymous Robyn, Pittsville MD : 12:03 PM ET
Watching Amanda gave my husband and I such hope for our daughter and the insights into the autistic mind she provided helped us approach our daughter in a different way. We are also taking Amanda's advise regarding exposing our daughter to autistic adults. Amanda is doing so much to shatter the stigma of autism and I thank her from the bottom of my heart.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills, CA : 12:22 PM ET
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