Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Why we should listen to 'unusual' voices
Editor's note: Amanda Baggs is a 26-year-old woman with autism. A video she posted recently on the Internet describes how she experiences the world. She is featured on Wednesday night's "360" and blogs here about why she made her video, "In My Language."

Amanda Baggs, who is autistic, says she never thought very many people would watch her video.

I'd been planning on doing something like it for some time to counterract the idea that there is only one kind of real language, real communication, real person. It was not meant to be about autism, and I was not expecting many people to watch it.

My viewpoint in the video is that of an autistic person. But the message is far broader than autistic people. It is about what kinds of communication and language and people we consider real and which ones we do not. It applies to people with severe cognitive or physical disabilities, autistic people, signing deaf people, the kid in school who finds she is not taken seriously as a student because she does not know a lot of English, and even the cat who gets treated like a living stuffed animal and not a creature with her own thoughts to communicate. It applies to anybody who gets written off because their communication is too unusual. (Watch Amanda's video, "In My Language")

It was not specifically about me, but about the many people who have no way of translating from their own language to English, the many people I have known and heard of who have put enormous effort into the communication process only to have their communication and even their status as people dismissed. I already have a voice in the dominant language of my country. Many people don't. I'm not trying to be their voice, because they have voices of their own and would all say different things from me and from each other. But I am trying to point out that everyone does have a voice and we need to learn how to listen to the more unusual ones.

The dedication was to two groups of people. One is people who still aren't considered communicative or real people because they do not speak or write English in a way others understand or are willing to understand. The other is people who write our behavior and communication attempts off as meaningless and pointless. The first group already implicitly knows the message of the video, and the second group really needs to hear it.

One of my favorite responses to the video came from a man who'd been in rehab for brain injury and had been told sternly and explicitly, along with his fellow patients, that nobody would care what he had to say unless he used words. Their other means of communication were ignored. He immediately understood what I was talking about. We did not need to have the same condition in order to understand this common experience. Another of my favorite responses was not about disability at all, but a discussion among several people about the experience of growing up Spanish-speaking in a country that values English.

What I appreciated about these responses was they took the ideas in my video and applied them to their own worlds. That's what the video was intended for. It was not intended to give specific insight into autism, or into another world that I am thought to live in. It was meant to be about the world we all live in, autistic and non-autistic, disabled and non-disabled, from all different cultures and backgrounds, and all communication methods. It is about which of those we recognize and value, and which of those we don't, and why. And it is about why we shouldn't have categories of people whose language, communication, and personhood are not considered as real as someone else's.

Ask Amanda what it's like to live with autism

Posted By Amanda Baggs, Guest Blogger: 5:35 PM ET
  68 Comments
I think it is wonderful that you made a video about living with autism. It gave me a much better understanding about the life you lead. Thank you and good luck...
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 6:29 PM ET
Several weeks ago I watched a program which featured medical experts that were trying to determine the earliest age at which a child could exhibit signs of autism. At this time some can be detected as early as six months, yet there is no hint of a cure or treatment.

It was learned, however, that some parts of the child's "language" can be understood if each child is worked with individually by the same clinicist, for a period of time. I also learned that most individuals with autism keep some item with them at all times to help them feel "grounded". A lid, spoons, it can
be anything. Do you have such an item that helps you?

I must admit I am ashamed of my reactions before. Not really understanding I always gave a quick smile, then turned my head quickly away, not knowing what else to do. Pretty phony, isn't it? I won't do it again , promise.

You are a brave young lady, Amanda, with an outstanding attitude toward life. God care for you and keep you safe.

Maggie
Posted By Anonymous Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 6:38 PM ET
Several weeks ago I watched a program which featured medical experts that were trying to determine the earliest age at which a child could exhibit signs of autism. At this time some can be detected as early as six months, yet there is no hint of a cure or treatment.

It was learned, however, that some parts of the child's "language" can be understood if each child is worked with individually by the same clinicist, for a period of time. I also learned that most individuals with autism keep some item with them at all times to help them feel "grounded". A lid, spoons, it can
be anything. Do you have such an item that helps you?

I must admit I am ashamed of my reactions before. Not really understanding I always gave a quick smile, then turned my head quickly away, not knowing what else to do. Pretty phony, isn't it? I won't do it again , promise.

You are a brave young lady, Amanda, with an outstanding attitude toward life. God care for you and keep you safe.

Maggie
Posted By Anonymous Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 6:38 PM ET
Dear Ms. Baggs:

Thank you for this wonderful way to share your experience. One of my brothers has Asperger's, which is an Autism spectrum disorder, as well as attentional deficit disorder and learning disabilities. He was a total academic and social disaster (I love him, so I can say that) until high school, but he is now on the honor roll of a well-respected university and is using none of the school-provided accommodations to which he is entitled.

What made the difference? He had what I call the "click," which is when things start coming together and he began to realize that the onus was on him to do the work. I had always tried working with him on social and study skills-- things that for many of us come naturally had to be taught through explicit instruction (yes, I know it is an odd term). And he went to a great public high school in NYC (the Beacon School, about 5 blocks from where 360 is broadcast) where the teachers held him accountable for doing the work and gave him the tools to do so. While there are still some problems with social skills (and I am trying to coach him about job interviews now that he is about to graduate), he has also made tremendous strides in that realm and has a really great friend. The academics were stressful for me and my family, but it was the social issues and how my brother felt about himself because of that that really broke my heart.

Here are some resources for anyone interested:
www.medlineplus.gov for a whole host of medical info.
www.autism-society.org
www.nichd.nih.gov
www.wrightslaw.com an excellent resource for info on disability law

And combining this topic with that from yesterday, here is an article I wrote about emergency preparedness for families with kids with special needs on the Philly Red Cross site. It is also helpful for many of the rest of us, especially if you have kids or an elderly family member who has special health needs:

http://www.redcross-philly.org/ProgramsServices/EmergencyServices/documents/eParentArticle-WebVersionPDF.pdf


If you have trouble opening that, click on the link to the PDF under �plan for special needs� at http://www.redcross-philly.org/ProgramsServices/EmergencyServices/Step1.htm

Again, thank you for opening our eyes up by opening yourself up.
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 6:59 PM ET
Hi Amanda,
You hit the nail on the head. We can never dismiss anyone for not being a so called "norm." There is no normal, just individuals who relate to others the way they see fit. People from A to Z, that's what lives in this world. Thanks for pointing that out so well. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 7:19 PM ET
Amanda:

I have a niece who has been diagnosed with apraxia and although I know it isn't anything like autism-she struggles with her speech and communication daily. Some people don't understand her when she speaks to them, but I do. Amazingly, her self confidence has remained intact throughout her struggles. Through the various therapies and diet changes her mother has initiated (no gluten, no casein in any food products-among other things), she has done remarkably well. Soon she will be mainstreamed into her age appropriate level at school. What has been the most heartbreaking is seeing her struggle to communicate with people who assume she just can't talk right. I see the frustration in her beautiful little face and it tears me up. She's been tested and she is highly intelligent. But like you said, we have instituted these rigid standards for communication and we often ignore anything that we're not accustomed to dealing with.
You are an inspiration.You are obviously very talented and brilliant. And you're right...lack of communication is the origin of conflict and misunderstanding. Your insight should make everyone consider how they contribute to this universal problem.
Thank you for being you.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Darby, Denham Springs, LA : 7:24 PM ET
Hi Amanda, My grandson has twin friends and one of the twins has CP and does not speak. He was born with brain damage. He is now 18 and in the ten years that I have known him he has not spoken a word but communicates very well. All who know Nate know what he is thinking and especially what he is feeling. It has been a privilege to know this kid and he taught this 70 year grandma so much without saying a word. At his HS graduation he spoke for the first time through computer access and of course had the entire place in tears. He taught me many lessons and helped me to have great respect and patience with all forms of communication.
Take care and God Bless you.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn Michigan : 7:33 PM ET
Thank you, Amanda, for making this video. My son was a wonderful, creative, intelligent young man who was also autistic. He finally had enough of this world treating him like a freak and pervert because he was different, and he took his own life last April. None of those who treated him badly realized his value or saw him for the kind, gentle man he was. Animals knew this and loved him on sight, but people did not. Perhaps, because of your video, some will come to look beyond their first impressions and learn to treat everyone as the special people they are.
Posted By Anonymous Zena, Seattle, WA : 7:37 PM ET
Hello Amanda!
What an interesting and wonderful perspective you have. So often we expect others to conform to our own ideas which we think are perfect, while ignoring that fact that others may have an equally or better thoughts or ideas which are simply different. Even with our pets, we expect them to learn OUR language and at the same time most people miss the fact that their pet has vocal communication and body language that is just as meaningful as our own. The world could use more people with your empathy and understanding of sentient beings. Thank you so much Amanda for your mind opening blog. I look forward to your story on 360 tonight. You are quite an inspiration!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 7:40 PM ET
Amanda-
I'm so impressed with your bravery to put yourself out there and show the world what you've got. It's the "unusual voice" inside all of us that makes us special. Who we really are and what we stand for speaks through that voice. It's our birthright to be born with a voice of our very own. It's our choice to make that voice heard--no matter how we have to go about it.
Amanda--you have done a fine job making your voice heard. You have reached many people in the fight for innumerable disabilities all over the world. Your video and bravery to post it empowers others to put themselves out there and take a chance. You are a hero for everyone who has a message to share. You have inspired us all.
Godspeed in your journey through life Amanda. We love you!
Posted By Anonymous Zann Martin, Tennessee : 8:13 PM ET
Amanda !! What a breath of fresh air you are!!! My parents were deaf and could speak although, not "normally" Not only did they get picked on, we (the children) got picked on from kids and adults. We are a narrow minded society which refuses to get to know people on the inside instead of assuming on the outside. Please, Please continue your blog you are not only enlightening people on your condition, you are opening doors for many more people !!!! God bless you!!!
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Newton, NC : 8:14 PM ET
Last week, a co-worker/ friend had an eye-opening experience. She met somebody she had spoken to over the phone regarding work. She had been rude to the person for a number of reasons. But when she saw him, she burst into my office, teary eyed. He had had a serious attack of polio and was the sweetest person ever...with a wonderful stress free attitude, that WE did not have. Both of us learned a lot from that experience.

But later I got to thinking. Why do I feel sad when I see that person? Why do I feel the sympathy/ pity? Obviously, I am placing myself on a pedestal, as a superior being, and when I look at a person, unlike me, whose knees bend the other way...I feel sad for them. What an arrogant person I have been.

I realized, the very reason I feel sad, think they are deprived, arises from a feeling of superiority...a sence of apparent 'perfectness'.

This has been a second blow to me in the last few days. I am cured now...
Posted By Anonymous Pam, Santa Clara, CA : 8:27 PM ET
Amanda,

I am curious about how you sense the world. What is it like. Do you have favorite interactions or do you just absorb anything and everything that you come in contact with. Do you have different languages that you speak to others? I'm completely fascinated.
Posted By Anonymous tom, cold spring mn : 8:56 PM ET
Hi Amanda -

I also am autistic; our paths crossed at Autreat a few years ago.

It's very good to know that your piece will reach a wide audience. Many folks do not yet realize how valuable our perspectives and insight can be... those neurotypical "trees" cannot see some aspects of their "forest" very well. We can :-)

Best wishes!
Posted By Anonymous Dave Spicer, Asheville, NC : 9:08 PM ET
Amanda, thank you for your insight into the methods of communication and how varied they truly are in our world. I appreciate hearing it from you. Consider very seriously writing a book or career in writing. You've got great insight and a treasure to discover. I'd definitely be a fan of your writing should you choose to venture into it!
Posted By Anonymous Sharon, Stockton California : 9:25 PM ET
Fascinating, Amanda. Thank you for enlightening those of us who use the "other" language. How often have I looked at someone with a disability (now even the word seems stupid) which included the inability to speak or communicate in a way I am accustomed to and thought, "Is there anybody in there?" I should have known. Now I do.
Posted By Anonymous Darilyn Woods, Cornwall Bridge, CT : 9:27 PM ET
Hi Amanda! As a mom of an Autistic child I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your video! My son is only 3 and I am so concerned about what life might be for him in the future. You have shown me that independence is a definite possibly and reality for him!
I have 11 children and I love all of them dearly! However, Matthew Cody, my youngest, is my inspiration! I have a phrase on his myspace that says...I have Autism, it does not have me! :)
You now are also an inspiration to me!
God bless you!!!
Sincerely,
Tammy McNair
Posted By Anonymous Tammy McNair, Huntington, WV : 10:35 PM ET
Hello Amanda, I have a 3 year old nephew who was diagnosed with Autism about a year ago. At the time, he was extremely interested in music, mostly country. Now, he is talking, and going to school, but his talking is still very limited. I'm very thankful that you decided to post both a video, and a blog showing people how a day of your life is. I've always known that Autistic people are extremely smart, and it amazed me how you communicate with people.

It's come to a lot of our attentions here, in Michigan, that Autism might be caused by the Hepititus Shot that we get as a child, along with being hereditary. Hopefully someday someone will look into it more, as it is a huge issue, to just find out what causes it.
I wish you the Best Amanda!
Posted By Anonymous Donielle, Scottville, Michigan : 10:39 PM ET
Amanda,

I am a mother of a six year old son with Autism. He is my life. He is the sweetest little boy in the whole world. You have given me and I am sure so many others hope for their children with Autism. Thank you so much for the inspiration!
Posted By Anonymous Jodi Beckman, Indian Springs Village Alabama : 10:43 PM ET
Amazing Amanda....you've opened my eyes to be sure. Thank you and hang in there.....I think you are a fantastic person and I'm not aware of a more capable 'messenger" than yourself.
Take care.
Posted By Anonymous Matt, San Diego, CA : 10:47 PM ET
Hi Amanda, in addition to the computer, are there other tools that you are using to communicate to the "outside autism" world? Morse code / ham radio for example?
Posted By Anonymous Joe, Portland OR : 10:48 PM ET
Dear Amanda,

I would just like to express my�thank-yous to you.�You're an amazing person and you taught me so many things to take with me as I grow up. I am currently attending�high-school in grade 9 , and throughout my�elementary years, i guess you could call it my hobby, to work with the�mentally�challenged students at my school. In my eyes they're no�different from anyone else, and you helped�me understand that even better.

Your an amazing person , and�you're�defiantly my�inspiration to�fulfill my life long dream, to be a teacher for those with a mental disability, and also , to recognize myself for who i am as human being, and be�grateful for what I have.

Your story truly touched me.

Thank-you!
Posted By Anonymous Nicole, Regina Sask , Canada : 10:50 PM ET
Amanda I was so fixated by the way you have adapted to a life so foreign. I'm happy that you have reached out and finally made the right contact with someone. You have certainly opened my eyes more about autism. I hope you get many comments, and get to meet many different people out there in cyber land.
Your friend,
Mike
Posted By Anonymous Mike Munro Bradenton, Florida : 10:51 PM ET
Amanda,
thank you for a look inside my son's world.
Rae
Posted By Anonymous rae hopkins , streator, il : 10:57 PM ET
Hi Amanda, I watched you tonight on TV. I am interested to know everything I can about autism because my grandson, 3 yrs, was recently disgnosed with a mild form. In this state they have a very good Early Intervention programme for children up to 3 years. Now my grandson qualifies for special education in the school system, and we are waiting for this to happen. Max loves shapes. Circles and triangles are his favourites and he can name them all. Colours and transportation are also favourites. I am embarassed to admit that before Max was involved in Early Intervention I understood nothing about autism and all it's forms. Between the internet and brave people like you I am beginning to understand more of the world my Max is coping with. Thank you for helping me to understand, take care of yourself, love Linda
Posted By Anonymous linda waldroup, west warwick, ri 02893 : 11:07 PM ET
Amanda,

Just read your story and watched your
movie. WOW! I have a son that is autistic and getting your perspective
on autism is such a blessing. Thank you for the insight.
Posted By Anonymous Paula Mueller, Pembroke Pines, FL : 11:13 PM ET
amanda..i have often thought of myself as"from another planet"..what impressed me about your video was how you affirmed your life and all others who are different should celebrate their own unique gifts and not try to squish themselves into what ever is deemed acceptable..thank you so much for showing me how to value my own unique self ; instead of always measuring it against so-called "normal" behaviour.
Posted By Anonymous mary baum toronto canada : 11:15 PM ET
Amanda, you are Amazing. Learning of your gift will change my son's life. I have an 19 year old Autistic son who I am trying to motivate before his world begins to collapse around him. Your story on CNN provided insight to resources I was not aware of. I now recognize how much I must adapt to him so he can communicate with me. Thank you and my God bless you on your journey thru life.
Posted By Anonymous Robert Rangel, Austin, TX : 11:17 PM ET
Thank you for reaching out to us. Thank you for showing us our ignorance that people with autism are not broken! Thank you for opening our eyes!
Hugs!
Posted By Anonymous Autumn. Bellevue, washington : 11:22 PM ET
Amanda, I found your comments very insightful, especially as the mother of a deaf 11 year old. He uses a cochlear implant, and doesn't really know sign language (we only use rudimentary sign when he has it off around water). but some mornings he doesn't want to put it on, and struggles to communicate by reading our lips. We say "put your implant on". Now, he does get frustrated when he can't understand, and he is chatting away orally the whole time, but it is certainly true that we are making him conform to our communication mode. Your post certainly has many implications for those who live and work with deaf individuals, especially those who only sign.

Thank you for sharing your insights with the rest of us.
Posted By Anonymous Deborah Wess, Oak Park, IL : 11:25 PM ET
I understand your video perfectly. I work with horses, and they have their own form of communication also. It is understanding their form that allows so much success of what can be accomplished in a wanting way. Keep on.
Posted By Anonymous kevin, scott, la : 11:31 PM ET
Hello Amanda, I sort of have a form of autism, I have a mild form of aspergers syndrome. It's there enough for people to think I'm a little strange, but still not realize there's anything wrong neurologically. What I am curious about is a few things. How old were you when you did stop talking verbally? Have you ever had any seizures? And last but certainly not least, my 5 year old son is non-verbal and I have 2 questions about that. How do I learn to talk to him like you said to learn your language. I understand his jestures and eye cues to things that no one else but myself and occasionally some of my other family members. I just want the school to actually realize he does think and is just as capable of anything as anyone, he just does things his own way. I know, but I want everyone else to know. Do you have a myspace account by chance?
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Wise, VA : 11:33 PM ET
Amanda, thank you for doing this interview, and running the gauntlet of stress involved.
I hope that it will bring "In My Language" to many more people, and thereby open many more eyes and minds.
And create a large set of *former* members of the second set of people to whom you dedicated "In My Language".
Posted By Anonymous Phil Schwarz, Framingham MA : 12:03 AM ET
My daughter also showed signs of autism right from birth, and the doctors dismissed it, at the time. She isn't non-verbal, but the opposite.

Combine ADHD with echolalia, and you get a child that repeats everything non stop. As she has grown and come to understand her environment a little better, she has, more and more, progressed to using the correct "pre-recorded" phrases for the situation. I am not around other children her age often enough that I notice constantly that she speaks a little differently, but I do notice it when I spend time around other children. Sometimes, her unusual turns of phrase are actually more appropriate than what would be considered the 'norm'. She has always believed her middle name was Caffeine (Kathleen) and with the ADHD, it is often more appropriate. She asked if a boxing ring was the same as a bathtub ring, and says 'buckle me out' as the opposite for 'buckle me in', and asks us to 'take her a bath' instead of give. It makes sense, and I have often described her way of speaking as someone who did not learn English as a first language.

I love how she has brought a fresh new perspective on things I had become used to. I ache to see how loud silence is for her, and how frightening things we all take for granted are. (sensory integration disorder seems to twine through autism, silence can be loud, visual things can taste, light can hurt, and so on)

I applaude you, Amanda, for having the drive to do what you have done, even though as you say, communicating in words is not your natural state. Thank you for expending the effort to teach.

I suppose I am lucky to have been born with an open minded personality, my first experiences with someone who could not communicate as I did, did not make me think they could not, but made me think - how can i? Thus I met my best childhood friend.

I am still not convinced that autism is a disease that needs to be cured, but perhaps more of an evolution into a new way of communicating.
Posted By Anonymous Coaster, Seattle, WA : 12:24 AM ET
Thank you. I've often thought that we'd be better off not being able to use words but to simply know each other without needing a language.
Posted By Anonymous Ruth Derrivan Reno, NV : 12:50 AM ET
Hi,Amanda i should first of all start by thanking you for making my day i watched your story today morning on anderson cooper 360 and to say i was moved is an understatement.Iwould like to commend you on your effort to explain to the world about your condition i hope it will go a long way in helping people to understand and apreciate people living with not only autism but other conditions especially in Africa,we do not come across people with diffrent conditions not that they do not exist but because they are considered a curse or rather a familys skeleton in the closet many are the times that the human activist reveal shocking stories about children or grown ups who are treated like beigns of a lesser god and the suffering they go through are heart wrecking but i hope that with time attitudes will change and we will all discover that beign diffrent is not a punishment rather than a lesson we should try to learn something from it it takes patience and bravery.Keep on with your outspokeness.Heaven is a place on earth and you Amanda are one of its Angels.
Posted By Anonymous Shiqo,Nairobi,Kenya : 1:27 AM ET
You are amazing!!!! My son is Autistic.I am so excited to see how he will develop along the years. He has already made great progress in school and he can read anything he sees. What would you say is the best thing to stimulate his mind?
Posted By Anonymous Laura , West Jordan : 1:36 AM ET
What you said about your language is being in a constant conversation with every aspect of your environment is one of the most profound and wonderful things I have ever heard. I cannot express how much seeing your video has affected me.
Posted By Anonymous Heather Says, Lafayette, Louisiana : 1:39 AM ET
Amanda,
You are amazing.
I want to thank you for sharing insight into your experience. You have really made me think and you have conformed some of my suspicion. My daughter is autistic and even though she cannot yet described her life experience and perspective, you have given me hope that someday she will be able to share it with me. Please continue your endeavors in this area.
Good Luck in all you do.
Larry
Posted By Anonymous Larry SD, CA : 1:57 AM ET
Hiya Amanda just wanted you to know it was an absolute pleasure reading your blog..Language and communication has always been of great interest to me especially how we Misinterpret what we perceive to be communicated to us.One of the things I Have noticed is that many who believe they know all there is to know about one thing are not open to all the endless possibilities. Unfortunately the result in many cases is that many doors get closed on problems that could otherwise be solved very simply. Bravo to you and keep on typing hun we need to spread the word that we still have much to learn! much admiration Caroline
Posted By Anonymous Caroline Munn, Barrackville WV : 1:57 AM ET
Awesome!! This message is important! but more importantly, there is more to tell and learn. I hope we can hear more from this communicator in the future- Dan.
Posted By Anonymous Dan, San jose, Ca : 3:49 AM ET
Hi Amanda, you are such an inspiration! I just watched the report on CNN about you and I had to come to the internet to find out more and to tell you that I am proud of your accomplishments. I am learning more and more about autism throughout my schooling. I am becoming an elementary school teacher soon and stories like yours make me want to be even more aware of my students and their needs. Think back to when you were in elementary school, what are some things that your teachers could have done differently or better in order to provide a better learning environment and experience for you.? I guess I am looking for advice from you, a person who is living with Autism. Thank you for your thoughts, have a great day!
Posted By Anonymous Dezerae J. Springfiled, OR : 5:46 AM ET
Amanada, I am Asperger's myself. I use communication device and I am deaf too. Take care Amanda. Thanks!
Posted By Anonymous Michelle,=, Cudahy, WI : 8:04 AM ET
Dear Amanda, How brave you are to trust those who have tried to reduce your personhood. I hope all hear� listen� understand your message. I'm trying. It is philosophical and compassionate. Simple. Your points of view will make me a better teacher. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Sherrie, Dover, New Hampshire : 8:45 AM ET
Dear Amanda..

I have only one comment..

Forgive us..
Posted By Anonymous Dixie, Pensacola, FL : 9:02 AM ET
Hello Amanda,
You are an inspiration to anyone who takes the time to enter into your world. I am so glad that I did, if even only through my computer. Continue with your work. You will change the lives and perspectives of so many people. As an aside, I was wondering if you are a vegetarian?
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Gorman Aurora Ohio : 9:06 AM ET
Amanda, You are so awesome! I have a nine year old grandson who is non-verbal. You are helping people understand Autism and how amazing people with Autism really are. We can learn so much from you and others with Autism. You are helping people understand that everyone can communicate in their own way. I hope we see more of you on television to help people understand Autism.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon Asher, Des Moines, IA : 10:25 AM ET
thank you for your insight into the world of autism. parents of children with autism have so much respect for you. you have given us hope, and a much understanding into world of autism. because of you first hand insight we as parents. can be better parent to our autistic child. you have open my eyes! thank you so much. you dont know how much you have help me. god bless you amanda
Posted By Anonymous rita,clarksville , tennessee : 10:32 AM ET
Amanda,
Your video is quite remarkable. I also think that there probably is some meaning in your choice of symbols, as there is always a signifier/signified relationship in visual imagery whether it is deliberately intended, or merely perceived by a viewer.
What you've done reminds me of some of the works of Maya Deren, an experimental filmmaker during the 1940s. It is likely, perhaps, that you would have an appreciation and understanding her visual 'language' than do most others who find it inaccessible and meaningless.
Hopefully, you have opened some doors.
Posted By Anonymous Jack Buckley, St. Augustine, FL : 10:34 AM ET
HI Amanda, great job of doing!

My son Scott, and the rest of my family are making amazing progress in communication. Seeing your story is very cool. My family wishes you the very best and sends our thanks for your efforts.

Mark
Posted By Anonymous Mark Pieters Northbrook, IL : 10:52 AM ET
I am amazed and fasinated by the comments and video of Amanda. I am the single parent of a 17-yr old autistic son who has seizure disorder and is considered moderately mentally retarded because he has "behavioral problems". He can talk and uses his language to communicate at a most basic level to get things he needs and wants. He is considered "high functioning" because he can read and speak and he is able to write (although is writing ability is at an elementary skill level).

He can also type and spends most of his time on the computer finding new fonts (especially those of Harold Lahner) and creating non-sensical powerpoint presentations (which he can animate) and Microsoft Word where he can type, cut and paste. He loves to surf the internet too in PBS and cartoon animated movies.

Anyway, I am grateful to Amanda for giving me insight into the world of autism. She has many of the same physical behaviors that my son has. She seems to be highly intelligent. I love her perspective about communication.

It is amazing...

I thank Amanda for her thoughts because
Posted By Anonymous Delilah H. Scott, Pasadena, Texas : 11:12 AM ET
I am fasinated by Amanda's video. I am the mother to my 17 yr. old son who is autistic with seizure disorder. He is very intelligent but because of his behaviors and inability to relate to the real world, is considered "moderately mentally retarded". He loves to type but usually spends all his hours making powerpoint presentations and looking for new fonts (especially those created by Harold Lahner).

I am amazed at the depth of character that Amanda has. I believe my son has that depth of character too. He is very perceptive and is able to complete most of my sentences before I do.

I wish that someone would take the effort to streamline his talent with powerpoint and Microsoft word. He is so extremely gifted in that area but is only able to do the minimum because he is in public school.

Amanda gave me insight into what must be going on in his world. I love her for that. Thank you Amanda.
Posted By Anonymous Delilah H. Scott, Pasadena, Texas : 11:15 AM ET
Amanda you've blown my mind, rocked my world and opened my eyes. While you may not want us neurotypicals in your world, there are so many people whose lives would be improved if they could speak the language of autism to their autistic loved ones.

If the idea appeals to you, I hope you will consider bridging our worlds by teaching us your language. Just as we've learned to sign, in order to communicate with the deaf, I'm hopeful that we, willing, neurotypicals have the potential to learn to interact with everything in our environment, as you do.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for educating me.
Posted By Anonymous Cathy, Seattle, WA : 12:19 PM ET
That is fascinating. A question, though - is there a stardard "autistic" language that one can learn, or is it necessary to start anew with each person? All who learn "English", either as a first or later language, are not doing so from within themselves, but are connecting to a common agreed framework to understand each other.

I live in France, and attempt to speak French - not the easiest thing for me. I make the effort, though, as do you. Your challenges are immensely greater than mine, because of our different wiring. I also recognize (viscerally) the frustration that comes from being unable to communicate, and people dismissing you because of it. I cannot ask the baker to learn English to communicate with me, though.

It is all too easy to dismiss the "other" - race, politics and religion are discriminators even when communication is "clear". Perhaps most of us will never have the opportunity (much less the time or frame of reference) to learn your language. How we treat you is a different question altogether.

The respect with which people treat you is a window into their beings. Those who can't see you as a person are not yet conversant with what a person is, and you are not alone in loathing their reactions. Those who treat all others (including you, who are frankly more challenging than just some guy on the freeway) with the same regard as they treat themselves, are showing the level they have attained.

The law considers you a person, but should recognize your limitations (as it does for us all). Your rights in the US are better-protected than anywhere else in the world - and I speak from experience. The real problem is that there are so few voices like yours that get out and heard. Society and government depend on voices - and comprehension of such. Hopefully your example will help others take this step as well, so that your thoughts won't be lost, and your desires can be taken into account (where before they couldn't even be guessed at).

Please don't condemn those around you for their incomprehension, though. They're only human.
Posted By Anonymous Nelson, Lyon, France : 12:20 PM ET
Thank you, Amanda. I have been teaching atypical children for 28 years. I have been blessed by the relationships that I have developed over the years with these special people and realized many years ago that the outward appearance and communicative/behavioral differences of individuals do not measure the value, intelligence, or worthiness of a person. The last several years I have been working with students with Autism. I have supported many of these individuals in learning how to type so they could communicate with the neuro-typical. I have spent a great deal of time trying to learn their languages as well. As a result, I feel my life has been blessed.
I currently work as an "Autism Specialist" in a school district where we describe our programs as ABA and "researched-evidenced based". While ABA and other researched strategies have been shown to improve behaviors, I have to question how much these approaches have done to validate the person inside the autism.
Thank you again for your video. It has validated my beliefs and given me renewed hope that I have been on the right track. I look forward to sharing it with my friends, both nuero-typical and atypical.
Posted By Anonymous Carla, Santa Ana CA : 12:58 PM ET
I once worked in a day school where parents would send their kids to us to help them improve in their studies and we also had a few �special children� who couldn�t qualify to attend a normal school.
Parents and teachers alike had only one intention even for the �special children� and that was to get them to learn things our way, pushing them to think like us and write like us and only reward them when they do it our way.
Progress was of course slow for these �special children� and we weren�t allowed to do things differently�to try other ways of communication and interaction.
It�s easy to just label a person as such and such�and have a reason to give up on them. Put them in a box and treat them all the same.
Amanda, you are what this world needs to open our eyes, hearts and minds to value and appreciate human beings in all forms and to reach out to learn to communicate in a broader sense.
So, thank you. And don�t give up on us, �normal� human beings.

With love,
LaiPeng Foong
Penang, Malaysia
Posted By Anonymous LaiPengFoong, Penang, Malaysia : 1:10 PM ET
Your blog is wonderfully written and touches my heart deeply. Most people don't consider how others feel. The world is such a large place there are many ways to communicate. Hopefully your article will enlighten others to understand what some people go through and consider others before themsleves. Best of Luck to you.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly, East Meadow, NY : 1:20 PM ET
Thank you for allowing us into your world. You are a brave, intelligent and insightful woman.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Lancaster, CA : 2:04 PM ET
Amanda, I watched your video and the news piece about you and read your blog, and I love what you say about people with autism and other differences being treated as "real people". I believe all people (and beings, like you said about cats) are in a spectrum and all are valuable. I am bipolar. A lot of my friends, my spouse, and my child are bipolar. I've been chastised by doctors for choosing a bipolar donor and having a bipolar child, and then marrying a bipolar spouse, like i am doing some horrible thing by "creating more broken people" and valuing a bipolar family. but we are not broken. we think and feel and communicate differently from what you called "nuero-typical". i love that term. We bi-polar people take medication to function in the "normal" world, but it costs us. it costs our creativity and our brain-speed and our intensity. i value you and i wish you a wealth of experience communicating in your own way and interacting with the world in your own way. it is valuable and special and REAL. - Toby
Posted By Anonymous Toby, Auburn CA : 2:05 PM ET
Finally!!! Hi Amanda its 'entropy'

Its amazing what a difference video can make. For years adult autistics where dismissed as not authentic since the people who read what we wrote couldn't also see us, and couldn't imagine we had anything in common with the autistics they'd seen.

If growing up today I'd easily have a diagnosis of Asperger's, but honestly given the tendency of 'therapy' to focus on an external illusion of normalcy rather than on coping skills and happyness, I'm rather glad I wasn't diagnosed as a child.

What do you call it when a normal person spaces out in relaxed concentration to deal with the stress of life? You call it meditation, and its looked upon favorably. But these days if your autistic the self discovered forms of meditation you use to cope are looked at only as the symptoms of pathology that must be eliminated. Its like taking away someones wheel chair and making them crawl because its not normal to use wheel chairs. Thank God I wasn't diagnosed as a child!
Posted By Anonymous Larry, San Francisco, CA : 2:33 PM ET
I am in the unique position of being a teacher of students with autism and a parent of a son with PDD-NOS (still considered in the "Autism Spectrum") My son is excelling now and does very well in school. I recall that when he was young I was the only one who could understand him and found myself translating for most people. He would only talk using movie lines. It was fascinating because he could always instantly use a line from a Disney movie that precisely fit the situation. the trick was that you had to know the context of the movie to understand what he was trying to say. Luckily I was usually able to know which movie he was using and translate what he was trying to convey. Others would look at him funny and have no idea what he was talking about, but I usually did. You are so right that we need to take the time to learn what all people are trying to say without interpreting things by what they would mean if I said them. Thank you for sharing and opening the eyes of others.
Posted By Anonymous Shannon, Georgetown, Delaware : 2:50 PM ET
Amanda, thank you so much for your very inspiring video. I have a 4 year old daughter who has been diagnosed with apraxia of speech. Learning to talk "normally" is very difficult for her, she tries as hard as she can and has made a lot of progress. But still while more understandable her speech is not totally clear. She tends to omit syllables from her words. Many people do not give her a chance because of her speech, they jump to the very wrong conclusion that because she doesn't speak "normally" that she does not understand and is unintelligent. This is very far from the truth, she is a very smart little girl and if she was given equal chances as everyone else, she would be able to prove herself. My daughter has at times been mocked and made fun of by children and even by adults because of her speech differences. It is heartbreaking to me to see her treated this way. I thank you very much for bringing to light the communication differences. Through your inspiring testimony many people have recognized and learned more about autism and communication differences in general. You have started to open up many doors to understanding. Thanks to you more people understand that just because someone doesn't have the same type of communication it doesn't mean they aren't communicating. You are helping to bridge the gap and make the world a better place for many people, my daughter included. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Posted By Anonymous Heidi, Atlanta, Georgia : 11:31 PM ET
Dear Amanda, You are such a blessing to humanity for having opened a new channel of communication which conveys your world & your thinking. By way of your videos, let the world look at Autistic people with much more respect & worth. Please express yourself like as you have done, for it opens up barriers of communication between the autistic and non autistic people.
Posted By Anonymous Sudha,Tampa,FL : 11:48 PM ET
thank you, thank you,...........eternally.
my 26 year daughter is non verbal and autistic, but you have given me and my wife a voice of hope and insight, that the intelligence we have seen inside is not just our wishes and imagination. We will try harder to understand her language thanks to you. we can never thank you enough.
Posted By Anonymous Roy,El,Tiffany Woodhaven,Michigan : 11:59 PM ET
I want to thank you for touching so many people with your story. My mother teaches children with autism and I must say that I never really understood what it was like to live that world, even having met some of her students myself. I want to thank you for bringing understanding and opening the eyes of so many people. Thank you for sharing. You are an amazing person.
Posted By Anonymous John, Washington, D.C. : 12:54 AM ET
Hi!Amanda,
I think you're a very intelligent young woman, and for you coming foward really brings a whole new insight,and a whole differnet perspective into other peoples lives who otherwise wouldn't have had any clue, and or concept of how,what,and like people like yourself who deal with Autism are really no different than anyone else!In fact I'd say you're by far much more "Very Special" Then most people without Autism! You're "Very Amazing",and as well "Very" Very" Intelligent"Then most people without Autisum."God Bless You Amanda" You have a Great Voice, And I Sincerely Thank You for sharing your story and life with the world,On CNN.You have a Great Heart,and a Beautiful Soul.I really do "Admire" you Amanda.You can even spell far better than I,and type by far faster than most other people. Keep up your Great Talent, For you're smarter,and wiser than most of us without Autisum. "You're an Angel". =] I'd really Love to be your friend. Your Friend Cathy Hanna.Sending you lot's of "Hug's, and Kisse's.=]"Maybe we can be pen pals? I'm hoping that your story will plant a seen into alot of people who take everything in life for "Granted" on a daily basis!All because there are too many people out in the world today who are so very closed minded about alot of things, and or other people!"They all need to wake up,And smell the Roses!"=]Hope to hear from you Amanda...Much Love,
Cathy Hanna
From Lancaster, Ca.=]
Posted By Anonymous Cathy Hanna, Lancaster, Ca. : 1:03 AM ET
Amanda,

After 17 years of studing about the brain to help myself after a traumadic brain injury, I see a very warm, smart and kind soul that has so much to give and yes teach us. Keep your videos coming.
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia/Alaska : 3:30 AM ET
Amanda, what a beautiful, shining spirit you are.

Not all is as it seems, and you are teaching others to walk this life experience from a place inside, the heart.

Thank you for reminding us that life isn't always cut and dry, black and white, ones and zeros. It is that grey area where we often find the truth.

Please continue to teach. You are on an amazing path.
Posted By Anonymous Bob Athens TN. : 6:07 AM ET
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