“In Her Language”

amandaThe philosophical debate of how to define language, as whether it is a subjective or an objective tool will probably remain until the end of times. Either way, we cannot do without it. Where there is language, there is life. And this is what Amanda Melissa Baggs, an autistic American blogger, has proven to the world.

Like other people living with autism, Baggs does not speak and therefore, she has been labeled as having low-functioning autism. But what if all this time people living with autism were not failing at communicating but instead we are failing at understanding their way of communicating in their “native” language? That is Baggs’ message to this cold world where we are too quick in classifying as “deficient” or “inferior” or “different” someone that we are unable to understand based on self-centered perceptions and standards. 

In her YouTube video that shows Baggs rocking, flapping her hands, waving a piece of paper, burying her face in a book and running her fingers repeatedly across a computer keyboard, all while chanting, she is teaching us her “native” language. Subtitles that serve as a “translation” into words – the only language we can understand, appear at the bottom of the screen.

It can read “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.”

Maybe it is time that we really mean to consider the significance of non-verbal communications. We put too much emphasis on what’s stated as opposed to what the meaning and purpose of what’s communicated. Maybe we need to start listening more carefully and feeling deep from within. And then maybe we will see that Uniqueness does not have to be“deficient” nor “inferior”.

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