I did that video “In My Language” that I posted recently. I’ve gotten some interesting responses.
Several people said their autistic children (and one non-autistic sibling) wanted to watch it over and over again. One of them had a son who never hums at all, but hummed the tune from the video all day after he watched it. Others hummed along too. The parents described their children’s reactions as interested, mesmerized, and transfixed.
This is a common reaction between autistic people, I’ve noticed. We do have ways of communicating with things around us that are mutually comprehensible for many of us (not all of us, and not all the same things are comprehensible, there seem to be groupings in that regard). Our interests and our reactions are not random, purposeless, or useless, and are certainly not ugly things to be hidden away or trained out of.
The previous part of this video
was in my native language.
Many people have assumed that
when I talk about this being my language
that means that each part of the video
must have a particular symbolic message within it
designed for the human mind to interpret.
But 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.
In this part of the video
the water doesn't symbolize anything.
I am just interacting with the water
as the water interacts with me.
Far from being purposeless, the way that I move
is an ongoing response to what is around me.
Ironically, the way that I move
when responding to everything around me
is described as :"being in a world of my own"
whereas if I interact with a much more limited set of responses
and only react to a much more limited part of my surroundings
people claim that I am
"opening up to true interaction with the world".
They judge my existence, awareness, and personhood
on which of a tiny and limited part of the world
I appear to be reacting to.
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.
However the think of people like me
is only taken seriously
if we learn your language,
no matter how we previously thought or interacted.
As you heard
I can sing along with what is around me.
It is only when I type something in your language
that you refer to me as having communication.
I smell things.
I listen to things.
I feel things.
I taste things.
I look at things.
It is not enough to look and and listen
and taste and smell and feel,
I have to do those to the right things
such as look at books
and fail to do them to the wrong things
or else people doubt that I am a thinking being
and since their definition of thought
defines their definition of personhood
so ridiculously much
they doubt that I am a real person as well.
I would like to honestly know how many people
if you met me on the street
would believe I wrote this.
I find it very interesting by the way
that failure to learn your language
is seen as a deficit
but failure to learn my language
is seen as so natural
that people like me are officially described
as mysterious and puzzling
rather than anyone admitting
that it is themselves who are confused
not autistic people or other cognitively disabled people
who are inherently confusing.
We are even viewed as non-communicative
if we don't speak the standard language
but other people are not considered non-communicative
if they are so oblivious to our own languages
as to believe they don't exist.
In the end I want you to know
that this has not been intended
as a voyeuristic freak show
where you get to look at the bizarre workings
of the autistic mind.
It is meant as a strong statement
on the existence and value of many different kinds
of thinking and interaction
in a world where how close you can appear
to a specific one of them
determines whether you are seen as a real person
or an adult or an intelligent person.
And in a world in which those determine
whether you have any rights
there are people being tortured, people dying
because they are considered non-persons
because their kind of thought
is so unusual as to not be considered
thought at all.
Only when the many shapes of personhood
will justice and human rights be possible.
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