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."
This is a quote from Amanda Baggs who has Autism. Amanda has made an amazing short film to describe how she experiences the world. I came across it after reading an inspiring article about how the web has transformed communication possibilities for people with autism as well as helping to change how the wider world views it.
The internet has not only enabled Amanda’s story and her views to reach an exponentially wider audience, it has given many autistics a new voice and a way of connecting, facilitating the development of autistic communities and culture, with many blogs and communities created by people with autism promoting the idea that the condition is not a disease to be cured, but simply a different wiring of the brain. Blogs like Autism Diva ("it’s not like you think"), authored by Camille Clark who has Asperger’s syndrome or those featured on the autism hub ("the very best in autism blogging"), or communities like Posautive
( A YouTube group which "offers a different perspective on autism in
the face of a rising media-hyped tide of fear, self-pity and talk of suffering").
The web removes
social barriers, helping to bypass non-verbal cues and emotional sharing, opening up entirely new forms of communication, like via avatars in Second Life. Many autistics (including Torley Wong, a project manager at Linden Labs who has Autism and whose avatar is pictured right) find that the exaggerated expression and time-delayed social interaction between avatars helps communication drammatically. Amanda Baggs is one of the co-founders of the "autistic liberation front" within Second Life, a space where autistic people can "organise, educate and advocate for ourselves".
We spend a lot of time thinking and theorising on how the web is
changing communications, but for those that experience them, these changes are more fundamental and transformational than most. What better example is there of how people are directly benefiting from the connections the web can enable?
But back to Amanda’s film.
"The first part is in my ‘native language’" she writes, "and then the second part
provides a translation, or at least an explanation. This is not a
look-at-the-autie gawking freakshow as much as it is a statement about
what gets considered thought, intelligence, personhood, language, and
communication, and what does not".
Watch it. It’s 8 minutes well spent.