One of the most frustrating things, to me, about even the possibility of having Asperger’s, is that there’s an automatic assumption that just because I don’t communicate my thoughts and feelings the same way as other people, that I’m somehow less intelligent. Because I’m “tactless”, I must just not know any better. People feel the need to exclude me from conversations and events because they really don’t want to have to listen to me say exactly what’s on my mind at any given moment in response to what’s going on around me (I’ve actually had more than one teacher in my life tell me that they were never going to call on me again, because I talked too much and no one else ever got a chance to speak).
Some people find it hysterical, the way my internal monologue is connected directly with my mouth, without the benefit of a real filter, particularly when I’m tired. Sometimes I make jokes about it. It seems like, in certain company, the bluntness is actually something that people want. But I have trouble figuring out who would appreciate it and who wouldn’t. If I’m around people for any extended length of time who think it’s funny when I bluntly point things out as I see them, then it’s hard for me to go back to NOT saying what I think in response to every single thing that comes out of someone else’s mouth. A good example of this is that in my 10am class, I’m pretty well encouraged to speak my mind often. So in my 11am class, it’s really hard to keep myself from sharing my opinion about EVERYTHING that comes up. But the professor in the 11am class is usually pretty good at maintaining a system of “taking turns” speaking…I’m grateful for that, actually, because if that wasn’t the case, I’m afraid I would never shut up, because of the freedom I’m allowed just an hour earlier.
I’m trying to use the simplest terms to describe this, because I don’t know how else anyone would understand what I’m trying to say. The complexities of what I think vs. the simplicity of my emotions (most of my anger is really frustration, as is my sadness…while most of my positive emotions can always be described as simply “happiness”) kind of war against each other.
Isn’t it more confusing to say something like, “I masticated a portion of bleached grain that had previously been mixed with a conglomeration of other materials and then superheated in a metallic container until proper consistency had been achieved for consumption” instead of, “I ate a piece of bread”?
That’s how I feel when I’m trying to explain my emotions. My emotions are like, “I ate a piece of bread”, but people don’t believe me. They want the long diatribe of complex phrases and words, and when I try to deliver, they then have no idea what I’m talking about. They want it both ways. They can’t have it both ways. Then, because they don’t understand, I’M in the wrong.
All of this leads to the following:
The video opens up with her humming and wailing an eerie sort of tune, while the camera focuses on many of her repeated behaviors, such as flapping a receipt in the air, and rubbing an open book on her face. Then, with the continued montage, a message begins to appear.
Amanda CAN communicate in English, via typing through a program that “speaks” for her.
Through this communication, Amanda points out that her “weird” actions are the ways that she communicates and interacts with her environment. There’s nothing symbolic about her playing with a stream of water, for example: that’s just what she’s compelled to do, because it’s there, and why can’t she play with the stream and feel it going over different parts of her hand? Why can’t she study the noises that the water makes?
Why can’t she chew on a pen to explore the texture with her tongue, while at the same time realizing the taste and hardness of the plastic?
What’s wrong with her choosing to stand in a room, rocking and flailing her arms, taking in the stimulus in the way in which her brain has “decided” to function?
Autistics are said to have IQs of less than 70 in severe cases.
They’re said to not understand what’s going on in the world around them.
They’re said to be “retarded” and “close-minded” and “unwilling to interact with others”.
In mild cases, such as those with Asperger’s, they’re said to simply be unable to “learn” how to communicate effectively with others, and unable to “learn” how to express themselves in ways that are conducive to society in general.
Do you know what I was thinking when I was watching that video, even before reading the article all the way through, and before her explanation began?
I was thinking of all the times in grade school where I was chastised and even publicly humiliated by my teacher for chewing on my pencils. The taste and texture of the wood compelled me to chew on them. I didn’t necessarily want to, nor was I worried about splinters or anything else – it wasn’t the act of chewing that was important. It was the information I got from chewing. Same with paper – I chewed on paper for YEARS. Still do, sometimes. Several of my childhood books have whole strips of paper missing from the sides, because I would subconsciously just pull the strips off, put them in my mouth, and reduce them into little papery pebbles, which I would then spit out anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours later. Gasoline smells “dangerous” to me. I don’t know how else to describe it. Same with anything that has any sort of ethanol, alcohol, or flammable fluid in it. I have little miniature panic attacks that subside into this strange feeling of calm, like I need to take a nap, after smelling some of those things.
Anyway, I don’t expect you guys to know what I’m talking about – I just wanted to give some specific examples.
But as I watched, I had flashes of memory where I absolutely felt compelled to do something, because I didn’t feel there was any other way for me to understand what was going on. And I UNDERSTAND what she’s doing. I GET it. I did before she began her typed explanation.
The explanation solidified things, and I found myself slack-jawed, in awe that she was able to put things so succinctly.
But WHY NOT? People with autism aren’t retarded – they just don’t communicate in the same way as other people.
And she’s right – while I’m not an advocate of the PC-ness that’s overtaken many aspects of this country, I can agree with one thing: rather than spending time, money, and resources teaching a gorilla sign language, why don’t we use those resources to try to interpret what our friends and family members with autism are trying to tell us? WHY NOT?
I mean, really. What do we have to lose? Why are we so scared of our own kind when they don’t do exactly what we want them to?
Just because I’d rather chew on a pencil than write with it, does that make me a threat? Because Amanda likes to smell books rather than look at them, is she a force to be reckoned with?
Who says that an IQ of less than 70 means that someone isn’t human? It just means that they haven’t learned to “translate” our language yet. IQ tests assume a relatively narrow upbringing, with a specific set of criteria. If you don’t meet all of these criteria, you’re pretty well screwed. But it’s just one test. ONE TEST. And somehow that one test has the power to completely disenfranchise an entire class of people who may be a little more cognizant of it than we previously thought.
Why is that?
Can you imagine if Albert Einstein had been discredited because he didn’t brush his hair or wear clothes that properly fit him? I mean, socially, he wasn’t communicating very well – he was acting in a manner that suggested a sort of asocial nature that wasn’t at all in keeping with what people expected of him, especially at that time. But it was what was in his mind that mattered. His thoughts, his ideas, and his insights.
There’s a possibility that we have another Einstein lurking in the mind of someone who just can’t quite express their thoughts in the way we’re used to hearing them.
Does that possibility scare you or thrill you?