Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wired's take on Autism

Too often mainstream media gets it wrong when writing about disability. However, Wired magazine often gets it right, as they have done with their recent article on autism. Though the picture they use is fairly dramatic, it is an interesting article that starts with a YouTube video of a young autistic woman (which is embeded in the article), known as Silentmiaow on Youtube, but who's real name is Amanda Baggs.

"The YouTube clip opens with a woman facing away from the camera, rocking back and forth, flapping her hands awkwardly, and emitting an eerie hum. She then performs strange repetitive behaviors: slapping a piece of paper against a window, running a hand lengthwise over a computer keyboard, twisting the knob of a drawer. She bats a necklace with her hand and nuzzles her face against the pages of a book. And you find yourself thinking: Who's shooting this footage of the handicapped lady, and why do I always get sucked into watching the latest viral video?
But then the words "A Translation" appear on a black screen, and for the next five minutes, 27-year-old Amanda Baggs — who is autistic and doesn't speak — describes in vivid and articulate terms what's going on inside her head as she carries out these seemingly bizarre actions."

My initial reaction to the description was that it was voyeurism, but then watched the video and read the article. It questions what we know about autism, and the nature of intelligence tests (and makes some good points). Very worth the read.

Another good Wired article regarding Aspergers is "The Geek Syndrome" about why aspergers is surging in Silicon Valley.
Amanda's YouTube page with more videos

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