From my mother.

Standard

I don’t normally respond to the various bullies that try to make false claims about my life. Generally, it’s something really inane, like they’ll claim to be revealing a secret about me when it’s something I’ve written publicly about before (often many times, in many places), they’ve made something up, they’ve played on inaccurate interpretations, or they’ve twisted something real and given it sinister meanings. But when I made an important post about the way police treat disabled people, my mother (who has been commenting on my blog for years) replied and gave more details about an incident that happened to me when I ran away from a day program after a fight broke out. A particularly asinine repeat-bully (not just of me but of many other people with ties to autism) responded by attempting to tell me that I had written what my mother said. I told my mother, and she sent me the following video in the mail:

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/s9ISrTDmryI&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

It’s fully captioned, but if you can’t play videos for some reason, this is what it says:

“Hi, I’m Anna Baggs. Amanda Baggs is my daughter. I’d like to make some things clear. Amanda is autistic. She was diagnosed when she was 14. I sometimes write on her blog under the name ‘Mom’. No one else blogs there under that name. Amanda does not tell me what to write, and neither does anyone else. I’d like to make some things perfectly clear. Amanda has my infinite support. I’ve had a chance to meet some of the other bloggers at Autreat last year. I took Amanda and it was an incredible experience. For others that I have not had a chance to meet, this will serve as our introduction.”

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

21 responses »

  1. It makes me happy to see you have the support of your mother,
    to be validated is so important, It grieves me not to have had this
    form of support and affirmation.

  2. Man, people will say some bizarre things. I am not sure why it is so shocking to people that not only might you be able to express yourself in your own words, but that your mother can, too! Who’da thunk it.

    I mean I get that it might upset someone’s sense of – I don’t don’t know the word – superiority? That’s part of it but not all of it. Ability to be paternalistic towards people with disabilities? Feeling like they are being so helpful and kind and… yeah. All that icky stuff. But that is exactly what and exactly why it needs to change – you know this, of course. And people are resistant to change. Especially if it means their accepted views might turn out to be incorrect.

    On the other hand, the fact that they are reacting this way might mean that they are aware of and rethinking their attitudes. Not that they like it, but it is a first step, I do believe. Hopefully eventually they will come to see how they have been wrong and embrace new and better attitudes instead of clinging to the old model. I’ve seen it happening here in RI, little by little in many cases, very quickly in others, as sadly in some, nothing at all seems to have changed – but I believe we are making progress.

    But for people to accuse you of being your mom? That is extreme. As I said in New Orleans, discussing the rampant and institutionalized racism in the Deep South, “What are they so afraid of?” I was told then that I was finally starting to ask the right questions.

    As was scrawled in the cupboard in Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale,” “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

    And to your mother, hello! Pleased to “meet” you! It must have been a bit jarring and/or invalidating and/or mystifying to see people accuse your daughter of authoring your words. If it means anything to you, my mom and I have had similar discussions and yup, you responded as a mother recalling a situation would, as my mom has done. So there’s nothing there that said to me “Amanda wrote this!”

  3. So sorry people are bullying you, Amanda. Ugh.

    Amanda’s mom, you always remind me of my mom! She always supports me, too, and I’m really lucky.

  4. Wow. It boggles my mind that anyone could actually seriously think you were writing comments and signing them “mom”. Gah. The writing styles are totally different, for one thing.

  5. I appreciate the kind words and words of encouragement spoken here. “Hello” back again..:)

    As for the video itself I haven’t been able to make it play on my computer. That’s not a problem for me as I already know what I said plus it is a little unnerving to see your own face talking to you. ;)

    As for the detractors…Amanda has had children bullying her and taunting her since she first entered society. She didn’t have to do anything to get this response just be herself. As a child it was because she was different and they really wanted her to know she didn’t fit in. Children can be cruel that way when the environment doesn’t support diversity. i have seen a few teachers really encourage such an environment and my hope would be that becomes whole schools.

    I have always told Amanda detractors words speak more to who they are as people then to saying anything real about their subjects. Motivation speaks volumes beyond the words themselves.

    I find it ironic that as an Autistic Adult she now has detractors saying the exact opposite, that she is perfectly normal. The world doesn’t get to have it both ways! I think too her being hyperlexic also caused a bit of remorse among a few children who resented the uninvited attention that received and for sure I still see some who resent anything that is a positive in another person and takes away from their own getting attention or attention to their causes.

    It is always a joy to meet people who encourage each other and work together to overcome obstacles and work together for common causes that encourage diversity. I enjoy going to other blogs listed here and seeing that very pushing the edges of the envelope to change old patterns of thinking in new ways. You all contribute to change and a new way of thinking about Autistic life. I applaud that in all of you!

  6. Hello again Andrea and to those others who have added in here,

    I realized I wasn’t clear in how I wrote one sentence. I meant to say that I have seen some teachers really promote acceptance of diversity with wonderful results and I wish whole schools could be this accepting. One teacher in particular was someone I admired. She tracked the progress of every student and they were all on independent programs. Every child tutored another child who had problems with a subject they themselves were good at and likewise every child had a tutor.

    Amanda’s oldest brother was in that class and he also was hyperlexic. He was spontaneously reading at 18 months and so reading was a strong point. He made a video to help other children learn to read in that first grade class. His penmanship however was laborious and not too legible so another child with good penmanship helped him with that. This all transferred to acceptance of people for who they were realizing people had all levels of abilities and challenges… and all were capable of taking instruction and teaching. It truly was a beautiful atmosphere…rarefied and nurturing…challenging but not in a competitive way..

    I think it often comes down to the fact that children who are accepted for who they are and get encouragement can more easily grow from there. Some people with very fragile egos lash out at others to try to smash them down so that they themselves can feel taller. It is a sad fact and one that often means a childhood bully becomes an adult bully. Unless the person lacks a conscience, and I believe that is one in 25 people, I do believe they can change if self confidence ever flourishes. Acceptance of self comes before acceptance of others.

    I used to tell our children that it didn’t matter if they were 3 years old or 83 when they wanted to learn anything such as algebra or whatever. If they wanted to learn something at that time….then that was their time to learn and it was ok. No one should be chastised for being too early or too late on such things. I didn’t want them to have fences built by others. This was all prompted by Amanda questioning if it was ok to have a toy she was attracted to when it was labeled (not for safety reasons)for a different age then hers. I always wanted our children to accept their own timetable and likewise not question the timetable someone else might have.

    I think it helped too that I am what can best be called “spatially challanged.” I don’t know any other way to describe this. I could park my car outside a store, go in one door out a different door, and not be able to find my car. All my immediate family has great spatial ability except me. Actually Amanda is a spatial thinker so her strong point is my weakest. So from the get go my children were help;ing me with this problem while relying on me for many other things. They were accepting of what I consider a deficit or disability. This meant early on they understood people can have value and deficits and that we can all help each other and actually that is needed if we are all to get on with life.
    That is a strong lesson to learn early on.
    It allows one to accept themselves and others and that goes a long way.

  7. I wonder where all this controversial information about you is coming from. Did people just exaggerate or twist some of your true life experiences? That is so, so sad. People are probably very jealous of you since you are an unintentional revolutionary figure.

    Keep uploading your amazing videos. I used to go by KittiesRock46 on youtube, until I closed down my account to take a break. Now I am back, as AnElephantThatPaints.

    It is so nice seeing your mom help out. The world needs more supportive mothers like her.

  8. Like I mentioned in another post — some of it is stuff I’m open about being revealed as if it’s secret (like that I went to private school for four years, never mentioning it was a failed attempt to deal with social and learning problems from public school, that we were not as rich as the usual demographic there, or that I repeated a grade in order to go there). Some of it is real things being twisted or given distorted meanings. Some of it is half truths. Some of it is entirely and completely made up.

    As for motivations. I never thought of jealousy (not knowing what I have to be jealous of) until other people mention it. Media attention is hardly a good thing. Some of them have problems with my views and rather than debate them honorably they take the easy way out and try to paint me as either fake, atypical, or too autistic to have a decent opinion. Some are bullies and/or sociopaths who have found each other and find my history too juicy to resist — some of them are in fact repeat bullies of many autistic people (one of whom organized most of the other bullies). The motivations of bullies I don’t understand, although I have read that sociopaths tend to pick targets who have a strong sense of ethics or justice. Some are fanatics and I am in the way of their cause. Some fear being considered stupid (a fear the bullies deliberately play on). Some lack an understanding of autism and are confused and get manipulated by bullies into enabling them. Others enable them because of a misguided attempt at fairness or because they believe every argument has two legitimate sides. Some are many of these things. Some may have motives I don’t understand and can’t guess.

  9. Hi Anna Baggs,

    I hope you’re feeling better now and sorry you were unable to come to Autreat.

    Amanda, your presentation that was sent in was awesome. Unfortunately Ivan(who was in attendance for that and all other presentations) cannot really remember details about it.

    The internet really is a double-edged sword….on the one hand it’s a great tool for autistic people to find one another and do advocacy but on the other hand it’s also a platform for bullies to be extremely nasty and hide behind anonymity. So sad. Those bullies are really pathetic individuals who delude themselves with the idea that cutting others down makes them better. They think their shit don’t stink.

  10. Amanda, I wish all schools could be as positive as that one classroom was for your brother. Unfortunately it was not the entire school, just one teachers approach to her students. She did write up how she applied this and won state recognition which hopefully meant it was used by other teachers. I just think realizing everyone has their own speed at learning in each subject and recognizing also everyone can be a teacher goes a long way in establishing acceptance of who we are as individuals. I like thinking there are more schools out there like this like you pointed out.

    Andrea,I am glad you were able to go this year and thanks for your kind words. I really missed seeing all the people I met last year. I have had some health problems recently and travel just was not an option.I am glad things went well.

  11. Ooh, it’s so nice to see your mum! (Although the circumstances aren’t.)

    I hope you are both well.

    *waves hello to Anna Baggs*

    (Sorry about commenting so late!)

  12. Amanda I just saw your “communication in my language” video on Facebook Via a fishworld friend.
    Wow What an amazing, intelligent person you are!
    I’ve just now seen your “how to boil water the ‘easy/fast’ way” What a sense of humor you have.

    I cannot thank you enough for FINALLY teaching those of us who don’t understand what is going on in your world…what really is.
    It’s incredible to me that people think those with Autism have a “disability” or are not as intelligent as others!! WOW

    The truth is you have to “step down” to join us!
    amazing! Thanks so much for being able to share this with us so that we may learn.
    I’m posting it all over FB as it’s my believe that everyone who has even a tiny crack of an open mind NEEDS to see it!

  13. Edit! sorry missed the typo:
    as it’s my belief that everyone who has even a tiny crack of an open mind NEEDS to see it!

  14. Lavrose 62: I think that your comment was well-meant, and I’m not speaking for Amanda, but:

    I am autistic, and I consider autism to be a disability; I do not, however, consider disability to be a horrible, absolute, context-independent state that ought to be pitied, eradicated, or feared by people privileged enough to live in a society that easily accommodates their own existence.

    I’m pretty sure that I live in the same ‘world’ as you, although I perceive it differently – I don’t think it’s very productive or accurate to claim that autistic people are off living in their own worlds (I think is implied by what you said; sorry if I am mistaken). I don’t think it’s very productive or accurate, as well, to think of autistic people as somehow existing on a separate plane (e.g. having to ‘step down’ to join others). I do not think that we are special creatures who exist for the purpose of educating or enlightening others, any more than you are.

  15. I’m not autistic, but apart from that I am pretty much in agreement with EK. Lavrose 62, I hope you won’t take any of this as criticism because it’s not meant to be–it’s meant more to see if we can help stimulate a little more thinking about your word choices and (more importantly) your perceptions and attitudes about what it actually means to be a “person with a disability.”

    I am deaf and have attention deficit disorder and a couple of other conditions that affect, or may eventually affect, mobility. Because of these, I could be described as a “person with disabilities.” People often misunderstand the term “disability” to imply a horrible existence of utter helplessness and dependence on others. It does not. A disability is determined not only by our impairments (the conditions in our body or brains that affect our ability to function the way other people might function) but also by our environment: it is not my inability to hear well in and of itself that stops me from watching certain television programs. What does stop me from watching certain television programs is the failure of some TV channels to provide closed captioning that would otherwise give me access to the audio portion of their programming, including dialogue and a description of key sound effects. If I am “disabled” by being deaf, then the disability is not because I am “broken” (because of course I’m not) but because the environment was designed by and for people who do not share my particular needs.

    If you understand disability as an interaction between an impairment and its environment and NOT as a commentary on a person’s capacity to think, to feel, to make choices, or to act as an autonomous being worthy of dignity and respect, then to be considered “a person with a disability” is not and simply cannot be considered an insult any more than it would be an insult to observe that person X has brown eyes or person Y is tall or short for her age.

    If being considered as “a person with disabilities” cannot be an insult, then it also cannot be a compliment to claim that a person ISN’T disabled. On the contrary, when you state that a person isn’t disabled and clearly posit it as if it is meant to be a compliment, you imply (and no, I don’t think you meant to do this, I’m not offended, I’m only trying to gently point out what were probably unintended connotations in what you say) that there is something “wrong” or “bad” or “offensive” about having a disability.

    I, too, don’t find it particularly productive or accurate to imply that any of us people with disabilities are in any way in a world apart from, or superior to, anyone else. We aren’t. We merely perceive certain things differently simply become we come from a different frame of reference or set of experiences. If our frame of reference or resulting perceptions seem somehow radical or novel, then this is not really because our perceptions are that dramatically original. It is really more a reflection of the fact that people with disabilities are rarely given space to express our differences and be listened to. On the rare occasions when we do have this space, it is mostly other people with disabilities who share the same space who actually pay attention. This means non-disabled people rarely hear the perceptions of people with disabilities and, thus, often through no particular fault of their own, have very little basis to judge what ideas or perceptions are actually as original as they might think.

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