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Amanda Baggs is a nonverbal autistic writer who blogs about living with multiple disabilities, often including personal thoughts in those blogs relating to her conditions and overall life.

Background

Baggs was born in Campbell, California in 1980. She attended the Center for Talented Youth in Los Angeles at the Loyola Marymount University for their summer program as a child. She also attended Simon's Rock College in Massachusetts, where subsequently fellow students claimed that she "spoke, attended classes, dated, and otherwise acted in a completely typical fashion."[1]. While Baggs doesn't dispute these events, they are being erroneously promoted as proof that she is not autistic. This is not correct.

Between 1996 and 1998 it was reported that Baggs was claiming that she was suffering from schizophrenia and not autism. This diagnosis however was made by established quack Harvey Biala.[2]

Baggs presently resides in Vermont and has done so since 2005.

Disability Status

Baggs has been labeled low-functioning[3] due to many severe disabilities. She is very rarely able to speak and uses typing and picture symbols to communicate. She uses a feeding tube and supplemental oxygen to avoid lung infections and uses mobility equipment including splints, braces, a cane, and manual or power wheelchairs (depending on the circumstances). She has also been bedridden due to adrenal insufficiency.[4]

Amanda has come close to death as a result of severe illnesses,[5][6] and in one particular incident in 2013 a hospital engaged in life threatening discrimination.[7]

Amanda challenges the notion that some people are too low-functioning to have lives worth living, and is very open about the disabilities and challenges faced. The blog named "Ballastexistenz" is a reference to "ballast existence" or "ballast life," older terms applied to disabled people that suggested they were burdens upon everyone else and did not deserve to live.[4]

Writing and Art

Human Rights

"We find ways of making communities. Not based on shared individual traits, so much as on a shared desire to understand and protect one another."[8]
Amanda writes regularly about life's thoughts and experiences. Many of them center around disability, including autism. Some are highly personal while others involve community issues such as the Judge Rotenberg Center.[9] Some are a mixture, such as a piece on disability gaslighting.[10]

In particular the essay "If I am killed" struck a chord with many autistic people. Amanda asked that if death were to occur, that no one blame lack of services or desperation[11] (as has been said after many caregiver murders/attempted murders, particularly by Autism Speaks).[12][13][14]

Sometimes her work is broader or unclear in focus, such as the essay "Your politics have a problem when they contradict the real-life experiences of the people they're supposed to be about." The essay could easily be read to be about autistic people's reaction to Autism Speaks and its cohorts, but there is nothing specific.[8]

Amanda has also written about issues such as the mistreatment of fat people in health care.[15]

In My Language (2007)

"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."[16]
Amelia posted In My Language on YouTube in January 2007. It attracted the attention of CNN[17][18][19] and led to a feature on Anderson Cooper 360.[20][21] The video has over 1.3 million views as of August 2015.

Poetry

Amanda's poetic imagery evokes a sense of contemplation and oneness with nature. They involve a feeling dubbed marona, or the feeling "like reality is denser, thicker, more saturated with realness, more sacred, more real, more itself." Video artist Mark Leckey has stated he is in awe of her connection with inanimate objects.[22]

Artwork

Amanda's work includes The Scarf, a minimalist comic which is "part autobiography, part metaphor" based on experiences with delirium during hospitalization.[23]

References

  1. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/01/autism_neurodiversity_does_facilitated_communication_work_and_who_speaks.html
  2. http://amandabaggscontroversy.blogspot.com/
  3. NPR: Autism Movement Seeks Accceptance, Not Cures
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ballastexistenz: About
  5. Ballastexistenz: Love, Fear, Death, and Disability
  6. Ballastexistenz: I am not your fairy tale miracle cure story.
  7. Not Dead Yet: Autistic Writer/Blogger/Activist Amanda Baggs Facing Life-Threatening Discrimination in Vermont Hospital
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ballastexistenz: Your politics have a problem when they contradict the real-life experiences of the people they're supposed to be about.
  9. Ballastexistenz: This is how I feel when I read a lot of posts about the Judge Rotenberg Center.
  10. Ballastexistenz: After this, I am never again putting up with bullies telling me that my medical conditions are imaginary.
  11. Ballastexistenz: If I am killed
  12. Autism Women's Network: Is Autism Speaks a Hate Group?
  13. Boycott Autism Speaks: #IAmNOTKelliStapleton #WalkInIssysShoes What Are Your Priorities?
  14. Squidalicious: Please Stop Being "Understanding" When Autistic Kids Are Murdered
  15. BallastExistenz: Fat people and feeding tubes
  16. In My Language
  17. CNN: Living with autism in a world made for others
  18. CNN: Behind the Veil of Autism
  19. CNN: Video Reveals World of Autistic Woman
  20. Anderson Cooper: Why We Should Listen to Unusual Voices
  21. Anderson Cooper: Amanda Baggs answers your questions
  22. Frieze: A Thing for Things
  23. The Scarf — A Comic About Delirium

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