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Two Perspectives on Autism

Raul Gutierrez has travelled to many rural areas of Tibet and has documented most of his travels with his trusty camera. Raul is a great photographer and I really love his candid take at some of the most remote parts of the world. This is the reason why his website was linked-to from BoingBoing yesterday and one of the reasons why you may have seen his site in my ‘blogroll’ since I started blogging.

I feel Raul’s photography is on par with his writing, of which I am a very big fan. This morning in fact, I read his post entitled ‘Pepper’s Ghost‘ in which he tells us a story about a night with his son. For me, it touches on how great the little things in life can be whilst also epitomising a reason why I want to have children in the future. It’s a really great, simple story.

Another of Raul’s posts that I read recently was ‘In My Language‘ which links to a video on YouTube created by an autistic woman on the subject of language and personhood – how they relate and how ‘we’ perceive those with mental disabilities. It’s quite a long video, but hold on ’til you get to the 5:20 mark when she starts her very articulate ‘translation’ of the first 5 minutes of the video. It’s fascinating.

Later on in this same post, Raul discusses ‘George Finn’ – an autistic savant. It reminded me of another link on my ‘blogroll’ – that of Daniel Tammet – and it soon became clear that Raul was in fact referring to Daniel and had simply written the name incorrectly – quite a coincidence! Daniel himself is fascinating and I have wanted to buy his book for quite a while (I am currently trying to reduce the number of new books I buy and I’ve already bought 4 this year). Daniel holds the record for the largest European recital of pi (22,514 digits in just over five hours), knows five languages (of which one – Icelandic – was learnt in a week as a challenge), has also created three of his own languages and can “calculate” cube roots faster than calculators. However, he does not know right from left and cannot go to the beach due to the overwhelming compulsion to count every grain of sand.

These two people show opposite perspectives on autism but one thing holds true for both: they are profiled and thrust into public view very often because of their ‘disability’ and the public’s obsession with those who are ‘different’.