“She told me that because she doesn’t communicate with conventional spoken word, she is written off, discarded and thought of as mentally retarded. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I sat with her in her apartment, I couldn’t help but wonder how many more people like Amanda are out there, hidden, but reachable, if we just tried harder.” Sanjay Gupta
The Art of Autism is deeply saddened by the death of Mel Baggs (d. April 11, 2020).
In 2007, Mel’s (formerly Amanda’s) video In My Language was broadcast on CNN who did several special segments about them. The film depicts the different ways people who are non-speaking may communicate and how people who communicate differently are often dehumanized.
Mel was an advocate for facilitated communication.
“I have used a communication device as my main means of communication for most of my adult life. I’ve only been able to speak communicatively a couple times in the past thirteen years or so (the ability went away as unexpectedly as it showed up), so I am considered nonspeaking. I grew up sometimes able to speak and sometimes not, and with a complicated relationship to speech and receptive language. I slowly lost both speech-in-general and speech-as-communication starting in adolescence and continuing into early adulthood. I use both typing and picture symbols depending on what I need at the time. I communicate best outside of language altogether, but they haven’t made tools to interpret that. I am sometimes a good writer, but language is extremely tiring for me nonetheless.”
Mel’s blog is here. Our sympathies go out to their family. At age 40, a legacy has been left behind.
Read a poignant tribute by Michael John Carley here.