Antti Lappalainen, 25, is a writer and advocate living in Finland. Antti started to use typing as a means of communication with his speech therapist in 2000. In the beginning, he was able to type only with his speech therapist at school. Two years later, he was able to communicate by typing with many other people including his father. During the week, Antti works in a rehabilitative employment setting. He lives part-time at home and part-time in a group home run by the Autism Foundation. For the last several years, Antti has been a columnist for the journal, Autism, published by the Finnish Association for Autism and Asperger Syndrome. His mission is to work as an advocate for people with disabilities, particularly for individuals who cannot speak.
I am an autistic person who still cannot speak a word. My head is working. I throw in a word by typing it. I think it would be awful to be without words. The remnant of an idea would bring tightness to the mind. Being unable to speak doesn’t make our heads empty. Always remember we poor wretches are not the same as jabberers who can speak…
I think I was always treated fairly. Never made to feel ashamed. Have always been in a position of trust as part of the family even if I am a poor wretch. I was trusted to get words out of my mouth. Always treated as an equal even if I was incapable of speech. I was told things in a fair way. The poor wretch’s mind understood that.
To my mind it is important to believe in us poor wretches. It is important that the world help us on our terms. Always ask us about things first. We’ll tell you. Do not disparage us all the time. You helpers often speak badly of us. Do you feel good about that? We have feelings for sure. Learn to communicate in bird speak, then you’ll know how we feel. It sure isn’t fun not being able to understand anything without help. Then a jabberer is certainly a poor wretch.
Use ordinary words. Don’t slur them. We feel diminished when you jabber on among yourselves. We lose any interest in helping you. Is it fun to make disparaging conversation with a cripple? Because the mind works but defends aloud with a word. Give us the power to scribble words. Then you’ll see how you have disparaged the poor wretches. It seems to me that you consider it fun to disparage us in some way. We are just ‘those poor wretches who amount to nothing. Just a nuisance’.
I think autistic people take their toll on you, the decision-makers. Ordinary people sit there nonplussed. Help for the autistic is lacking. Our intelligence level is sometimes higher than yours. Not always easy to be in a family with an autistic member. Your complicated stunts, computers and the like are fine. You make a commotion. You forget the facts. Autistic people are also human. Speak to us normally. We’re not lacking a brain. All that’s missing is being able to exchange words. Chatty people who address us normally and word machines help us. No heated use of pictures. More time for us to write.
Showing love is important for us. Not being outcasts. Those who are loved by the family cope well. It happens now that a great many autistic people are beaten into a corner in school and at home. We poor wretches are alone all the time. Not human persons. Autistic people suffer pain. Alone even if their brain is working. In the dark one is alone. Give them help, ordinary people! For them the pain is intense beyond words. Shouting thrusts to the surface of the autistic person. Head has an idea but cannot get it out intelligently.
Now listen, helpers a bit lacking in means and skills. More schooling for helpers. No switching of instructors. Autistic people must be able to get a dependable helper for a year at a time. Trust in us is important for autistic people.
Now listen, nobody wants to be born autistic. And yet we are people of ideas, that’s for sure. The “poor wretches” have given the world a lot of fine things. Then they’ve been good. But since the poor wretches need help signals to write, then jabberers’ brains place an obstacle in our way. Discuss and reflect on how many phrasemaking, music-playing, old painters there have been among us poor wretches. And how many of us may still turn into such. I don’t bet that all will. But dispel the darkness around us poor wretches. Take us for real people. Don’t sideline us. It’s hard enough to exist. Why must that feeling be made worse?
- Antti Lappalainen
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