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My Experience Viewing "In My Language"

gcat's picture

I will be honest; the first few minutes of the video "In My Language" were hard for me to get through (don't worry, my opinion changes). After a long day of school, the humming hurt my head, and I kept checking in dismay to see if the whole 8-minute video would be the same noises. Other than exhaustion, I believe my neurodivergence of anxiety perhaps increased my worry (I tend to get anxious when I hear repetitive sounds). 

Nonetheless, I cannot ignore how my own ableist bias likely played into my anxiety as well. Ultimately, the point is not whether I enjoyed the video or not. Ableist conditions, and the sounds that come with them, consistently put neurodivergent people in stressful situations (such as fire engines, doors slamming, and repetition, as said in "I Stim, Therefore I Am), but I struggle with an 8-minute video? Following "In My Language"'s language metaphor, I remember a moment involving language during my study abroad trip (this will seem unrelated at first, but I promise it connects). I lived in a suite (we shared a kitchen and living room) with six other people, including a man from Chile, a man from Saudi Arabia, and a man from Germany. Everyone spoke a different first language, yet in all cases, the men spoke English, and pretty fluently at that. Meanwhile, I could barely remember anything I learned from high school Spanish. I wondered why then that English was the dominant language?  Sure, we were in Ireland, an English-speaking country, but no one Irish lived in our suite, so why must it be presumed that they accommodate for me? 

This example connects because language can, sometimes unintentionally, become a tool for privilege and bias. The narrator of "In My Language" refers to her language as a constant conversation. Watching "Ask an Autistic" clarified how some autistic people have enhanced sensory input, and when they enjoy the input, they are "in the zone." A person removing that input would be like taking away my calming music or comfort foods when I am anxious. As the narrator notes, people fail to recognize that both the autistic language and the neurotypical or non-autistic language are valid and equal forms of expression. If I had turned off the video, it might initially seem like a relief, but it would have marked a failure to recognize the voice of someone different from me. We must not be afraid to confront our ableist bias and change them, even if it requires a bit of discomfort. 

P.S. (That said, I also understand my privilege in being able to control my anxiety and channel it away. If any source edges a reader towards a panic attack, their health and wellbeing must come first)