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WEEKEND WEB: Autism? Translation Please!

Callum Brazzo
Callum Brazzo

Autistic Lincs by autistic author Callum Brazzo

There is so much happening which affects the autistic community right now (and there always is) so it was difficult to pick the most potent this week. After deciding that I would be feeding negative energy if I dedicated a column to a few of the items making headlines, I wanted us instead to think about multi-cultural autistic communities.

We know that life is a canvas and that we paint meaning onto it but what is that canvas like for a Polish autistic person? We know that autistic people can have rainbow filters, full of the stimulating colours, textures, smells and general sensory fragments that make up this world. But does that experience differ for a Lithuanian autistic person?

The answer to the above question, as I frame it in in my mind, is that the references vary but the humanity remains unchanged. Polish foods will not symmetictrally line up with English foods in terms of how they are eaten but they are still foods.

Please know that I am not aiming to cause a rift but I want us to recognise that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us” as the late Jo Cox said in her maiden speech.

How do we empower children, young people and adults in our multi-cultural autistic communities? Perhaps it would seem the best option that you give them our language. It has been a long time since I worked with the John Fielding School in Boston and even longer since I worked with Gosberton House School and so I am admittedly unaware of how this issue is currently tackled, however, I would imagine that teaching English to a Latvian autistic person might bring about a stronger likelihood of identifying the world and their emotions ‘better.’

But, objectively analysing this issue of helping an autistic person learn about themselves, is it better to utilise their own language to accomplish the same task? I delivered a TEDx talk in Norwich last year about utilising autistic people’s potential (“Why we should make mountains out of molehills,” YouTube.com) and it is about taking a singular interest or ‘obsession’ and working WITH it as opposed to against it and I think this enhances the point I want to convey in this particular column but also in past columns about imposing unnecessary norms. Do they necessarily need OUR language when they have their own? Is it about give and take?

This leads to my proposal.

What if there was an intimate network of translators, together with myself, that would disseminate knowledge in a compassionate and constructive manner that allowed autistic people and others in our multi-cultural communities to flourish and safeguard them from harmful ‘treatments’ when no alternatives seem available?

Could that work? I think it could but any feedback is appreciated from anyone willing to share it on the idea and the implementation of the idea. What DOES the canvas for South Holland look like in regards to autistic people in our Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Portuguese communities? Let’s create the foundation of that canvas.Autistic people, and indeed anyone else within a multi-cultural community, do not need to feel powerless over their lives. Knowledge is power. The tangible difference that knowledge provides can be felt in any language.


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