Autistic Interpreter?

Muffinator

New Member
Hi. I hope I am not being too nosy or making you feel like a zoo exhibit. I am Autistic and recently became hard of hearing, but not ready to call myself Deaf. I started learning ASL 2 years ago, and last week I started my 1st class working towards becoming an interpreter. The director of my school's interpreting program (who is also the director of the disability office) told me I should drop the interpreting class because Autistic people can't be interpreters.

The school director is a hearing guy of course, so I thought I should ask around in Deaf spaces and not just take what he says as fact.

If you had an interpreter, let's say for something personal like a doctor's appointment, would it be a problem for you if you found out the interpreter was Autistic? Would you start to worry that you got handed a bad interpreter today?
 

Muse

Active Member
I honestly wouldn't wouldn't be bothered if a terp was autistic. What matters at the end of the day for me is if the interpreter does the job well. If they do, great. I'm sold. :)

I was going to write a longer response, but then realized that much of my thinking was based on stereotypes, which I want to avoid. I've never seen an autistic interpreter before and admit I am curious!

FWIW, you have my support and encouragement. Go out and rock it :)
 

Mieke

Belgian ASL noob
Hi. I hope I am not being too nosy or making you feel like a zoo exhibit. I am Autistic and recently became hard of hearing, but not ready to call myself Deaf. I started learning ASL 2 years ago, and last week I started my 1st class working towards becoming an interpreter. The director of my school's interpreting program (who is also the director of the disability office) told me I should drop the interpreting class because Autistic people can't be interpreters.

The school director is a hearing guy of course, so I thought I should ask around in Deaf spaces and not just take what he says as fact.

If you had an interpreter, let's say for something personal like a doctor's appointment, would it be a problem for you if you found out the interpreter was Autistic? Would you start to worry that you got handed a bad interpreter today?

From another hearing person's point of view, if you're good at ASL, you can!
 

whatdidyousay!

Well-Known Member
I have a niece and she has Asperger's and volunteer to teach English as a second language . She will take over the class when the teacher isn't there. So don't let the director of your school's interpreting program stop you from being an ASL Interpreter . You will be a ASL Interpreter who is Autistic . Go for it !
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
If you can graduate from an ITP and pass certification requirements, then you can become an interpreter.

Like Botts posted, eye contact and facial expression are important and part of ASL fluency. I would add that terps also need to have a degree of empathy in order to accurately convey emotions and tone via facial expressions for ASL and voice inflections for spoken language. If you can do that, then you should be OK.
 

Muffinator

New Member
How will you deal with eye contact and expressive facial that is very necessary?
I think I can fake neurotypical eye contact if I meet a client (is that the right term?) who wants me to do that. I will know for sure when I'm not in the introduction class. Facial expression has never been a problem. If anything I've been internally screaming at the other ASL students who don't use their faces.
 

Muse

Active Member
I think I can fake neurotypical eye contact if I meet a client (is that the right term?) who wants me to do that. I will know for sure when I'm not in the introduction class. Facial expression has never been a problem. If anything I've been internally screaming at the other ASL students who don't use their faces.

Deaf people are pretty adept with eye contact (and facial expressiveness and emotion and etc). Much more so than hearing people are. If you go this route, then my advice is to be sure it looks and feels natural to the client.

The mental image that popped up in my head was that of lifelike 3D video game characters. Designers try as hard as they can to make the characters as lifelike as possible, but somehow it's not quite right and ends up looking weird. I know the 'weird' feeling might deter me as a client.

Also, off-point. Here's another perspective: as an autistic person, you have cognitive skills that are not easily available to most people. Maybe you can explore how to leverage those to provide unique and advantageous interpreting that other interpreters cannot provide? There might also be fields of interpreting that are more suited to you (medical? legal?), but I am going on stereotype, so take that with a grain of salt. :)
 

DeafDucky

Well-Known Member
Most deaf people have good eye contact etc.. but I don't lol. I have no idea why.. it's hard for me to sometimes keep the eye contact going... more so in the hearing world (Ironically- lipreading.. but I suck) but it happens in deaf spaces too. I agree with Muse though... keep it natural. Don't overdo or stress too much about if you are doing everything right all at once. Hell- when I first learned, the expressiveness part took a while to catch up with my signing- learning to "think" in ASL/sign etc.

I don't see why not- try for it and see how it goes in the intro class. The fact you are already internally musing (screaming) about the other ASL student's lack of facial expression tells me you might be good.

I know of a young man who is on the autism spectrum- pretty high level but he still has his issues. He started taking classes in High school and they found that he really liked it- I can't remember what benefits he derived (not communication- he was fine there lol) but he joined the school's Sign Chorus and has gone to some deaf events with his classmates in the past. Right now I know he's teaching a few signs to his baby son (his sister is teaching the kid French lol). Ah... helped him be a bit more focused with expressing himself more I think it was.

I was once told that when he and his sister would sign conversations (normal level type) with voice off to try to fool momma... she wasn't having none of it- somehow she knew...
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
How will you deal with eye contact and expressive facial that is very necessary?
Excellent point! But then again even Asperger's level autism can be a really huge spectrum so it's hard to say. Someone with classic severe autism (like the type where they might interpret crying as making a funny noise) might not be able to interpret very well, but someone who might be on an higher level might be able to handle the eye contact and the facial expressions.
 
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