Chandima Rajapatirana ( Chammi ) is being recognized as an Influencer Spellebrity in I-ASC’s Spellebration. I had first heard of Chammi at the Motormosphosis 2018 conference. His name was up on a slide put up by the Keynote speaker, listing names of people who have had a profound impact on our movement. Next, I came across the spare, chilling beauty of his poem, ‘The Potter’. A poem that I still hear in my head.
Meeting him for this interview was a milestone for me, I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
What do you think is the biggest unsung contribution spellers bring to the world?
Spelling gave us the ability to explain ourselves. Our families and professionals finally understood why we did so many baffling things. I think until we spellers started communicating no one knew about our body brain disconnect. For the first time in history a group of people vastly misunderstood and discarded was able to reach out to the world. Just thinking about that makes me sad and elated. Sad for the lives lost, elated for the lives being found. The theory of movement difficulties was born out of this new knowledge. The role anxiety plays in autism was finally revealed too.
You were nominated and selected as a spellebrity in the category of an Influencer. What makes YOU think this category is fitting for you?
I am an influencer because I have always asked for my tribe to be included in mainstream life. Making it my life’s work to make my tribe not be bashed for being autistic I am an influencer. I am an influencer for doing workshops, seminars and conferences about disability and spelling to communicate. Every chance I got I put myself out there to convince people that we are intelligent. Even though I have exposure anxiety I made myself vulnerable by writing intensely about my inner world. My awesome, committed family provided fierce support. We brought supported typing to a new country and set up a foundation to get the word out.
Apart from your powerful advocacy and making change, what would you like someone to know about you?
I am a young guy. Maybe not so young now but with desires in my life. I have a lot of things but not romance. I wish I had that. I like to banter with young friends and listen to their banter. I express myself through my poetry. I wish I could join a poetry group. Warring my desire to live in Sri Lanka is my wish to return to the US because I have a richer literary life there.
I think my work here is very important. I am the only person doing FC here. I have brought a voice to many people and changed perceptions of who we are. I wish I could have the steady stream of brain nourishing work that I did in the US.
My tribe here speaks a different language though I too know that language it is not yet my first language. ( Which Srilnakan language do you speak?) Sinhala. I do not know if I can write poetry in that.
It is a huge honor to interview you, if you were to interview someone, whom would you pick and why?
Kamala (Harris). She is prettier than Biden. Talking to her will be fun, she laughs a lot. She will be the next President, Best you tell her from me that she should think of us. Can I say I just think she would be an interesting and interested person to interview. She is a strong opinionated woman like my mom.
What is your role at the E.A.S.E foundation?
My work is to train the teachers and talking to the parents daily. Also we do workshops. My primary focus is the students.
What is bringing you life and joy these days? Tell us about it.
In this time of fear, I get joy from my family. Mostly my Mom and I stay home and make some good food. I try to feed the gold fish in my pond. Every morning I stand at the edge of the pond and shake the container of fish food. Watching them come racing to me is funny. The lake behind our house is filled with scarlet waterlilies. The duck population in it has exploded. They are tiny, since I don’t know their names, I say duck. Cackling their heads off is what they do all day. They sound rather like my South American rain stick. Merely saying my awesome surrounding keeps me happy.
Chandima Rajapatirana is a poet, writer and a passionate advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. After 32 years in the US, he and his parents returned to Sri Lanka to establish the E.A.S.E. Foundation of which he is the Co-Founder/Co-President. As a person with non-speaking autism, Chandima works to create “A World Where We All Belong.” Through his writing, documentaries and videos, he has reached beyond Sri Lanka to change the world’s view of autism and its attitude towards disability.
“Traveler’s Tales: My Journey with Autism by Chandima Rajapatirana
“Finding our voices, “ A dramatic performance of essays written by non-speaking writers done by DJ Savarese . 12:27, for Chammi’s segment.
E.A.S.E. Foundation website, for essays by Chammi