ENGL 384 Take Home Final – Chy’Nia Johnson

Chy’Nia Johnson

ENGL 384: Disability and Literature

Dr. Chris Foss

7 December 2021

Word count: 1003

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Chy’Nia Johnson

Option Two: a thesis-driven argument relevant to disability studies that engages substantially with one or two of the theoretical pieces from the final autism unit

Imbalance of Racial Representation in Autism Studies

In the final section of ENGL 384, we discussed the topic of Autism. A variety of readings were assigned, each showing different perspectives in their view of autism. There were a couple of theoretical pieces that caught my attention and made me think about the topic of autism a little harder. These two pieces were about race and autism. The first piece called “Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exists… We Matter” by Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu talks about how autism and the research behind the disability is lacking a more racial background within its testing. She also talks about how there is a representation absence of autistics of color in both literature and the media. Along with Giwa’s preface, I also found interest in E. Ashkenazy’s theoretical piece “Foreword: On Autism and Race”. She also explains the microaggressions on people of color as well as the adaptations that autistics of color must face every day of their lives. As I further my readings, I came to the thought that there should be more people of color in autism research and more racial autism representation in the media.

Autism research has been going on for many decades and with the more advanced technologies, one would think that the research would expand more than it has. That is entirely incorrect. The research that is used now and is the same research that was used about 30 years ago. Most testing was completed on one race and gender, white males. With such a strong, one-sided type of research for so long, most diagnoses are not completely accurate. Researchers and scientists are not taking into consideration the different ways that autism is affected by certain racial backgrounds. In certain communities within racial backgrounds other than white, some autistics of color have a hard time with getting proper diagnoses and help, (Ashkenazy). If additional research of autism with autistics of color would help improve statistical research that is among the current group of autistics of color. Current autistic colors research is more based on the white male information that was early studied. So, the current research could be erroneous in that there could be more certain aspects of autism that are different in autistics of color. As mentioned in Giwa’s piece she says, “According to popular opinion, autistic people didn’t/don’t look like me. People didn’t/don’t sound like me. Autism = (white, male-presenting) toddler wearing a Thomas the train T-shirt; autism = (white, male-presenting) quirky teen gamer; autism = (white, male-presenting) geeky computer programmer; autism = (white, male-presenting) adult rocking and staring off into space… A ready scapegoat for all of their caregiver’s life disappointments; autism = Temple Grandin, puzzle pieces, ABA therapy, and Autism Speaks” (Giwa, xv). With this description, a person with little to no knowledge would only think that white, male-presenting people would only be the ones that can have autism, which is entirely false. Autism is in every gender and in every race and I think that having this issue resolved would change more minds on the racial representation of autism.

While autism research and reported studies are mainly based around white males, a similar thing is happening with the media. Back in the 1980s, when the beginning of extensive testing and research started on autism, the way that the media was informing the public about the growth and awareness of this disability was through articles, books, and particularly movies. The first movie that came out that was showing/bringing awareness to the autism spectrum was Rain Man (1988). The movie portrays a man that learns about his estranged brother, who has autism and savant syndrome. The man then learns more about his brother as they travel across the country in a car. This movie has the main portrayal of the main character being an autistic white male. As more movies came out as the years rolled on, they also followed a similar pattern. Most main characters with autism were either white or male or both. This portrayal in the media shows a lack of racial representation. With the lack of racial representation in the media that is shown today, autistics of color do not have their own race or face being related back on the big screen. E. Ashkenazy mentions in her piece, “Though many autistic people of color live in loving supporting homes, despite having the support of their families, they do not always have the support and understanding of their communities. How can we positively target different ethnic groups and cultures with powerful information that shapes how autism is both viewed and approached? (Ashkenazy, xxxiii). I interpreted this as that most autistics of color do not have their race being represented as often or even at all in the media. Yes, there are some representations of autistics of color in articles that are being written by autistics of color, however, there are not many, if any, movies, or TV shows that portray a person of color that is autistic. If there was more representation of autistics of color in the media, then the problem that was previously mentioned by Ashkenazy would not be present.

The topic that I choose is a very touchy and controversial topic to certain individuals because some people do not notice the issue whereas this issue surrounds the life of others. This was mentioned in both Giwa and Ashkenazy’s pieces. They both mentioned that non-autistic, non-people of color say, ‘oh well autism is autism’ or ‘why should race be brought up in this issue?’ For the individuals that these two writers were discussing, this situation is very important to autistics of color. Having racial-based research and having racial representation of autistics of color in the media could have a significant impact on how an individual with autism and part of the persons of color community. Therefore, there should be more research that has a person of color in the description of the research and there should be more people of color in movies and TV shows that are surrounded by autism.

Works Cited

Ashkenazy, E. Foreword: On Autism and Race. All the Weight of Our Dreams. (2016). Accessed 6 December 2021.

Giwa-Onaiwu, Morénike. Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter. All the Weight of Our Dreams. (2016). Accessed 6 December 2021.

Megan Hofmann and Miranda Colbert’s Final Take-Home Exam

Miranda Colbert and Megan Hofmann

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384 Section 1

08 December 2021

Word Count: 1045

When it comes to healthcare, many persons with disabilities face discrimination and hatered. They are often seen as a burden or not worth the time, effort, and financial resources to take care of. These misconceptions often lead to harm and injustice as well as prevent people with disabilities from receiving proper treatment within the medical field. For example, pregnant women with disabilities are less likely to get a pap smear or a mammogram compared to an able-bodied person. The constant fallacies have caused persons with disabilities to speak up about their experiences and how they face mistreatment. Rebecca Foust’s poem, Apologies to my OB-GYN and Craig Romkema’s poem, Perspectives depict ways in which individuals with disabilities face discrimination within the medical profession, showcasing varying issues in the healthcare field and their negative impacts on people with disabilities.

In Rebecca Foust’s poem Apologies to my OB-GYN, Foust critiques the medical field and how the profession handles persons with disabilities. In this specific poem, the poetic speaker talks about the birth of her premature son and the way he was taken care of by the nurses in the hospital. The speaker’s sarcastic tone is evident in the line, “Sorry we were such pains in your ass / asking you to answer our night calls like that.” The line itself seems to have a hidden message underneath it as if to sarcastically apologize for making the nurses do their own job. This can also be seen in the lines, “Sorry that my boy birthed himself / too early… / with his two pounds, two ounces.” From the beginning of her son’s birth the nurses see him as a burden. She claims that her son “took up so much room,” which contradicts her next line explaining how small he was. In the line, “skewed bell-curve predictions / into one long, straight line;” She talks about how her son ignored the normal patterns, causing more trouble to the nurses. Foust uses this line as an example of how people that work in the medical field claim that persons with disabilities have a lower life expectancy than others. The line implies that because her son is disabled, the nurses do not deem his life as important as able-bodied individuals because of his life expectancy as a disabiled baby, that because he is disabled he is not a priority. This treatment infuriates the mother because not only is that boy her son, but another living human being and he deserves the same treatment as an able-bodied person. In the end of the poem, Foust writes, “blue wingbeat / pulse fluttering his left temple—there, / there again. Just like it did then.” She uses this line as an ending to prove to the nurses and doctors that her son was alive and well, despite the poor treatment he receives from the hospital. The speaker is using her son as an example for many surviving disabled people to show that they deserve to be treated fairly and correctly. 

When discussing persons with disabilities, one of the main issues is lack of communication. No matter how close an able-bodied person is to being disabled it is impossible for them to know the whole story of what it is actually like. Because the narrator of this poem is the mother of a disablied child, it is difficult to get the child’s point of view. This poem is not told by the son, therefore robs him of his right to explain to the readers how he felt about the nurses. Was he angry or upset? All the reader can conclude is that the mother herself felt infuriated and sarcastic. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator uses the lines, “…He spent / today saving hopeless-case nymph moths / …/ at a time…” While the action itself is seen as sweet in the mother’s eyes it still raises the question of why. There was also another line that read, “and that he did everything so backwards: / lost weight, gained fluid / blew up like a human balloon / then shriveled.” Much like the narrator’s own son, persons with disabilities can be compared to a baby in this case. They are both seen as helpless in the eyes of not only the medical field but by able-bodied persons. Without the son’s point of view the reader can only assume everything the mother said is the whole truth. 

Another poem that highlights discrimination, specifically in healthcare, is Craig Romkema’s, Perspectives. The poetic speaker claims, “From the beginnings of my differentness, I remember / Doctors, students, therapists / Measuring my head / The tightness of my muscles / The tracking of my eyes / The dysfunctions of my stomach” (Romkema). By stating, “From the beginnings of my differentness” the poetic speaker reflects on how society labels autistic individuals as being different from able-bodied humans, indicating that he/she has known from the start of their existence that they do not fit the mold of what society and the medical field considers “normal.” The lines evaluate varying side effects that a person with autism might have, treating the body as oddity rather than a functioning human life.

Finally, the poetic speaker continues the poem by expressing frustration at discriminating labels assigned by individuals in the medical field. The poem states, “Others not acknowledging I understood every word / they said / So freely did they label me retarded. / Or some other variant, / Equally untrue. / (Romkema). Here, the speaker addresses faults within the medical field where people with autism are given derogatory names because of medical professionals being ignorant of the individual and how they function. The poetic speaker is directly challenging the medical field, claiming that they (the autistic individual), understands the labels being given to them and that the labels are untrue. 

Both Rebecca Foust’s and Craig Romkema’s poems address troubling aspects in how the medical field approaches people with disabilities. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities face unequal or reluctant treatment while also dealing with discriminatory language relating to their disability. The pair of poems challenge the reader to view these acts as unjust, hopefully altering the way in which individuals and society as a whole approaches the aspect of disability within the medical profession.


Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, Fishouse Poems , 28 June 2018, http://www.fishousepoems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/. 

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” Microsoft Word, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Kenny-Fries-%E2%80%9CExcavation%E2%80%9D.pdf. 

I pledge -Miranda Colbert and Megan Hofmann 

Take Home Final- Hannah Harris

Hannah Harris

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384 Section 1

08 December 2021



— Autism— 


Diagnosticians use the DSM-5 to categorize Autistic Spectrum Disorders according to a “quick-serve menu… establishing groupings of significant autism features and asking mental health practitioners to choose a set number from each category — one from column A, two from column B” (Rodas “Intro” 9). There is a certain irony to this strategy, given the ease with which these professionals jump to pathologize the compulsions for list-making and delineation seen in autistics. Rodas argues that the fixation of non autistic authors on offering explanations for list-making and ordering passes not only a “clinical judgment” but is also “aesthetically charged” (Rodas “Intro” 19). This necessity for order seen in autistics warrants a conversation on entropy, and the science fiction background of Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, combined with Rodas’ assessments in Autistic Disturbances, provides a way to view autism as intrinsically entropic, and thus unequivocally true to nature. 

The scientific concept of entropy falls under the umbrella of thermodynamics, the study of the relation between heat, work, and energy, and the ability of this energy to be transferred from one place to another (Briticana). This branch of study also happens to be the title of Part 1 of Solomon’s novel. The basics of entropy are simple; neglecting all mathematics and symbols besides one, entropy = chaos. Something creates entropy if it breaks apart from one to multiple pieces, heats up and begins moving faster, or expands. The splitting of water to hydrogen and oxygen used to fill a mask (Solomon Chapter 4) involves an increase in entropy. Small instances of negative entropy, contributions to order rather than disorder, can and must occur. The letters being placed strategically beside one another to form these words are one example. However, the overall system, the universe as a whole, must continually fall apart; this is how life survives until it too must succumb to that fate. 

There is evidence of entropy in autism, despite its diagnostic characteristic of ordering, in both the literary and biological sense. Rodas first explores the “disparaging” (Rodas “Intro” 17) literary appraisal of list-making in her Introduction. For instance, critics often dismiss Mr. Casaubon in Eliot’s Middlemarch for his “dry collection of dead scholarship” called The Key to All Mythologies. Eliot’s narrator describes Margaret’s interaction with these elements:

She pictured to herself the days, months, and years she must spend in sorting what might be called shattered mummies, and the fragments of a tradition which was itself a mosaic wrought from crashed ruins — sorting them as food for a theory which was already withered in the birth like an elfin child.

Eliot chap. 48, qtd. in Rodas “Intro” 17

Mr. Casaubon’s work is neatly ordered, but meaningless. In fact, it is compared to a disabled, “‘withered’” child (Eliot chap. 48, qtd. in Rodas 17). While this is viewed as a shame, a waste of potential that would be unacceptable for any “normal” “natural” man, the pieces that are shattered and the mosaic that is crushed like ruins are the most realistic representation of entropy. What some see as a negative assessment of the value of Casaubon’s work can and should actually be read as one way in which the character and those like him are more attuned and intimately acquainted to the true necessities of existence than others. They do not simply lack the propensity to put together collections of great value. Instead, they realize the futility of this exercise. 

This entropic metaphor is brought to the forefront even more in Rodas’ UnConclusion, even the name itself giving a nod to chaos. In the theory of autism poetics, critical reception of list forms recognizes that the assessment of autistics minds as “rigid, repetitive, [and] rule bound” (Roth “Imagination and Awareness” 157 qtd. in Rodas “UnConclusion” 187) as antiquated and incorrect. Instead, an “‘infinity of aesthetics’” (Eco “Infinity of Lists” 17 qtd. in Rodas “UnConclusion” 187) consistent with the laws of entropy is suggested. Rodas makes an example of Jorge Luis Borges’ list which includes categories as broad as “‘others’” and as hyper-specific as “‘those that have just broken a flower vase’” (Borges “Analytical Language” 103 qtd. in Rodas “UnConclusion” 188). She does all but say the word entropy when reframing the list as “[an] explosive device, bringing into proximity otherwise neutral elements rendered volatile by contact with one another” (Rodas “UnConclusion” 189). All of this is to suggest that, while autistics like order and attempt to create it though list-making and organization, they also readily engage with the “disordered and the absurd” (Rodas “UnConclusion” 190). Again, this naturalizes them, bringing them as close to the unchanging realities of science and the universe as one can be. Thus, their list-making is well informed, realistic, and less of a disease than the medical establishment’s own orderly diagnostic methods. 

This list-making tendency appears in An Unkindness of Ghosts as early as chapter three. Aster’s ordered collection contains items of random nature and drastically varied levels of importance ranging from “clean body (use soap and the scrub brush today)” to “amputate Flick’s foot” (Solomon Chapter 3). This not only serves to identify Aster with those on the autistic spectrum, but it also increases entropy. Perhaps the easiest moment to grasp Aster’s autisitc relation to entropy comes in her theoretical telling of her own story in the beginning of chapter four. Theoretical is the key word here as, “Yes, if Aster told a story, I’d go like that — but she wouldn’t tell a story” (Solomon Chapter 4). Aster refuses to envision such a story because “the precisionist in her hate[s] oral history and memory and that flimsy, haphazard way people sp[eak] about the past” (Solomon Chapter 4). At her core, she despises when people “assign meaning where there is none” (Solomon Chapter 4) as Theo cautions her about early in their working relationship. Again, this clearly links to entropy. Aster is ok with chaos, with the inability to have concrete answers, especially when the answers others try to impose upon her assign false meaning and make connections where there are none. In these claims, she is true to the laws of nature. However, she does contradict her argument in several ways as she investigates her mother’s death, including her incorrect assumptions concerning a link between the poisoning of Sovereign Nicholeas and her mother as well as the identity of Cassidy Ludnecki. Nonetheless, her eventual recognition of these faults within herself and her eventual recognition of the messiness of the past recenters her character as entropic. 

Science corroborates the inherent link between autism and entropy. Here, entropy has to do with information theory and statistics rather than thermodynamics, but the principles are similar. An algorithm called sample entropy (SampEn) has been developed to measure the randomness in a series of data without any previous knowledge about the source of the data set (Delgado-Bernal & Marshak 3). A study published this year in “Brain Research” found differences in sample entropy in the brains of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children when comparing their fMRI brain scans to those of their typically developing (TD) counterparts (Maximo et. al, no pagination). While sample entropy was higher in three brain areas of ASD children, it was found to be lower in a fourth region. However, the nature of the brain and the role these areas play in its function means an increase in entropy and randomness of the system may present clinically as a propensity for order (Maximo et. al, no pagination). This scientific explanation, just like the restructuring of autism poetics in literary theory, allows for the coexistence of an appearance of order and an underlying basis of entropy. 

Thus, autism can be read as a natural result of the innate ability to comprehend the thermodynamic laws of entropy. Given how much these laws affect life’s start, course, and inevitable end, the nonautistic community could stand to learn about the intersection of order and chaos and how one informs a richer understanding of the other. 

Word Count: 1326

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Hannah Harris


Delgado-Bonal, Alfonso, and Alexander Marshak. “Approximate Entropy and Sample Entropy: A Comprehensive Tutorial.” Entropy, vol. 21, no. 6, 6, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, June 2019, p. 541. www.mdpi.com, https://doi.org/10.3390/e21060541.

Maximo, Jose O., et al. “‘Unrest While Resting’? Brain Entropy in Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Brain Research, vol. 1762, July 2021, p. 147435. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147435.

Rivers Solomon. An Unkindness of Ghosts. Akashic Books, 2017. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=nlebk&AN=1700262&site=ehost-live.

Rodas, Julia Miele. Autistic Disturbances: Theorizing Autism Poetics from the DSM to Robinson Crusoe. Forward by Melanie Yergeau, University of Michigan Press, 2018. Pagination comes from PDF posted on Dis/Lit website. 

Thermodynamics | Laws, Definition, & Equations | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/thermodynamics. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

The Imperialism of Unkind Ghosts

Jamie Keller

Dr. Foss

Take Home final examination

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.”

Option 1: Thesis-driven literary analysis focused on one aspect of An Unkindness of Ghosts

Word count: 1,061

The story “An Unkindness of Ghosts” takes place in a world, far into the future after the world has already been destroyed. The last living humans are on a spaceship, are on a spaceship with multiple different levels and jobs set for each person. While on the ship, there are strict rules and there is also one person who rules over the entire ship. The society that formed in the ship created a system similar to the European imperial system.

First and foremost, with how the ranking system is set up, it is very reminiscent of how money and rank tends to stay with those who already have it. There are three overall subtle language changes that happen between the upper and lower levels. The upper levels have a more proper language that is more ‘noble-like’ while the lower class have a more ‘rough’ language and the middle class is a mix between the two. If someone who is from the upper class overhears something from the lower class’ language would not be able to understand it unless there is a specific reason from their past why they would be able to understand it. Traveling between each of the levels is not allowed, especially if they are someone of the lower levels, unless they have a pass which is a way of control. Continuing on the form of control, if anyone breaks a martial law that was put into place, like the head count, there are extreme punishments similar to how if a slave broke a rule would get a punishment more severe then it should have been in modern days.

Money and how people view you are also a part of the older version of imperialism. Those with a lot of money, land, and are talked about either through rank or through being extremely good at something. Those specifically are carried through the family line and those that do not have access to that or are able to make a name for themselves, tend to stay in the lower class. If people view someone else as different, they normally get shunned out of society, in this “Unkindness of Ghosts”, those that are not welcomed by society are living in the lower levels of the ship. Their conditions are extremely poor, just like the slaves and peasents of the past as they are doing whatever it takes to survive to day to day. Throughout the story, there is continued proof that the conditions needed to be improved. The examples are such as freezing temperatures that gave someone frostbite and being punished for just wanting a change. Those that are from the lower class or levels that are seen for wanting change enacted by others with more power are seen as crazy or too lazy to be able to pick themselves up from their boot straps and make the situation better themselves. Even if you are extremely smart but have something that no one likes, it makes it hard to be able to change it. Most people would think of them overcoming the disability rather than actually being smart which is a sad reality of the real world. If seen as defective or not following the social norm of how one is supposed to act, then you stick out like a sore thumb that others feel like they need to fix.

With how the story ends, it shows how the world works in reality. Not all disability characters get killed off or get cured for their “happily ever after”. Everyone is not suddenly “happy” with their living conditions because they got a bandaid over any old scars that there might be. It shows that no life is perfect and not every story has a happy ending because life is full of ups and downs. There is no life that is perfect every single day, nor does bad things happen every single day. An important thing to remember is that from day to day, those living in an imperialistic society would not be thinking of those ruling over them unless a major event is happening to the ruler or the fact that they are going through a bad day. Each person is going through their own lives and another person’s life does not usually matter.

When finally getting back to earth, and escaping from an imperialist government, mixed feelings fell upon Aster. She was sorry for everything that she had lost to get where she was now but at the same time, she was finally happy to be where she was supposed to be. In terms, if she had just listened to those above her, she wouldn’t have lost those close to her, on the other hand though, she would not have gotten to earth by disobeying. Which brings in the question, which is better? Being in a government that is absolutely horrible to those of the lower class and those that are different, or being in a completely forgeign land by yourself and no one to be able to help besides the skills you have learned? I think in Aster’s case, since she always felt a little alone, the latter was better for her and most probably would agree. Those that have a better rank in the society would probably not want that same choice and go with the first one. When it comes to real life, it might be hard to make the choice because if you do not have the skills to be able to survive on nearly nothing, it might be safer and give you the ability to more than likely to survive if you stay with something familiar. At the very least, Aster now has the ability to do whatever she desires. There is no one stopping her from reaching her full capabilities nor no one punishing her from doing what she thinks is right. In any story, of course the main character is usually in the right, unless proven otherwise so I have a feeling that whatever plans to do now that story is over is going to be the best for herself and any future humans that happen to escape and come back to earth in the future. With the knowledge she has, hopefully she knows better than to set up a system that empowers those with ill intentions for those who are weak and different.

Final Exam – Kelly Brown, Melissa Madsen, and Lisa Gisselquist

Kelly Brown, Melissa Madsen, Lisa Gisselquist
Dr. Chris Foss
ENGL 384-02
7 December 2021

Becoming Human: The Progress of Autistic Representation from Of Mice and Men to An Unkindness of Ghosts

Whether consciously or unconsciously, authors tend to write novels and characters reflective of societal views at the time. Books written prior to the American Civil War, for instance, tend to view African Americans in a more derogatory manner than books written afterward. Similarly, novels containing disabled characters have changed their representation as society has learned more about different conditions. As shown through Lennie from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Aster from Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, the literary portrayal of autistic-coded characters and how they are treated by people around them is evident of how society viewed said characters at the time the novels were written. A comparison between the two shows how society’s opinion of autism and neurodiverse people has improved in the last eighty years.

Lennie and Aster share many of the same symptoms of autism, as illustrated through their mannerisms. For example, both characters have touch sensitivity: Lennie enjoys touching the fur of soft animals but cannot handle other textures, while Aster dislikes being touched by other people “unless it [is] certain skin” (Solomon 211). Another similarity between the two is a difficulty understanding language subtleties, with Aster not realizing her mother wrote in code until Giselle points it out, and Lennie taking George literally when he uses a figure of speech. Yet, these different portrayals of autistic symptoms indicate how the overall opinion of autism has improved throughout the years. Steinbeck’s characterization of Lennie, with his low perception skills and general naivete, represents the hyperbolic ‘low-functioning’ side of autism. In contrast, Aster has a higher awareness of her disability and her surroundings, portraying a more accurate representation and combating the idea that autism has a ‘high’ or ‘low’ functioning level. Because these similar depictions of neurodiversity, and therefore autistic-coded traits, have been reshaped over time to fit a more accepting narrative, society has gradually learned not to fear or chastise people who do not fit the neurotypical norm.

Of Mice and Men’s portrayal of Lennie reflects negative views of autism from the 1930s by constantly emphasizing how Lennie is a victim of his disorder and, as such, needs to be protected by George, a ‘normal’ person. Throughout the novel, Lennie is portrayed as not having a full understanding of what is going on in any circumstance due to his one-track mind, whether he misses social cues or does not respect personal space. One example of this is when Lennie asks Crooks, the only black farmhand, why Crooks has a separate bedroom from the other farmhands and why he is not wanted in the main bunkhouse full of white men, completely missing the racist social understanding of the time. Hence, when Lennie murders Curley’s wife, the text emphasizes how Lennie killed her unintentionally and that his ‘simple-mindedness’ is the real culprit. Lennie’s only goal was to subdue her and stop her from yelling, evidenced by Lennie outright saying that “I don’t want ta hurt you” (Steinbeck 87). Lennie was “bewildered” when Curley’s wife just lay there motionless because he did not understand that he used too much force (Steinbeck 87). And when Lennie finally realizes that he did something bad, he repeats over and over that “George’ll be mad;” the fact that he does not mention anyone else other than George signifies that he does not comprehend that there could be other consequences for his actions (Steinbeck 87). Because Lennie does not understand the gravity of half of the situations he finds himself in, Steinbeck gives him a caretaker that can understand: George. George and Lennie have been traveling with and looking out for each other ever since Lennie’s Aunt Clara died. However, instead of being equal partners, George is the one that holds all the power in their relationship. George tells Lennie what to do and where to go. George secures Lennie a job on the ranch and tells him to stay quiet during the interview, because “if he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job” (Steinbeck 6). Additionally, George is the one who decides that it would be better for him to kill Lennie than to allow the angry ranch mob to avenge Curley’s wife, without even attempting to tell Lennie what is going on. Since George believes he is essential for Lennie’s survival, he is the one who decides whether Lennie lives or dies, taking away whatever agency Lennie had. This reflects society’s overall negative views on autism at the time. Because the disorder causes decreased cognitive functioning and situational awareness, those on the autism spectrum were considered not only less intelligent than neurotypicals, but also robbed of the life they could have had if they were born a normal child. Therefore, children on the autism spectrum required a guardian to advocate on their behalf, because society believed they could not do it themselves.

Although there are vague mentions of Aster being treated poorly, An Unkindness of Ghosts focuses on the positive reactions to her disability – with a very subtle mention of autism – that reflects the improving opinions of society. Throughout the novel, Aster occasionally mentions people treating her poorly and calling her names. At one point, when someone calls her a “witch-freak,” “she could not contest [the freak part] and let [it] stand” (Solomon 138). This indicates that she had been faced with such bullying in the past. However, despite this, the subtle representation of autism in the book and the reaction of the people close to her shows how far autism representation has come. Her symptoms are only alluded to, not focused on. She is referred to as “Insiwa” or “Inside one” (Solomon 18), a gentle nickname by the people who have observed her. Her Aint Melusine believes that everything the girl says is “the right words to my mind” (Solomon 175). At the very end of the novel, it is Aster who solves the mystery of their location and sends Matilda back to Earth. She defeats Lieutenant, who called her an “aberration,” thus defeating all of those who see her as such (Solomon 232). Though she faced trouble because of being autistic, there are very light mentions of it in comparison to Lennie being constantly mistreated for being neurodivergent. Published eighty years after Of Mice and Men, Aster’s story is a sign of hope for a better future for autism.

While neither of these novels is a perfect portrayal of an autistic character, there is significant progress being made as time continues. Each novel has its own issues, but Aster from An Unkindness of Ghosts is portrayed positively whereas Lennie from Of Mice and Men is not. Steinbeck’s depiction of Lennie reflects a limited understanding of and disdain for autism while Solomon’s portrayal of Aster reflects a new understanding of autism and a hope for a future that fully accepts neurodiversity. While this ideal future may take some time to reach, one may hope that it will be here soon.

Works Cited

Solomon, Rivers. An Unkindness of Ghosts. Akashic Books, 2017. EBSCOhost, search-ebscohost-com.umw.idm.oclc.org/login.aspxdirect=true&db=nlebk&AN=1700262&site=ehost-live.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Covici, Friede, Inc., 1937.

Word Count: 1254

We hereby declare upon our word of honor that we have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. -Kelly Brown, Melissa Madsen, Lisa Gisselquist

Rebecca Visger- Take Home Final

Rebecca Visger

Dr. Foss  

ENGL 384: Disability and Literature

07 December 2021

Word Count: 1,012

Challenging Characterization of Austic Children in Rebecca Faust’s “Apologies to my OB-GYN”

The bitterness in Rebecca Faust’s poem “Apologies to my OB-GYN” is palpable. The poem begins with Faust relaying her son’s precarious health condition at the being of his life in the first two stanzas, which against expectations he recovers from in the third stanza, and the fourth stanza is set in the present in which the poem was written describing how her son spent the day saving moths that were trapped in their porchlight before falling asleep. It also implies the clear resentment that she was treated with by the hospital staff for being a difficult case to treat. The “apologies” she makes throughout the poem are a sarcastic response to when the medical staff acted like her son was purposefully making their job more difficult. Yet this lack of empathy is something that would be much more readily assumed of her child, just because he’s autistic. “Apologies to my OB-GYN” challenges the characterization of autistic children as cold and unfeeling by comparing the callous regard of the medical staff towards her son to his compassionate actions towards the moths, a “lesser” form of life than himself. 

Faust’s choice of pronouns used to refer to her son in “Apologies to my OB-GYN” traces how the concept of agency is applied to her child, both by the hospital staff and herself. 

Faust only refers to her son once as specifically being her son in the very first line of the poem, calling him “my boy” (line 1). Faust’s choice of my “boy”, instead of my “son” or “child”, grants him far more independence and individuality than he would have if he was referred to by a term that would define him by his relationship to his mother. Throughout the rest of the poem, he is exclusively referred to by he/his/his and in the active voice. At first, this is used sardonically in the first and second stanzas, implying how the medical staff treated her son as if he had chosen to be a difficult case for them to treat. The absurdity of this over-ascription of agency to a baby regarding their own physical condition at birth is emphasized in his first “action” of the poem: “my boy birthed himself/ too early” (lines 1-2).  In the second stanza, Faust refers to herself and her son together as “we” and “our”, identifying she and her son as a team, as equals, and equally blamed for needing to make night calls. This same over-ascription of agency is inverted in the third stanza as Faust continues to use it when narrating her son defying expectations and getting better. His actions become a heroic, conscious struggle to survive if was in fact fully in control over his body. In the final stanza, when he is older and at least a small child, referring to him exclusively as he/his/his and not “my son” or ‘my child” gives him exactly the agency he deserves. It enforces it was his choice to free the moths from the light and distances Faust herself from taking ownership or precedent in son’s narrative. Faust’s use of pronouns shows how the ascription of agency can be used both for and against an individual. 

Faust chooses these incidents from her son’s life to directly contrast the difference between the hospital staff and him when responsible for a life often deemed as having  “lesser value”. The medical staff treats Faust and her son with resentment for being a difficult case when her son’s survival hangs in the balance, and when dealing with birth and early complications is part of their job responsibilities. They are made to feel like they are taking up too much space when her son weighs barely two pounds, in a hospital wing meant specifically for their kind of case, and like “pains in your ass” (line 7) by making night calls, for being rude enough to have medical emergencies at night. Her son’s life is weighed against  “skyrocketed premiums” (line 14)  and “cost-benefit analyses” (line 15). The final damning line of the fourth stanza “sorry he took so much of your time/ being so determined to live” (lines 18-19) directly challenges how the hospital staff valued themselves above the health and safety of her child. By contrast, her son has no responsibility or even obligation to save the nymph moths from the porch light, yet he chooses to do so anyway. The moths like him are described as a “hopeless case” (line 20) and are insects whose lives are very little valued, but he still does the tedious task of saving each one “one matrix-dot/ at a time” (lines 21-22) without complaint. “Being determined to live” (Line 19) falls being the first life of the fourth stanza, symbolically that this is the life that has determined to live— one of compassion. He manages to be more compassionate towards fragile lives than those who saving fragile lives is their job, their purpose. 

This poem is not just about the mistreatment of Faust and her son by one hospital staff, It points out the irony of autistic children being perceived as cold and unfeeling when they themselves are often not treated with empathy by allistic members of society. Her son shows far more compassion for the moths he saved than the doctors who were in charge of his own human life. The Conclusion of the poem “blue wingbeat/ pulse fluttering his left temple—there,/ there again.  Just like it did then.” asserts her son’s life and value. That he was a person worth saving even before he was able to demonstrate kindness, because he was alive, and that should be enough to treat him with respect and dignity. 

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.”

Works Cited

Faust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” From the Fishouse, Fishouse Poems,       


Take Home Final

Mary Ainsley Fox I Pledge

Dr. Foss

English 384

7 December 2021

Option 1: A thesis driven literary analysis focused on: Ari Ne’eman Dueling Narratives Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum

Whether it be a film, music, or television, people from many different categories have prejudice against them. However, people on the autism spectrum do not receive their due respect in any form of pop media and/or culture. In the work of Dueling Narratives: Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum by Ari Ne’eman, the audience is quickly told that autistic individuals do not have numbers in our society today. The autistic community does not have a wide representation in our culture today, whether it be within the media, politics, but most importantly in literature. This is simply due to the history of the treatment of autistic people and the negative stereotypes going along with the disability.  

Ari Ne’eman, the autistic author of this work, urges us to understand that sometimes the most effective way to learn is not through colossal words, phrases, or even telling, but by showing. While reading this piece of literature, the two purposes for the audience is to remind themselves of the traditional way of building a foundation of autism and that the autistic community will have the opportunity to learn more about social, political, and practical goals. Traditionally, this paper will serve those trying to better themselves on the understanding of this constantly growing topic and one that remains important throughout the years. As stated, the most reputable source while discussing this matter is one who faces it on a daily basis, which is Ne’eman. Although there are many new movements happening for and with the autistic community, people may be there for different reasons. 

History is constantly changing and the narrative of autism is as well. Some parents may believe that autism stole their child’s mind. They knew something was “taking” their son, but there was nothing they could have done to stop it. As the story continues, one day they looked up and noticed he was gone. However, the moment they realized their son was neurodiverse and had a lack of acceptance, that was the same time their child was no longer theirs mentally and emotionally. Although his body, his physical being was “their son,” his mind was one of his own and was unique to himself. Every autistic child deserves the same affection and attention a neurotypical child receives, and instead of being “disappointed” in the child you have, be thankful to explore the different possibilities this child will show and teach you.

Although our society prides itself on acceptance and understanding of individuality, it seems that somewhere this was lost in translation and/or it only seems to be when we choose to apply it. For example, when defining the term “disability,” instead of looking for a scholar, look for one who knows the direct effects of a disability. An individual who actually has a disability and how they view the society in which they are surrounded by is the person who should be teaching and defining their disability. Ne’eman explains to the readers that autism is a misconception to many, many people and has previously been defined as a “disease.” Due to this inaccurate verbiage, neurotypicals have many different prejudgments to those of neurodiversity. Ne’eman also explains that a previous autistic writer, Sinclair, has explained that there is no cure for autism and that this is who he was made to be and that this is simply the wiring of his brain. 

Of course a parent should be understanding and supportive of their children, but sometimes that is not always the case. For example, a mother and advocate for the autistic community, Portia Iverson pushes for a cure for autism. In her previous writings, she states that her autisitic son possesses a demon within him and that his disorder is trying to take him away. Obviously offensive and inaccurate, Iverson’s writing and point of view limits her parenting skills as well as her communicative skills with not only her son, but with the community as a whole. Surprisingly, a prisoner in Nazi, Germany, Dr. Bettelheim promotes the theory that there is a reason why some children have autism. His theory about mothers who are cold to their newborns, causing autism, is obviously proven to be inaccurate. His theories began during his time in concentration camps, while he examined and analyzed each of his autistic patients. Neurotypical or neurodiverse, a concentration camp was a place of pure hatred and disgust, where anyone would have felt uncomfortable and they would have felt panicked in their environment. Although there are many disorders to avoid while pregnant, such as one given to a child due to smoking and/or drinking, autism is clearly not one of them. Instead of accepting a child for what they are and what they could provide, they are never truly welcomed due to their disability. Although a child may turn out to be one that has unexpected traits, blame is the last thing you try to place on a child. Autistic children and/or adults may have different perspectives and different views on the way life is lived, but that is a beautiful thing. Every human being is unique to themselves and a disorder, disability, anything labeled should not be the reason for ignorance. Disgustingly, this is not the worst of the unaware parents. Ne’eman introduces the audience to a list of mothers who abuse, injure, and eventually murder their autistic children. Whether it be uncertainty of the future, inability to communicate with their children, or any other reason, 66% of murdered children have been killed by their parents. Unfortunately, there is nothing being done about parents killing their disabled children. Everyone goes through uncertainty about the future, an unclear picture of what is to come, but rejecting your child and their future because of scaredness is an unacceptable way to raise a child.

Ne’eman allows the readers to hear the story of Cal Montgomery and the fact that the only representation of autistic characters in films are stereotypes. The “Uncle Bruce” stereotype is the nonverbal autistic character. In many films this autistic stereotype are the ones who become overstimulated in certain environments. He explains that he can relate to an extent but that is not how he would label himself. This stereotype is one where the individual is unable to live independently and are unable to care for themselves. Another stereotype discussed is one where parents try to shift their child from being autistic to neurotypical and to “beat” the disability.  

The representation of autistic people not only through popular culture, but through history as well do not provide the autistic community justice. Most films and stereotypes about the neurodiverse brain are not representative of how autistic people view themselves. Feeling unwelcome and unwanted, autistic people find it hard to relate to many actors, politicians, etc. Ne’eman has shown her audience the battles of the autistic community and how the negative stereotypes throughout history are unrelatable and unrealistic of how autistic people view themselves and urge a change for this community.

Word Count: 1165

References: Ne’eman, Ari. “Dueling Narratives Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum” 9-11 November 2007, https://case.edu/affil/sce/Texts_2007/Ne’eman.html

Elizabeth Barr-Take Home Final

Elizabeth Barr

Dr. Chris Foss

Disability and Literature

December 9th, 2021

Comparison of “Misfit” and “Apologies to my OB-GYN”

While reading through the different poems throughout our autism unit, something interesting that was found was that even though the poems,”Misfit” and “Apologies to my OB-GYN”, had different perspectives and different tones, both of the poems were talking to society about how people with autism and autism families are not as different as they seem. Both of the poems also have an undertone of love. Reading these poems was an enjoyable experience. While reading the audience gets to see the different peoples perspectives on autism. The audience was given a lot to learn from the two poems and gave the reader insight into things they might not have known as much about before reading these poems.

While analyzing all of the poems in this autism unit, two of the poems stuck out the most. The two poems being “Misfit” and “Apologies to my OB-GYN”. Both of these poems have very interesting, and very different, viewpoints from two different people dealing with autism. “Misfit” sets the point of view of the poem from a childs’ perspective of how they view themselves. Whereas with the poem, “Apologies to my OB-GYN”, is set from the viewpoint of the parent. Comparing both of these poems, and both of these perspectives, was very effective because the reader gets to see the different point of views from both a parent and a child. Comparing and contrasting the relationship between a parent and a child is an ideal situation because the reader can see how autism affects at least two members of an autistic family. 

When we read the poem “Misfit” the reader can see how the autistic child views themself. This child who deals with autism, compares themselves to nature. Actions that are normal like the Sun going up and down are not labeled as weird or wrong, so why are an autistics child’s actions deemed as weird and wrong when they were just born that way. “There was the earth, turning and turning./ The stars receded, as if/ Finding no wrong with anything.” This autistic child is finding things in the world that no one finds any faults with, so why is there anything “wrong” with them and their autism? As the poem goes on, the reader can see how the autistic child gets more and more confident when talking about how they view themself and their disability. The autstic child goes from saying how they see things in nature that people don’t think there is something wrong with, to how people look at them, and then proceed to label them as a misfit, “They labeled me a Misfit/ (A Misfit turning and turning).”, to how “right can be found with anything”. The way the autistic child talks, the reader can tell that from this point of view that it is only the people in public that label this child as a misfit, not their parents. The reader can see the relationship the child has with the parents, and how the parents are not making their child feel like a misfit. 

The poem “Apologies to my OB-GYN” talks about autism from the parents’ point of view. In the poem this parent does not see autism in their child as a bad thing. They sarcastically say sorry for their autistic child and for how troublesome they were. “Sorry we were such pains in your ass”. The parent is defending their autistic child, they defend how the child fought so hard to live and the nurse got annoyed by how demanding the baby was. “-sorry he took so much of your time/ being so determined to live.” The parent also goes on to talk about how that child grew up and how caring they are. How they saved moths and are sleeping soundly. Despite what that nurse and possibly other people thought, the child grew up to be a good and caring person. This poem was very interesting to read as it is only written from one parent’s viewpoint. The reader is left curious as to where the other parent is. The poem focuses around the one parent and the hospital stay with the autistic child when the kid was born. This sets the poem up to depict the parent to most likely be the mother. 

While reading both of these poems the reader gets to see both of the parents’ and child’s perspectives on how autism affects a family. Both of the poems, “Misfit” and “Apologies to my OB-GYN”, show the family relationships and also have slight digs towards those in society who shun people with autism and their families. Reading both of these poems, and other ones during this unit, set up for the reader to gain a much better understanding of people with autism and their families. Additionally, there are other perspectives to be found with autism affecting people and families, but seeing autism through a parents’ and child’s point of view are two of the most important viewpoints to consider when thinking about autism. These two poems show the ideal home life that any child and parent can have in these people’s situations. Both poems show how life might be hard, but it is worth it and how there is not anything wrong with them or how the child that got complained about grew up to be a kind person. Both of the poems show life after finding out the news and adjusting but all these poems show an outsider, is love. The parent loves and defends the child from others. The autistic child only feels like a misfit from the outside world and wonders why people can’t “find the right in everything”. There is a lot to be taught from these poems. After reading the poems, the audience can walk away with a different view than they started with. How people with autism aren’t as “wrong” or different as we as a society think people with autism are. Instead, society should learn more about autism to understand the person with autism. 

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” – Elizabeth Barr


Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, 28 June 2018, http://www.fishousepoems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/. Mukhopadhyay, Tito Rajarshi. “Five Poems.” Disability Studies Quarterly, https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1192/1256.

America, Human Rights, and the Unheard Voice

Tristan Barber – Section 02 – Final Paper

06 Dec. 2021

America, Human Rights, and the Unheard Voice

History is not an ally to the underprivileged and marginalized. To some, it may appear that society is slowly—ever so slowly—moving towards progress. This is simply not true. The year is 2021, and the United States Supreme Court is hearing a case that may overturn Roe v. Wade, a historic victory for women’s rights and bodily autonomy made nearly 50 years ago. As one of the oldest and most important cases in living memory (over 40 years older than Obergefell v. Hodges which granted same-sex marriage), Roe v. Wade was seen as a strong decision with a half-century of precedent protecting it. Now, yet again, arguments are being made that mothers should be considered to have failed their “personal responsibilities”, and this impacts neurodivergent families even more than the normative alternative. The poems “Apologies to my OB-GYN” and “Perspectives”, written by Rebecca Foust and Craig Romkema respectively, highlight the struggles of neurodivergent peoples and their parents. Both medical/financial and social pressures create an undue hardship on these marginalized groups, and through this cultural violence, voices are silenced. Through these lenses, one can come to respect the disasters coming in the current legal and market environment.

We will start our exploration with “Apologies to my OB-GYN”, a poem following a mother and her experiences with a modern medical system. The mother has a particularly troubled birth, with a child requiring more care than would be considered normal. Described as “pains in your ass”, the mother sarcastically apologizes for the trouble the parents and child caused the system (Foust 2). While the child lives, saving similar “hopeless-case nymph moths”, the scars inflicted upon them by the system is there in the “skyrocketed premiums” and the insurance “weigh[ing] the costs in [their] cost-benefit analyses, skew[ing] bell-curve predictions into one long, straight line” (Foust 3-4). While the child saves moths and the parents dote over their child, the “care” they received was all but, serving only to render them down to charts and graphs, treating them as a source of capital rather than as human beings. This diametrically opposed position—of human versus capital—ensures that marginalized groups, especially neuro-atypicals, are dehumanized and perpetually silenced. With the fault being on the parents for having such a so-called troublesome child, the system can enjoy the fruits of their labor unburdened by human responsibility. Indeed, childbirth and raising is an extreme task, and in America, an extremely expensive one. In a for-profit market system where ASD children cost $1.4 million, and $2.4 million if the child has an intellectual disability (Taylor), one can see the results of healthcare-as-a-product—lives rendered down to profits and the bottom line. Where is the voice? How can one speak out for their own rights, for the rights of those under their care, when the cost of existing encroaches, consumes several, severalfold the cost of living?

This cultural violence is not only financial. “Perspectives” follows the perspective of a child with nonverbal autism as they observe the system operating around them. From the very beginning with the mention of “‘refrigerator mothers'”, we can find the lines of blame being drawn (Romkema 1). Refrigerator mothers refer to the idea that parents, particularly mothers, caused autism through their cold and distant behavior towards their children. While this belief has been proven to be false, the effects are still seen. Parents (again, primarily mothers) are seen as perpetrators of a sort of disease, that children on the spectrum are only drains on a capitalist system and that the parents are at fault. This can be further seen in the “measuring” of the narrator’s “head” (Ramkama 2), referring to another pseudoscience: phrenology. While often seen in respect to racism, this measuring of the skull was used to diagnose mental illnesses as well—eugenics in its most physical form. Beyond the medical and social implications of history, the narrator spoke to the direct violence, “So freely did they label me retarded”, meanwhile their parents told them that “they knew [they were] there / Inside” (Ramkama 3). Again, the so-called experts considered the child as a burden, a weakness, as othered and voiceless—as always voiceless, despite the evidence to the contrary. 

None of this is new. These poems offer a glimpse into the lived experiences of those on the spectrum and parents who care for them alike, and while laws may appear to improve the lives of such individuals (or, rather, slows the backslide of quality of life), it wasn’t always this way, and it won’t necessarily continue being this way. Persecution against those with disabilities is as ingrained in American history and law as slavery is. Indeed, it is a living memory—where slavery still remains in the prison system, persecution didn’t end with the American Disabilities Act of 1990, and the atrocities committed with the “Ugly Laws” only ended directly in 1974 (NCLD 16). This cultural violence simply changed form, from direct law to indirect, with financial burden and social stigma and blame. These laws were fought for, and these laws are never safe from being overturned. Roe v. Wade proves this.

The arguments against Roe v. Wade are often moralizing. They claim that life begins at conception, that the rights of the unborn override the rights of the mother. However, regardless of one’s opinion on this debate, it remains apparent that the attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade without first approaching the economic and humanitarian problems for the already born displays, if we are being charitable, a profound lack of perspective. How can one argue these beliefs in good conscience while not solving the inherent cultural violence inflicted upon mothers, fathers, and their children? It appears that the rights of the unborn, those that have no inner consciousness providing them the ability to speak, the voice of this group outweighs the voice of those who can—and must—be heard.

If capitalism as a system must exist, and, perhaps, there may be some strong arguments in the affirmative, it must also exist for the benefit of all peoples. With a hardly-regulated market, a system designed to benefit those with voices and to silence all others, designed to lay blame on mothers and not on itself, neurodivergent minds are pushed to the threshold between the void and unhappiness. That is to say, the choice is often between death after life or poverty with little hope to improve one’s station—that is no choice at all.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” ~Tristan A. Barber

Word Count: ~1172

Works Cited

“Disability History Timeline – Ncld-Youth.info.” National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2007, http://www.ncld-youth.info/Downloads/disability_history_timeline.pdf. 

Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, 28 June 2018, http://www.fishousepoems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/. 

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” 

Taylor, Chris. “Coping with the High Costs of Raising an Autistic Child.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 June 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-health-autism/coping-with-the-high-costs-of-raising-an-autistic-child-idUSKBN0EZ1A220140624. 

Parent Reaction to Autism Diagnosis- Jim Sinclair

Brieanna Smith

Professor Foss

English 384

4 November 2021

Word Count: 1,472 Words

Option one: a thesis-driven literary analysis focused on one aspect of one or more of the literary texts from the final autism unit.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized help on this work. Brieanna Smith

In our last section of English 384, we focused primarily on works that focused on Autism either directly in our theory pieces or subtly in our novels and poems, like An Unkindness of Ghosts or “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Autism is not easily defined and many of our theory pieces focus on the idea that the best definition of what Autism is, is based on the “lived experience,” rather than a scholarly and rigid analysis. In this paper we are going to analyze Jim Sinclair’s piece, Don’t Mourn for Us with the focus on the intensity of a parent or parents’ reaction and treatment to a child’s autism diagnosis. Jim Sinclair breaks his argument down into three main sections that all have an interrelated connectedness to the negative reaction of a parent.

The introduction of this piece highlights the concept of the perception of “normalcy” in which parents hope and desire for children to achieve. There are a few primary ways of looking at this idea and that either include children not meeting parents’ expectations for something that is not controllable and are often mistreated for it or we get the other perspective where parents are concerned and fear for their child on the autism spectrum because of how cruelly society treats people who have an autism diagnosis or any other disability related diagnosis.

 The first section of Jim’s Sinclair’s Piece, “Autism is not an appendage,” focuses on the impact autism has on a child who is diagnosed in their every experience. “Autism is a way of being. It is not possible to separate the person from the autism,” and plays a prominent role on “every aspect of existence” for the child (Sinclair, pdf). What parents don’t recognize is that the lived experience that children on the autism spectrum has will be affected by autism. Jim Sinclair, in this section, extends his argument further in mentioning how parents often wish their child did not have autism. This is an appalling idea, and one would hope that most parents would not engage in this line of thinking. Wishing for a normal baby is interpreted in this case, as wishing that child with an autism diagnosis to no longer exist. This is truly horrific and relates back to the reasoning behind eugenics logic. If a baby or child is diagnosed with autism parents may experience a level of shock or concern, but these emotions should not hinder the parent’s ability to love and care for their child and this is what Jim Sinclair is trying to bring to light in this section of his piece. Like a first-time parent’s fear of having and raising a child, an autism diagnosis may instill a similar fear of the unknown. This fear of the unknown is what often causes parents to either make incredibly detrimental mistakes in raising their child or instill a drive that will encourage them to step up and do what ever is best for their child. Ultimately, how the parents react and treat their child is one of the main indicators of the personality of the child when they grow up. A warm and compassionate family environment is crucial to growth of a child at any age and no matter whether a child is neurotypical or neurodivergent.

“Autism is not an impenetrable wall,” is the next section of Jim Sinclair’s piece and this focuses primarily on the connection between the child on the autism spectrum and their parents. When parents initially receive the diagnosis that their child has autism, this brings up the parent’s fear of not being able to communicate with or relate to their child. Sinclair brings up the fact that parents of children who are on the autism spectrum need to be willing to take a few steps more to connect with their children. Jim Sinclair advises parents to “Approach respectfully, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and you’ll find a world you could never have imagined” (Sinclair, pdf). These lines encourage the parents of children with autism to actively participate in potentially unconventional ways of communication. An extended metaphor in Sinclair’s argument describing a parent communicating with a child who has autism is like having a lengthy conversation with someone who does not speak the language in a different country. This is both a problematic and progressive way of viewing this form of communication. One it institutes the idea that a child with autism is going to be ostracized based on the way in which they communicate, but it also encourages society and parents to be more open-minded to deeper and more interpretative ways of communicating. One reason why parents often react negatively to an initial diagnosis is because they want their children to be like them and accepted by the standards of society. Unfortunately, we live in a society that deems autism as a “illness or condition that has causes and needs to be solved.” Since parents have spent a considerable amount of time formulating their role in society, an autism diagnosis throws a curveball of sorts in what they pictured for their families. As mentioned earlier, parents want to be able to relate, pass on knowledge, and find important connections to their children. Compassionate parents of children on the autism spectrum will need to be more cognizant of how their children are trying to communicate. Sinclair does admit that parents and children on the autism spectrum may experience disconnects, but what is important is that these parents should be trying to connect and converse with their children in a positive way.

The final section in Jim Sinclair’s Don’t Mourn for Us, is labeled “Autism is not death,” and this last part describes the initial reaction of parents and has a major connection to the title of this piece. In this section, Sinclair brings up the idea of how some parents who receive the diagnosis that their child or baby is on the autism spectrum compare their children as to being still born. As Sinclair points out, children on the autism spectrum are not dead and it is tragic that some parents make this comparison. He mentions it is about “shattered expectations,” felt by the parents in their responses to a child with autism (Sinclair, pdf). Parents and soon-to-be parents often have a glamourized picture of what they want for their families to be like shown through many forms of entertainment. It is naïve to think this way and is part of the reasons why parents are often shocked to learn their child may be on the autism spectrum because of how society views “the normal family.” In the following lines, “Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don’t mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we’re here waiting for you,” Jim Sinclair establishes ideas of personhood and or advocacy that parents who react negatively do not realize (Sinclair, pdf). This line focuses on how children on the autism spectrum may have to advocate for themselves even with their parents. Lost dreams connect back to shattered expectations of the parents and how parents must move past it, or it is going to hurt their children in the long run. The perfect family is non-existent, and this false sense of reality or expectation is why the title of this piece is Don’t Mourn for Us.

To conclude, Jim Sinclair focuses primarily on the reaction of parents to their children in the experience of autism, how it affects communication and relatedness to their child, and the fact that an autism diagnosis is not a death sentence or something that should diminish the quality of life. The intention of this essay was to highlight the negative mentality that parents have to an autism diagnosis of their child, what the reasoning is behind this mentality is, and the validity of this reasoning. One critique of Sinclair’s argument is the use of “alien” and in most of our theory pieces, this a problematic portrayal of someone on the autism spectrum because it diminishes someone as a person. Overall, Sinclair’s piece Don’t Mourn for Us,” is structured in a way in which a child who is on the autism spectrum is speaking to a parent and this perspective strengthens and enhances the quality of his argument in responding to a parent’s reaction to an autism diagnosis.

Works Cited:

Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn for Us.” Autreat.com. ANI, 26 June 2002. Web. 05 Dec. 2021.