Take-Home Final Examination

Mason Godek

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384: Take-Home Final Examination

07 December 2021

Option 2: a thesis-driven argument relevant to disability studies that engages substantially with one or two of the theoretical pieces from the final autism unit;

Intersectional Analysis of “Don’t Mourn For Us” and “Dueling Narratives: Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum”

The able-bodied prejudice agenda lies incognito within many aspects of our society. One can see this in our society when we examine the way we speak about disability and the way we medically determine the narrative on disability. However, for those with autism, the narrative has been shifted in many negative aspects. Mainly, when it comes to Autism, one can find this agenda by examining the parts of what Ari Ne’eman refers to as the “War on Autism.” Ne’eman defines autism in this war as, “autism is constructed as a disease rather than a disability.” This paper will aim to identify the agenda behind the “War on Autism” and how this so-called “War on Autism” gives parents of children with autism a negative notion towards their endeavors to assist their child and the damaging rhetoric that comes with such notions. Additionally, Jim Sinclair’s “Don’t Mourn For Us” will provide parental ideology under the influence of the “War on Autism.” 

To begin the analysis of this war, one must identify the issue with parental ideology towards assisting their autistic children. The initial parental reaction towards having an autistic child is often seen as a “tragedy” as Sinclair defines. Parents fantasize about having a non-autistic child given that the notion towards autism is seen as a disease. As a result, parents will always have a feeling of disdain towards their children. However, one must question where does this disdain comes from? Through passion and work, one can obtain a meaningful relationship with their autistic child yet society has given autism this label of disease. “It takes more work to communicate with someone whose native language isn’t the same as yours.” Often the medical definition of autism in itself demeans the way those on the spectrum communicate. Sinclair refers to these communication methods as “native languages.” These native languages are just like any other communication barrier and can be overcome. This is not to take away from the identity of those who have autism but to rather further exacerbate the normalization of these methods of communication rather than discrediting them as the incorrect way to communicate. This ideology towards these native languages can be credited to this “War on Autism” that so-called self-advocates and policymakers have created as a narrative towards autism in our society. Ari Ne’eman’s “Dueling Narratives: Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum” points out the injustices of this narrative.

Ne’eman first points out that her article aims to call out, “ The current models of representation used in reference to autism in popular culture, policymaking and literature predominantly focus on how autistic individuals affect neurotypical society and neurotypicals.” Organizations like CAN (Cure Autism Now, mentioned in Dueling Narratives) claim to advocate for the cure of autism when in reality this only hurts the narrative towards autism. Organizations like this stray parents further from the relationship they could build with their child autistic child. This further proceeds the notion that autism is a disease rather than just an identity in itself. This ideology hurts any progression towards deconstructing the able-bodied narrative. As a result of these organizations, the rhetoric of our society is damaged when words like “assault” and “war” are used for autistic advocacy. This gives the notion that the problem lies with the condition itself and it must be eradicated rather than embracing and learning the communication methods that those on the spectrum yield. One reason this negative rhetoric of the “War on Autism” yields terrible results for those with autism is that the rhetoric can lead to outrageous acts of what some may call “mercy.” With several reported acts of “mercy-killing” of those with autism, one would think that these institutions would attempt to change the rhetoric. Even government institutions like the CDC contribute to the negative rhetoric as they provided the supposed “link” between chemicals in vaccines to autism and other conditions. These claims and research have plagued parental mindsets as a result and thus establish the connection between parental disconnection and the “War on Autism.” One can see this disconnection mainly when examining the medical mindset towards the condition itself.

Another connection that can be provided to the connection between parental disconnection and the “War on Autism” is the way our medical system contributes to the current argument. While finding the link to autism may further our knowledge to increase the quality of life for these individuals, it may often also diminish the quality of life. For example, the notion that a doctor gives you “bad news” of having an autistic child. This can also be tied to eugenic ideologies that plague the medical field. Rather than creating the diagnosis to be “bad news” the medical world must provide perhaps a progressive approach to the news. As this news contributes to parental disconnection. A progressive approach may include as Ne’eman suggests, “ the best way to solve this problem is to increase the quality of life for families and individuals on the spectrum by improving support for both. As the social model of disability shows, individuals suffer from disability when the environment around them is not made accessible and accommodating.” 

In conclusion, the issue of parental disconnection from their autistic children can be attributed to the way our medical system operates and the negative rhetoric/connotation our society chooses to use when advocating for autism. Additionally, the entire concept of the “War on Autism” gives the negative notion that Autism is a pestering disease.  

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

Works Cited

Ne’eman, Ari. ““Dueling Narratives: Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum”.” Ne’eman Samla 2007. 11 Nov. 2007.

Web. 06 Dec. 2021.Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn For Us.” Don’t Mourn For Us. 26 June 2002. Web. 06 Dec. 2021.

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