Alex Huber Take-Home Final {Unfinished}

(Due to some extenuating personal circumstances, I wasn’t able to complete the final in its entirety even with an extension from Dr. Foss, but I wanted to post what I was able to complete.)

Alex Huber

Professor Foss


Dec 9 2021

Final Project

Published in 2018, Julia Miele Rodas’s Autistic Disturbances is a deconstruction of the prevalent idea that autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate, arguing that autism and autistic language are inherently valuable to mainstream literature and popular culture. In Rodas’s introduction, she outlines her approach to autistic language and autistic voices, which she tackles from a literary and cultural angle. Rodas argues that, unlike with allistic people, autistic people’s expressions and language are often pathologized and treated as less valuable than allistic people’s. Despite this pathologizing, however, Rodas argues that autistic language has many similarities to pieces of literature that are considered culturally valuable, such as the works of Charlotte Brontë, Walt Whitman, and many others. At its heart, Autistic Disturbances is an analysis of the language around autistic voices and expression.

Word Count = 132

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

Amanda R.’s Take-home Final Examination

Word Count: 1028

A Perspective on Communication and Humanity

It is often made apparent that there is a misguided notion that those who are unable to communicate by conventional means, or in a conventional fashion, are somehow “less than human”. Two autistic voices who have provided readers with their perspective on this matter are Remi Yergeau and Mel Baggs. Yergeau is a self-described “autistic academic” who works as an associate professor at the University of Michigan while additionally contributing to the dialogue surrounding disability through various outlets (Yergeau). Baggs, who unfortunately passed away in April of 2020, was a non-verbal autistic author, blogger, and visionary within the realm of disability studies. Both Yergeau and Baggs have created works that illustrate their experiences as autistic individuals and incorporate ideas surrounding the ties between communication and the perception of one’s humanity. Though they worked independent of one another, Yergeau and Baggs both appear to have aimed to dispel the misconception of autistic communication as being lacking in humanity.

Remi Yergeau, author of “Introduction: Involution” (contained within Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness), uses this piece to express to readers how autistic minds and bodies are frequently mistreated and improperly categorized as “abnormal” and “incapable” if they are not able to conform (or mask conformity) to the norms of society. Additionally, in this same vein, Yergeau notes that the ability to communicate in traditional ways is considered to be a requirement for entry into rhetoric and through rhetoric, entry into a sense of humanity (6). This work by Yergeau addresses unfair generalizations “that deny autistic people their humanity and the chance to define themselves while also challenging cognitive studies scholarship and its reification of the neurological passivity of autistics” (Duke University Press). As Yergeau puts it, “[it] is not uncommon, for example, for rhetoricians to claim that rhetoric is what makes one human… [and] if one is arhetorical, then one is not fully human” (6). In other words:

” Rhetoric comprises how we learn things and how we live. Autism, by contrast, signals the dissolution of such learning. This dissolution is sometimes presented as all-encompassing and at other times is claimed as a matter of degree or severity. We, the autistic, are that which contrasts”

Remi Yergeau, “Introduction: Involution”

What is also important to criticizing this thought process is acknowledging how autism itself is a condition that one does not choose to have, yet it is perceived “as a disorder that prevents individuals from exercising free will and precludes them from accessing self-knowledge and knowledge of human others” (Yergeau 8).

To gain a broader perspective on the perception of the humanity of autistic people, namely autistic people whose characteristics do not meld perfectly well with the common, pre-conceived notion of what “proper” behavior and communication looks like, one may consider looking into reading “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours”, an essay by Mel Baggs that was published in Disability Studies Quarterly. Baggs has been described as the mind behind several “forthright writings and films about being a nonverbal person with [autism who made] an impact in the fields of neurodiversity and disability rights”, to include their aforementioned essay (New York Times). “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours”, among many other works from Baggs, recounted and explored Baggs’s own personal experiences with being both non-verbal and autistic and used these experiences to generate a conversation around what constitutes “proper” or “acceptable” forms of communication (which are founded on entirely faulty ideas of conformity). Additionally, Baggs made a great effort to “[convey] that people who think and communicate in nontraditional ways are fully human, and that humanness is a spectrum, not something that can be reduced to a normal/abnormal dichotomy” (New York Times). The tagline for Baggs’s personal blog, dubbed Cussin’ and Discussin seems to light-heartedly relay this untruthful thought about the humanity of those with developmental disabilities, including non-verbal autistic people, being less than those that are able to vocalize their thoughts aloud by portraying themself as “being human in a world that says [they’re] not” (Cussin’ and Discussin’).

As Baggs put it, “[autistic] people are not a special kind of people set apart from all other people”, as autistic people seek to be seen as “just one of many kinds of people”(Baggs). Baggs placed a heavy focus on the idea of non-verbal communication as indicative of an absence. Referring back to the idea of rhetoric and now language acting as the arbiters of cohesive thought to many, Baggs noted that “language was built mostly by non-autistic people… the most important things about the way [they perceived] and [interacted] with the world around [them] can only be expressed in terms that describe them as the absence of something important” (Baggs). It would be unfair, still, to equate a lack of language with a lack of thought or a lack of connection to humanity. There are additional ways in which people, autistic or not, are able to communicate without the use of verbal language. For instance, communication through the physical was essential for Baggs, as they “[had] many forms of communication in addition to, or instead, of language”, adding that “[they had] a body language… the way [they interacted] with things around [them] at a particular time, compared to how [they] usually [interacted] with them… ways of arranging objects and actions that give clues about where [their] interest [was] directed and in what manner” (Baggs). These non-traditional forms of communication should not be destined to be shunned and unappreciated, as they “are rich and varied forms of communication in their own right, not inadequate substitutes for the more standard forms of communication” (Baggs).

Ultimately, unconventional modes of communication are not indicative of either an absence of or a deficiency in humanity. Additional forms of communication outside of verbal communication are valid and should not cause their users to be punished simply because non-verbal communication is not what is promoted as broadly acceptable independent of the verbal. Yergeau and Baggs both independently demonstrated a strong understanding of this, which will hopefully work to further chip away at some of the negative stereotypes surrounding autistic communication, non-verbal or not.

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

Works Cited

Baggs, Amanda. “Up in the Clouds and down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours.” Cultural Commentary: Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours, Disability Studies Quarterly, 2010,

Baggs, Mel. Cussin’ and Discussin’, 10 Apr. 2020,

Genzlinger, Neil. “Mel Baggs, Blogger on Autism and Disability, Dies at 39.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Apr. 2020,

Yergeau, Remi. “About.” M. Remi Yergeau,

Yergeau, Remi. “Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness.” Authoring Autism On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness, Duke University Press,

Yergeau, Remi. “Introduction: Involution”. Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness, 2017.

Brian Cruz-Lovo’s Take Home Final

Brian Cruz-Lovo
Dr. Chris Foss
ENGL 384
December 9, 2021

Finding Their Identity

Seeking one’s own identity is a goal everyone wants to reach to find enlightenment and fulfillment within themselves. Throughout our lives, we do find parts of our identity and find communities that help us build up who we want to be. What if a part of your identity is being pushed away because the communities you are a part of don’t understand or support it? From All the Weight of Our Dreams, both E. Ashkenazy’s “Foreword: On Autism and Race” and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s “Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter” share how important the topic of autism and race is when people of color with disabilities speak out about their experiences. Since the lack of support and resources for people of color with autism in their communities is falling short, they start to lose a part of their identity that does truly matters to them.
To begin, Ashkenazy breaks down the types of identities many people of color find and how their experiences. Ashkenazy reflects on how all the different cultures around her life open the door to her multiracial identity. She says, “Our homes were filled with art that reflected our cultural backgrounds and identities. My parents proudly discussed our heritage, as well as who were as a family.” Embracing this part of her identity that she grew up with. With that being said, she raised the question of how does everything she talked about ties into autism? She explains how it is human nature to want to be accepted into communities that accept us and feel like we are a part of similar individuals. The problem that arises with people of color that have disabilities is how that clash between not understanding and/or supporting the person with a disability. There are communities that don’t have the resources to understand what autism is and takes a toll on both the parent and child. Many people of color with autism suffer from this lack of resources of helping communities understand what autism which leads to a difficult path for these children. She also mentions how some communities see disabilities as a weakness and embarrassment. These examples are important to keep in mind because this is an issue that many people of color with autism are facing in communities that they call home and family. Ashkenazy provided a list of ideas on how to address these issues and I want to preface the idea of listening and welcoming the stories and insights of autistic people of color. As someone who is a person of color and sees how communities need to change their view on autism, we first have to welcome and listen to them. I understand that many people of color want to make that change in how we approach autism, but we have to do it in a safe and controlled environment where the message is clear and sincere. We cannot speak for all and allow those who want to speak to be heard and follow them to work on change in our communities. Similarly, Onaiwu shares her experience as a person of color with autism. She notes that from a young age she didn’t fit in and used the word “different” and never “normal”. From her physical appearance, she didn’t fit in with communities because of factors of appearance, cultural differences, and even down to her name. She continues with, “According to popular opinion, autistic people didn’t/don’t look like me. People didn’t/don’t sound like me.” And explains how this stigma creates a false stereotype of what people who have autism are supposed to act, look, and think. She ends with quotes of people of color who have autism to express how they are human beings too and vital race and autism play a part in their lives.
It is important to note that people of color who have disabilities are affected by other communities. People of color suffer from discrimination through society and communities that are based on racism. With that, when these communities see that people of color have disabilities, it ignites even more discrimination of tying racism with ableism. As mentioned before, since the lack of support and resources for people of color with autism in their communities is falling short, they start to lose a part of their identity that does truly matter to them. But how do we inform communities about autism? How do we inform communities of color that autism isn’t a sign of weakness or embarrassment? How do we help people of color with autism not lose this part of their identity? It is easier said than done however, there are many things we can do to build more resources and attention about autism and race. Many children of color are missed diagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to this lack of resources and understanding it. Large, multi-site studies have found and showed that children who were Black, Hispanic, or of other race/ethnicity were less likely than were White children to have a documented diagnosis of autism. We are all humans and in order for every person to find their identity, we must not use ignorance as an excuse for the harmful environment many people of color with autism are suffering from communities. In order to rebuild these environments, we have to grow and accept autistic people of color and listen to their experiences to learn and understand how we can destroy biases that have been harming them for way too long.

Word Count 1,002

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

Works Cited

Ashkenazy, E. “Foreword: On Autism and Race.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, and E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, DragonBee Press, 2017, pg. xxiii-xxxix.

Onaiwu, Morénike Giwa. “Preface: Austics of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, and E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, DragonBee Press, 2017, pg. x-xxii.

Jacob Lertora section 01 final

J. Lertora

Professor Foss

ENGL 384

9 December 2021

Including Autism Without Normalizing or Other-izing

When in the course of human creation, there arises several genetic differences that create what is known as the “individual”. Common morality would argue that these differences are unavoidable and therefore each individual ought to be treated with respect to ensure a common human flourishing. However, eugenicists argue, often successfully, that these genetic differences are tragedies and ought to be “cured” as a way of ensuring ethnic homogeneity. These statements have made their way into the public consciousness in many forms and have created several problems for people with disabilities. Remi Yergeau, in their piece, “Introduction: Involution” from Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness illustrates how these problems affect autistic people, including autonomy, negativity, and diagnosis.

The culture facing autistic people creates a lack of autonomy. Remi Yergeau was born and raised as a “normal” child up until they were diagnosed “as a young adult… with autism.” (1) Traditionally, some would say that their behaviors typical of autistic people represents a loss of autonomy — their involuntary gestures, screams, and others. Instead, their diagnosis soon provided a lens through which to read all their previously normal (perhaps a little “odd”) behaviors. As they write, “My hand and full-body movements became self-stimulatory behaviors; my years-long obsession with maps and the Electric Light Orchestra became perseverations; my repetition of lines from the movie Airplane! became echolalia.” (Yergeau 1) Essentially, “This, my body, this was autism… I was no longer my body’s author.” (Yergeau 1) By way of their diagnosis, Yergeau lost a large degree of control in the sense that they could no longer explain their own behavior. That is, they had the physical capacity to communicate their individuality, but people would not listen. Their patterns and words were construed to be as a result of their autism — there is “autism” and Yergeau, each separate. This shows a loss of autonomy, because while this traditional line of thinking places the autism and person separately, the autistic person is the total individual.

Even the notion of “involuntary” creates a loss of autonomy. As Yergeau explains: 

When one is schizophrenic, for example, her rhetorical actions are rendered less as symbolic actions and more as biological motions: schizophrenia causes the person to act. The schizophrenic person, in these constructions, has no volition—or whatever volition she has is tempered by the schizophrenia. (10)

As they put it, “Involuntarity is a project of dehumanization.” (Yergeau 10) In other words, they lose physical and symbolic control over their own actions. People will look at a neurodivergent person and separate their intended meaning from their actions, creating a loss of autonomy and dehumanization. They continue, “We are conditioned to believe that our selves are not really selves, for they are eternally mitigated by disability, in all of its fluctuations.” (Yergeau 10) This creates a sort of two selves — the autism and the person, rather than the autistic person. In this sense, autistic people lose their identity, control, and autonomy.

Autistic people are portrayed negatively in popular narrative as well. According to Yergeau:

Media accounts of autistic people communicate the sensationalism of savant-beings who are at once so extraordinary yet so epistemically distant and critically impaired. We are bombarded with anecdotes of children who refuse to hug their parents, of children whose worlds are supposedly so impoverished that they spend their days spinning in circles, or flapping their hands, or screaming or self-injuring or resisting—ardently and fixatedly resisting. (3)

Essentially, autistic people are shown to be strange, inhuman creatures. Hugging one’s parents, retaining control over one’s body, and other behaviors constitute what is “normal”, by violating this, autistic people are viewed as abnormal, which is decidedly negative. These are “shitty narratives”, hyper focusing on what is outside of autistic people’s control and authoring a narrative that places “autistic people as victim-captives of a faulty neurology” (Yergeau 3). Here it shows that there is intersectionality between the various problems facing autistic people: their autonomy is directly connected to a negative stereotype. 

Nothing shows this intersectionality more than a medical diagnosis. As Yergeau explains, “When autism is diagnosed, it is thought to reside, to push out the normalcy and invade, body-snatcher style. As in, autism made toddler me throw and smear and lick my own shit. As in, autism is making me write this book, and you, dear reader, should be skeptical at all turns.” (16) This is an example of a diagnosis creating a lack of autonomy and a negative stereotype. The imaginary doctor in this scenario invites the reader to read the text through a lens of disability — that is, not just accepting that the author has autism but assuming their writing stems from it. The reader might assume these thoughts are just as involuntary as their erratic body movements, leading to both a negative and a lack of autonomy. In addition, this shows how diagnosis creates a stigma that was otherwise not present. When combined with the author’s story of their diagnosis as a young adult, this adds to the notion that there are two separate Yergeaus: Autism, and the “real” Yergeau lurking under it all, and this distinction only formed when they were diagnosed. The reality is that Yergeau is both “real” and autistic and has been since they were born. 

Ultimately, Remi Yergeau’s story explains perfectly three major areas that impact the perceptions of autistic people: autonomy, negativity, and diagnosis. These areas, because of Yergeau’s narration, have been shown to correlate. By way of intersecting each other, these three spheres have combined under a larger negative perception. This is ableism, a phenomenon that impacts all people with disabilities, including autistic people. It involves otherization, viewing people as “lesser”, and attempting medically to “solve” what fundamentally composes the individual. This a pipeline to eugenic ways of thinking, with the average person feeling pity for the disabled and advocating for science to “cure” disability, because the disability is apparently separate from the individual. Therefore, society must work towards eliminating this discrimination that autistic people face as a step towards a better world.

Word Count: 1012

I pledge.

Works Cited

Yergeau, Remi. Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness. Duke University Press, 2018.

Rachel Grace Chaos’ Take Home Final

Word Count: 1053

Rachel Grace Chaos

Doctor Chris Foss

ENGL 384: Section 01

December 9, 2021

Jordan Grunawalt’s Idea of Necropolitics and How it Relates to Mel Baggs’ Cultural Commentary on Autistic Experience  

            Jordan Grunawalt’s ideas in “The Villain Unmasked: COVID-19 and the Necropolitics of the Anti-Mask Movement” provide an insight into how conservative politics contain a necropolitical undercurrent in their rhetoric. Grunawalt discusses the emergence of the anti-mask movement in conservative spaces across the United States of America since the emergence of COVID-19. In their discussion, they examine the breadth of the anti-mask movement and how people view masking as a sign of “weakness” in an individual. Necropolitics, the use of social and political power to dictate how some people must die and others may live by disregarding disabled bodies as valuable, reinforces ableist notions and illustrates similar struggles Mel Baggs discusses autistic people face in an inaccessibly designed world in “Cultural Commentary: Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours”.

            Grunawalt defines “necropolitics” as “the ultimate expression of sovereignty where sovereignty is characterized as the power or capacity to define who matters and who does not, who is disposable and who is not” (Grunawalt), which ultimately designates some bodies “as lesser than, and inferior to others” (Grunawalt). A main idea in their discussion of necropolitics during COVID-19 is that “hospitals discriminated against people with disabilities more than any other singular factor” (Grunawalt), which oftentimes during peaks of COVID-19 cases left disabled people without a bed. The idea that some bodies are more important than others is a main discussion in disability studies as the discussion of personal freedoms often overlooks “vulnerable groups” who political powers do not see as a “necessary facet for protecting” (Grunawalt). Necropolitical ideas infiltrate all areas of political discourse and often alienate key minority groups.

            Within their discussion of necropolitics, Grunawalt discusses the harmful re-politicizing of minorities’ powerful phrases and how that affects said minorities. Re-politicizing phrases meant to bring awareness to minority political issues carries a necropolitical undercurrent in the rhetoric that is harmful to the underrepresented groups. Protesters at rallies dedicated to removing mask mandates demand a rationale that “masks make one look (or actually be) weaker and weakness is bad, so masks must be resisted” (Grunawalt), while they hold signs demanding: “’Sacrifice the weak: Reopen TN’” or the appropriated phrase “’My body, my choice’” (Grunawalt). The discussion around mask mandates focuses on the idea that “the ‘healthy’ bodies are rhetorically differentiated from the ‘sick’ bodies” (Grunawalt) and should not be subject to equal limitations. Furthermore, the demand to sacrifice “weak” bodies communicates that it is not the “healthy” people’s job to accommodate the vulnerable bodies, which harrowingly relates to discourses surrounding accommodations for other disabled bodies, specifically the autistic bodies Mel Baggs discusses.

            Baggs notes that although “there are so many injustices, large and small, that affect autistic people” it is “wheelchair accessibility” and language that “galls” [Baggs] the most “on an everyday basis” (Baggs) because no matter where they go, “the very structure of the environment” (Baggs) aims to exclude them. Ignoring the demands of autistic bodies in both physical and social environments illustrates a common thread throughout the discussions around disabled experiences. For Baggs, language is a common inaccessible facet in daily life as “language was built mostly by non-autistic people” (Baggs). For Baggs, they are met every day with “stereotypes about functioning levels” (Baggs) and the stereotypes communicate nothing but misleading experiences in their life. Focusing on the absence of abilities relating to both language and physicality results in contradicting views of autism. Baggs’ discussion of the inaccessibility of language patterns and physical environments communicates their conclusion that:

The richness I experience of the world is not merely a more limited version of other people’s experiences. My experiences have their own richness that other people may not be able to see, and they are far more than a mere lack of movement, conventional thought, speech, language, or perception. (Baggs)

It is impossible to determine one life as more enriching than another, as an individual’s perception of their own richness does not relate to other people’s experiences.

            It is in the anti-maskers’ discourse that “alleged masks impeded their civil liberties and violated their rights as ‘healthy’ bodies” (Grunawalt) that the idea of the ableist and inaccessible “structure of the environment” (Baggs) within the United States of America emerges. Powerful people ultimately determine how to build and structure everything in society, which leaves “wheelchair users… a particular and awful difficulty” when “the powerful people are not wheelchair users” (Baggs). In the same breath, a society structured around powerful people leaves COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to “hit BIPOC (Black Indigenous, and People of Color) elderly, poor, and disabled lives the hardest” as “local and federal leaders [are] unwilling to take mask measures seriously, even at the cost of their constituents’ lives” (Grunawalt). Overall, the idea of necropolitics that Grunawalt discusses relates to all aspects of the disabled experience and how disabled bodies do not receive the same accessibility as non-disabled bodies in all environments, from politics and healthcare to specifically the environments that Baggs outlines from their own autistic experience.

            In examining Mel Baggs’ experience navigating the world with autism and Jordan Grunawalt’s discussion of the ableism in anti-mask discourse, the connection between necropolitical demands and ableist designed environments is apparent. Language and physical environments alienate autistic bodies. Anti-mask protests appropriate minority groups’ protest statements with signs that read “’Freedom to breathe’” and leave disabled bodies further alienated. In the greater environment, powerful and often non-disabled bodies structure environments that leave autistic bodies to struggle in adjusting to environments that refuse to accept that one body cannot represent all bodies. In the end, these factors prove that necropolitics, the use of social and political power to dictate how some people must die and that others may live by disregarding disabled bodies as valuable, reinforces ableist notions and illustrates the similar struggles Mel Baggs discusses autistic people face in a world designed to aid non-disabled bodies above all others.

I Pledge: Rachel Grace Chaos

Works Cited

Baggs, Amanda “Mel”. “Up in the Clouds and down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours.” Disability Studies Quarterly 30.1 (2009). Print.

Grunawalt, Jordan. “The Villain Unmasked: Covid-19 and the Necropolitics of the Anti-mask Movement.” Disability Studies Quarterly 41.3 (2021). Print.

Lauren Lemon Take-Home Final

Lauren Lemon

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384-02

Word Count: 1,411

The Power of Ignorance

The understanding of people within most communities for persons with autism is not something to be commended. Autistic people of color face tremendous challenges detrimental to their well-being in all aspects of their lives—presented with prejudices of both their autism and race. When looking at Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s “Preface: Autistic of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” and E. Ashkenazy’s “Foreword: On Autism and Race” share a critical component. The alienation of autistic people of color. This alienation is an effect of the ignorance held towards people of color and autistic people. Being both a person of color and autistic creates an ignorance-fueled environment that supports discrimination towards such people. 

To fully understand the bias that autistic people of color face, one must recognize the influence of racism in society. There is a constant challenge from others, urging them to “choose” just one race. As Ashkenazy details, this creates barriers, an environment attempting to nullify both their voice and identity (Ashkenazy xxvi). This demand given to people of color is a microaggression, demanding someone to make life “simpler” for those who have no say in another’s identity. In asking a person of color to “choose,” or mislabeling and subjecting them to the convenience and opinions of another, they are actively stripping a portion of their identity away, and as Ashkenazy puts it, “cursed and left to die of exposure” (Ashkenazy xxvi). Comparatively, Onaiwu was monoracial and faced the expectation to live “black,” placing her in a singular scope that was assumed to encompass all people of color (Onaiwu xiv). The ignorance of her peers, unable to accept her as she was “too white” and “Americanized” in her speech and mannerisms for the African community, but not American enough due to her West African culture to be accepted by other communities (Onaiwu xiv). Both women were not deemed “enough” by the standards of those around them. Such negligent standards fabricated by others brings into question their belonging in society. 

The acceptance of others is an innate desire of all humans. To belong and have a community of people whom one can view as their people, a place of understanding and welcomeness. For autistic people of color, not having such an acceptance creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, and the only reason for one to not have a sense of belonging is the feeling of otherness. This sense of otherness stems from people’s lack of understanding in a community. Not understanding the need to be a part of a group filled with love and acceptance only lowers the chance of survival, left to fend for oneself (Ashkenazy xxxiii). Throughout life, people are exposed to social conditioning, implicating the exclusion of autistic people of color; however, such conditions vary depending on the community one is raised in (Ashkenazy xxxiii). The acceptance of autistic people of color is low between white people and people of color, autistic or otherwise. This attribute is due to the lack of acceptance built around biases held within various communities (Onaiwu xi). Ingrained into the minds of all people, ableism and racism introduce negative messages about neurology, ethnicity, and expected behaviors that are often internalized (Onaiwu xi). This ignorance of the needs of others is preventative in building a community that accepts autistic people of color. Accepting oneself is critical in being accepted by others; however, the fight against the ignorance of others should not have to be as large as it is. Instead, adjustments in teaching children are necessary to prevent the stigmatization of others. This ingrained ignorance only harms others, and their treatment is unacceptable. 

The power to influence the self-worth of autistic people of color that persons have is tremendous, and each flippant, derogatory and alienating action or word has an impact. Onaiwu discusses the media’s exploitation of autistic people of color to enlighten others about the burden that autistic people pose to society (xii). In this exploitation, autistic people of color are utilized by strangers, brought out of their comfort zone, depicted as defective and undesirable, and then cast aside. Such actions are inexcusable, and it is crucial to recognize the impact of actions on others; negatively depicting autistic people of color only further creates self-doubt in autistic minds. The accounts Ashkenazy shares from autistic people of color and their experiences with familial and societal ignorance are horrifying. With an aunt fearing for her niece’s safety due to her inability to “make the cut” of societal norms, a daughter whose family cannot accept her as they view disability as a taboo bringing shame to their family, and an autistic teenager whose family is unable to accept her and ridicules her behavior and for being “too white”- something she had to learn to attempt acceptance in her community (Ashkenazy xxxv-xxxvii). In these experiences, there is a critical component, the lack of understanding from others, creating a hostile and uninhabitable environment for autistic people of color. 

Recognizing a problem is crucial to enacting change and creating a safe community for autistic people of color. To do this, one must recognize their privilege in life. When pondering if race impacts autism, it is crucial to understand who is asking this. It is not the autistic person of color who is affected by the ignorant actions of others every day. It is the privileged white, non-disabled person who can go about their lives freely, never having to think about race until it is brought to their attention (Ashkenazy xxx). It is the privileged person who is non-disabled and faces no questions to challenge their actions. It is the person who does not listen to the insights of those affected by the actions of people of privilege. There is irreparable damage to autistic people of color who are lumped into groups, attempting to separate their autism from their race, and in “Preface: Autistic of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” there are two poems that are crucial to understanding such damage. One of which belongs to Jen Meunier (Gzhibaeassigaekwe), “we autistics, we villages, we humanoids.” This poem is about neurodiversity and the need to surpass the social models of disability disillusioned by white colonial privilege; the importance of their voices being heard across the movements (Onaiwu xx). The fact that there is an exclusion within movements advocating for the voices of autistic persons is baffling. For minorities to exclude people with additional minorities reinforces the prejudice present in society. The poem “My Experience” by Stephan B. is powerful in reclaiming one’s identity. The rebellion against labels thrust upon them, taking away the “boxes” others try to put them in, and refusing to be defined by a diagnosis (Onaiwu xx). This is powerful in the sense that despite the ignorance and discrimination they have faced, they refuse to alienate themselves from a community by giving the words of others power. Reclaiming power over one’s identity and refusing the labels placed on autistic people of color is one step towards changing societal standards and constructs.  

Negative implications surrounding autistic people of color are existent in all communities. The ramifications for such implications have tremendous power over the way both society and autistic individuals view autistic people of color. Racism is something that has been influencing the minds of society for generations, an unwillingness to accept that which is different from the “accepted.” There is no human being who does not need a community or safe environment, and the negligence to recognize that autistic people of color need these things is absurd. As autistic people of color face both the prejudices of ableism and racism, the need to find a community that is accepting and understanding of them is imperative. Creating an environment that removes prejudices that harm autistic people of color is necessary; not recognizing this only furthers the ignorance of humankind. 

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

Works Cited:

Ashkenazy, E. “Foreword: On Autism and Race.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, and E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, DragonBee Press, 2017, pg. xxiii-xxxix.

Onaiwu, Morénike Giwa. “Preface: Austics of Color: We Exist… We Matter.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, and E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, DragonBee Press, 2017, pg. x-xxii.

Emily Malone’s Take-Home Final Exam

Emily Malone 

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384

9 December 2021

Word Count: 1020

Othering and Acceptance in Romkema’s “Perspectives” and Mukhopadhyay”s “Misfit”

Autistic people face many hardships in the way they are treated in society. Because of differences in behaviors and speech, many are othered by people in society, including peers and family. “Othering” happens when someone treats another person or group as inherently different, and usually inferior, to their own group. The poems “Perspectives” by Craig Romkema, and “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay both describe a person’s experiences being an Autistic person in society and include themes of othering and being seen as different contrasted to feelings of acceptance and freedom.  

In the poem “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay, the speaker is othered and excluded from society for behaviors society sees as different and unnatural, but he feels accepted and free to be himself in nature where these behaviors and movements are entirely natural. He describes the ways his movements mimic some of the motions in nature. He turns in the same way as the earth does, and he flaps his arms in the same way the birds do. He shares, “My hands, as usual, were flapping” before stating,  “the birds knew I was Autistic;/they found no wrong with anything” (Mukhopadhyay, 7-9). The birds know he is Austic, but do not see an issue because they do not see him as abnormal or different. The word “flapping” intentionally connects the speaker to the birds he sees. The way he flaps his arms is the same way these birds flap their wings. These movements are natural in this world. The speaker is connected to this natural world through the movements they share. 

While nature accepts him for who he is, society does not. He explains, “Men and women stared at my nodding;/ they labeled me a misfit” (Mukhopadhyay, 10-11). People from society don’t relate these movements to what they expect to see in society. Instead of accepting him, they stare and other him by labeling him as an outsider. They see his nodding as different, leading to him being labeled a “misfit”. In this stanza, he describes the way these people see him, “(A Misfit turning and turning)” (Mukhopadhyay, 12). From the perspective of the men and women in society, he is just turning in a way most people do not, despite this movement relating to the movement of the earth when looked at from a larger perspective. He ends his poem asking “why stop turning and turning/ when right can be found with everything?” (Mukhopadhyay, 18-19). The speaker does not see his movements as wrong or different. He has decided not to change himself to fit in with the society that labels him an other. The natural world accepts him and does not see him as wrong. Instead of letting society make him feel bad for being different, he chooses to continue to be himself.

“Perspectives” by Craig Romkema describes the way the speaker was othered and labeled as different because of his autism, but ultimately found freedom and acceptance with his ability to communicate using computers. The second stanza sets up these feelings of being othered. He describes his “differentness” and how he was studied by many different people to try to understand why he was different (Romkema, 10). He shares that, despite all these tests, people did not understand him. He describes, “some were stiff and cold/others blessedly kind/ others not acknowledging I understood every word”(Romkema, 16-18). This line explains how some people assumed he did not know what they were saying because he did not communicate in the same way they did, or the way they expected him to. He even states he was “labeled” “retarded/ or some other variant” (Romkema, 20-21). Because of his differences, people assumed he could not understand them, so they labeled him as something different from them. He was othered by society, not accepted by them. He describes how his parents believed in him and said they knew he “was there/Inside” as if he was trapped inside his body and would need something to set him free. 

He describes the many questions he is still asked about his behaviors and other aspects in his life. With his new ability to communicate his thoughts through technology, he is expected to give these insights about his behaviors. Instead of being treated only as something to be studied, he is now acknowledged as being able to participate in the conversation. He explains that, although he is treated differently, he is “not startlingly different in appearance of habits/ from that little boy so willingly labeled”(Romkema, 44-45). This line shows the ways he feels he is still that same kid. He is not labeled in the same way now as people did when he was younger. He explains that the only thing that has changed is his ability to share what he is thinking by typing. His ideas and feelings are not different. He was always able to understand what people said, he is simply able to communicate his understanding in ways he didn’t have the opportunity to before. Now he is able to participate in “discussions on Shakespear and/ Algebra/ vote, give opinions on government actions” (Romkema, 48-50). These are all things he could understand before, but he just did not have a way to communicate his abilities to others.  He shares “now my mind is free” (Romkema, 51). His ability to participate in discussions and share in thoughts has allowed him more freedom and acceptance into society.

Craig Romkema’s poem “Perspectives” and Tito Mukhopadhyay’s poem “Misfit” both use themes of othering and being seen as different contrasted with feelings of acceptance and freedom in their works about being an Autistic person in society. In “Misfit”, Mukhopadhyay describes the way he is othered by people in society, but accepted by nature. This allows him to feel more accepting of himself. In “Perspectives”, Romkema describes the way he was othered by individuals in his life, labeled as different, until he gained the ability to type his thoughts to communicate. He shares that, although he has not changed on the inside, he is accepted more by society because his thoughts are free to leave his mind. 


Mukhopadhyay , Tito. “Misfit.” dis/lit fall 2021. Accessed 2021.

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” 2010. Disability Studies Quarterly, Accessed 2021.

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

Take-Home Final Exam: Autistic Linguicism

Irene Andrade

ENGL 384

Dr. Foss

December 9, 2021

Word Count: 1052

Autistic Linguicism

What is more important, what someone says or what someone does not say? Let us reconceptualize this. What do you imagine when you are asked this question, someone speaking verbally, someone speaking non-verbally, and/or someone not speaking whether verbal or non-verbal? Often times as a society, we place so much emphasis on verbal languages that we forget the importance of non-verbal languages and their meaning. When certain groups like this are shadowed, we find that we start to invalidate experiences they may be subjected to. Many autistic people are identified as non-verbal, meaning they do not verbally speak the predominant language of their home, and this can be the case for a variety of reasons. In this paper, we will examine different works by non-verbal and alternatively-communicating autistic authors, and how autistic people and the linguicism they face are shadowed by the importance society as a whole places on verbally speaking abled bodies.

While linguicism, coined by linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas to describe several forms of discrimination on the basis of language, is usually associated with xenophobia and people who do not speak the predominant language in certain spaces, here I am suggesting that linguicism can extend to oppress non-verbal autistic people and those who “speak” differently than other people would assume. This matter becomes more complex when you have some intersectionality. For example, Ralph James Savarese, in his essay “Toward a Postcolonial Neurology: Autism, Tito Mukhopadhyay, and a New Geo-poetics of the Body” analyzes author Tito Mukhopadhyay’s works in order to explain postcolonial neurology, and its implications of Mukhopadhyay’s identities and writing. Mukhopadhyay is an Indian man who was diagnosed with non-verbal autism when he was young and has written many critically acclaimed books throughout his life. R.J. Savarese pulls on Mukhopadhyay to show the postcolonial perspective of pathologizing certain aspects like his brain and its function (275). Postcolonialism can also be used to understand linguicism and its effects on non-verbal autistic people such as Mukhopadhyay himself:

The sometimes wildly metaphoric language of nonspeaking autistics² makes potential       allies of neurotypical poets, whose common mission is to re-present the world in a way      that resists and reformulates hegemonic expression. In the hands of someone as skilled as Mukhopadhyay, English is at once familiar and unfamiliar: an autistic hybrid of Hindi, Bengali, and British and American English. (275)

Postcolonialism therefore affects Mukhopadhyay’s life through his ethnicity, but also his autism, and all forms of expression whether verbal or non-verbal. Additionally, R.J. Savarese joins Stuart Murray’s argument that Mukhopadhyay was at one point used as a token by the Cure Autism Now (CAN) organization as a person who “overcame” his linguistic “deficits” (276). This tokenism is partly branched from linguicism in the way that CAN is not able to recognize that Mukhopadhyay is instead multi-lingual in verbal and non-verbal ways.

Autistic authors have been known to speak out about the difficulties of being non-verbal or alternatively-communicating in a verbal world. Additionally, part of the rest of this argument is not only how people do not see the importance in communication between verbal and non-verbalness, but also how dehumanized non-verbal autistic people are. The late autistic writer Amelia “Mel” Baggs, expresses in their essay “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours” how they feel people have focused on their linguistic “absence” and assumed their life was monotonous because they were non-verbal and autistic. Baggs states, “If I were merely a speaker of a foreign language, then I might be able to find ways to translate between my system of patterns and another’s categories, but as far as language goes, I am something closer to a speaker with a foreign brain,” showing how they perceive themselves as communicating in a completely different way than verbal people would typically assume. Later in the piece Baggs says, “Someone once saw a photograph of me and said that he felt sorry because I would never know the richness of life that he knows. But I wonder if he is capable of looking around and seeing shapes and colors instead of objects and of mapping the patterns of those shapes and colors.” Not holding someone’s life to the standard of someone else’s simply because of an identity or a characteristic is the crux of dehumanization, and linguicism follows this as it is partly also about how Baggs and others cannot “speak their language”. This is one way how non-verbalness has been shadowed by verbal speaking able bodies.

Lastly, we will look into David James “DJ” Savarese’s piece “Communicate With Me” to evaluate other effects of linguicism and microaggressions together. DJ Savarese describes himself as an alternatively-communicating autistic person, so he is identified as such throughout the rest of this essay. DJ Savarese recounts “Most kids choose not to talk to me at all…Recently I surveyed some of my close friends and discovered that most people aren’t sure how to talk freely to me.” His peers choosing not to talk to him is a microaggression, and the way society has not prepared his peers on how to approach him to ask how they can best communicate with him is one systemic effect of ableism and linguicism. His writing shows how much more inclusive our society could be for everyone if we could allow for people to speak for themselves whether through the predominant verbal way of speaking or not.   

As a disclaimer, I want to say that in this essay I am attempting to refocus different autistic people’s experiences with language and as many of these authors state, not any one of their points is meant to attribute to the entire group of autistic people or their community. It goes without saying that I am not autistic nor am I in the autistic community, so I am also not trying to put in my own thoughts as an autistic experience. Additionally, I do not know what causes speaking “deficits” in certain autistic people, but quite frankly, at this point, it does not matter so much. So many autistic people and especially autistic people of color are affected worldwide by ableism and linguicism. It should not matter whether certain children will be able to grow up speaking the predominant spoken language of their home, but rather whether they will be able to grow up safely at all.

I pledge – Irene Andrade

Works Cited

Baggs, Amelia. “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours” Disability   Studies Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1, 2010. Accessed 9 Dec 2021.

Savarese, David James. “Communicate With Me.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1,     2010. Accessed 9 Dec 2021.

Savarese, Ralph James. “Toward a Postcolonial Neurology: Autism, Tito Mukhopadhyay, and a New Geo-poetics of the Body.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 4       no. 3, 2010, pp. 273-289.

Bailey Merriman’s Take Home Final

Bailey Merriman

Dr Foss

ENGL 384

9 December 2021

Word Count: 1150

Analysis of Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s “Misfit”

Images of nature have been used in poetry and other literary works for as long as they have been written, generally to convey ideas of purity, idealism, and escape. However, while themes of nature are used in Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s poem “Misfit”, they are instead used to establish how he, as an autistic person, fits into the world around him. Using these depictions of natural items along with the structure of the poem, repetition of phrases and images, and the use of motion, Mukhopadhyay examines what is natural and unnatural, how he and others connect to the world, and who are considered the real “misfits”. 

Throughout “Misfit”, the structure of the work helps to convey a message to the reader. Beginning with a stanza set in space with the focus being on “There was the earth, turning and turning” and the way the stars recede, Mukhopadhyay starts the reader off by showing them an expansive perspective that sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The second stanza then zooms in, with images of birds flying and a lit up sky, followed by another line about the earth turning. This narrowing shows further perspectives of the natural world, as well as reminding the reader that everything is connected and that, as the birds are flying and the sky is bright, the earth is still continuing to turn. It’s not until the third stanza with the line “My hands, as usual, were flapping” that Mukhopadhyay’s point of view enters the piece. As the birds look down at him, knowing that he is autistic, Mukhopadhyay is integrated into the cycle of nature around him with the birds, the earth, and the sky. With the fourth stanza, a man and woman are introduced, staring at his nodding and labeling him a misfit. Though this is still focusing on the human perspective, the perspective is still being narrowed, zooming in on those who are not connected to what is around them. The stanza does not reference any of the natural images seen before, instead only concentrating on how they “stared at my nodding; / They labeled me a Misfit”. This effect of reducing the scale of viewpoint emphasizes the way that different parts of the world connect with one another, and how the author fits into both this natural world and the minds of the people around him.

The effect of repetition is seen throughout the entirety of “Misfit” as well. Mukhopadhyay first describes how “The stars receded, as if / Finding no wrong with anything”, emphasizing how nature continues along its path, not paying attention to the potential rightness or wrongness of the world around it. This concept is seen again, when “The birds knew I was Autistic; / They found no wrong with anything”. The description of Mukhopadhyay’s hands in the same stanza with the line “My hands, as usual, were flapping” seem to find no wrong with anything either, with the line implying that the hands were flapping on their own without the author’s input. The hands flapped, as usual, because they, like the stars and the birds, found no wrong in anything. 

This repetition is broken up by the fourth stanza, where, instead of finding no wrong, the men and women staring at Mukhopadhyay label him as a misfit. By removing the repetition from this line, the author reiterates how the men and women are the real misfits, disconnected from both the patterns in the poem and the nature around them. It also makes it all the more powerful when, in the next stanza, Mukhopadhyay becomes the blowing wind, a part of nature who “found no wrong with anything”, free from the constraints and labels that the men and women forced upon him. Though changed slightly, the echoing phrase is last seen in the final line of the poem as the author poses the question of “Why stop turning and turning / When right can be found with everything?”. By changing the wording from “finding no wrong with anything” to “right can be found with everything”, Mukhopadhyay illustrates a change from a negative mindset to a more powerful one. It also asserts that the potential to find right in everything is possible for anyone, serving as almost a call to the reader to try and become the blowing wind and removing themselves from a mindset that labels others as misfits. 

Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay also uses the idea of motion and movement to make his point. Within the first stanza, the earth is noted to be “turning and turning”, while the stars recede in the sky. Birds are described as flying by “all morning”, indicating a perpetual, continuous action. Movement is seen later in the poem as well, with lines like “And then I was the wind, blowing. / Did anyone see my trick?”. There is motion even when “Somewhere, a wish was rising”, and in his “laughing lips”. This perpetual activity is what connects him to the nature around him, and what allows him to understand how “right can be found in everything”. 

The speaker then notes how his “hands, as usual, were flapping”, moving alongside the persistent motion of the nature surrounding him. However, it is the speaker’s flapping hands and nodding that is frowned upon by the men and women watching him. Instead of being able to move alongside the rest of the world in peace, Mukhopadhyay describes how the men and women “labeled me a Misfit”. Despite this, the speaker clarifies that he is “(A Misfit turning and turning)”, demonstrating how, even when being discouraged from the motion the rest of nature engages in, he still continues to turn and turn. Within the whole of the poem, the only elements to never move are the actual men and the women that choose to label him. Unable to understand the speaker’s continuous motion, they are forced into a stand still that prevents them from connecting to what is going on around them. It is this lack of acceptance and movement that prohibits them from being able to see the right in everything, establishing that they are the true misfits, incapable of fitting in with the nature around them and the scene being depicted.

Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s work “Misfit” uses natural imagery like stars, the moon, birds, and the wind to exhibit the way that he, as an autistic person, fits more naturally into the world around him than others expect and assume. By doing this, he points out that the real misfits are those who try to label him as such. Ultimately, the work serves to help the reader wonder how to find no wrong in anything and what is truly natural.

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