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.

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.

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,       


Lily Shirley Final Exam

OPTION 2: Thesis driven paper involving one or two works from the final autism unit. 

Not long ago, Autism would have been considered an institutionalization-worthy disability. The disability itself is not fatal nor does the diagnosis mean that the individual will be nonverbal, violent, and antisocial. They are labeled, rather ambiguously, as being  “different”. People with autism are not burdens- they are just treated that way.

Jim Sinclair, an autistic scholar, author, and proponent of disability studies, outlines the traditional and antiquated notion often surrounding the disability in his piece Don’t Mourn for Us. Sinclair touches on the way his parents reacted to his life and to his disability. He recognizes that when parenting an autistic child, there are inherent difficulties and hurdles. However, Sinclair argues that the beauty and rarity of the autistic child should outweigh the apparent challenges. It is also worth noting that any child will have their inherent difficulties, so we must treat each child with the same protection and esteem. Sinclair’s understanding of autism needs to be grasped by the neurotypical community. Acceptance of Sinclair’s perspective will allow us to move forward from these dated beliefs. 

Apologies to my OBGYN, a poem written by Rebecca Foust, is also about the experience of parenting a child with autism. Instead of identifying the personal and familial model relating to autistic children being labeled as a “burden”, Foust connects it to the medical model. Both the medical and personal perspectives  presented in the respective pieces convey multiple unfair stigmas, the most notable being that people with autism are only a burden, and nothing else. This is simply not the case, as argued in both pieces. Sinclair argues that an autistic human life is not death, whereas Foust asserts that death is an integral part of the human experience. Life is not death, but death means that one has lived. In dying, the only power granted to Foust’s premature child is that it is no longer a burden because it is no longer living, taking up space, resources, or money. 

It is interesting and worth debate to examine Sinclair’s use of the word “alien” to describe people with autism. This term is often used to illustrate the dissimilar processes of a neurodivergent person. It has overtones of explaining them as a whole other life force, from a distant planet. If anything, this furthers the impenetrable wall Sinclair hopes to avoid. 

An autistic life, even while still in the womb, is thought of as a burden. Even in communities of pro-choice minded people, it is often argued that aborting a child for the sole reason of autism is unjust and offensive. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why Sinclair would feel the need to specifically detail that autism is not death. After birth, the child still faces marginalization in a way that a neurotypical person could never comprehend. Parents often list the most traumatic experience of their life as the moment they discovered their child had autism. This forces the child into the role of an agonizing burden- a treacherous bridge the parents, not the actual child, must cross. This notion is clearly offensive and derails the recent movement of the disability positive narrative. 

Not only does Sinclair explain that autism is not death, he also verifies it as “not an impenetrable wall”.  Essentially, this discounts the idea that children with autism have no proper means of communication with neurotypical people, but rather, their means are simply different and more complex. When the able bodied parent, or even community, views a disabled person’s way of thinking as “different” and therefore not useful, this removes once again, the hard work of protesters wishing for inclusivity and to omit the notion of burdens. 

The personal connection to society relates to the parenting of a child with a disability.  Sinclair’s piece best captures the thesis of this paper. People with autism are treated differently in almost every way possible, simply because giving them improper resources is easier, and cheaper, than allowing them to explore more expensive and potentially more helpful routes. Parents, even the ones who consider themselves to support their autistic child, often marginalize them in a way the rest of society is incapable of doing. Being treated as a burden by society is one thing, but being treated as a burden by your parents is another thing altogether.

While some may wish to believe we have come far in integrating neurodivergent people properly in society, we still have far to go. We cannot dream of including people with disabilities the way they should be included when it is already hard enough to convince politicians that accessibility is essential, or to doctors that a “difficult” patient with autism should be treated with the same care and respect as a neurotypical patient. In Fousts’ deeply sarcastic apology, it is difficult to grasp the extent to which neurodivergent patients are mistreated. Fousts explains that her child, born too early and with bountiful and expensive medical issues, was treated as a burden by medical staff. She was even told she was wrong and too demanding in fighting for the baby’s life; the hospital’s resources are better used on a neurotypical baby. 

The medical structure of modern society does little to encourage or uplift people with disabilities. This is extremely prevalent in Foust’s “pain in the ass” description of the care of her son. The first three stanzas start with “sorry”, reinforcing her sarcastic demeanor. If this child were able bodied, there is no doubt the mother would not even feel compelled to apologize, even if it was contemptful. 

Another essential aspect of the medical model is the connection to costs. Because this is a capitalist society, money makes the world go around. In cases like Foust’s child, it is glaringly apparent that the doctors and nurses cared more about the finances than the life itself. This does not account for the beauty of life.

In conclusion, autism is not death. This overlying assumption has caused much unrest in the disability studies field, as well as the literal homes of the autistic community. If parents and medical professionals continue to view their autistic child as a fiscal responsibility rather than a human, not alien, with a heartbeat worthy of care, nothing will change. There are many things that autism is, but then again, there are many things that autism isn’t. Autism is a part of the person- it is not something in need of a cure or to be viewed as simply a hurdle to overcome. Autism is life. 

Word Count: 


Works cited:

Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn for Us.” Don’t Mourn For Us, 1993, http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html.  

Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, 28 June 2018,

http://www.fishousepo ems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/.   

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


Terrencia Johnson’s Analysis On “Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me By DJ Savarese”

Terrencia Johnson

Dr. Foss

Take Home Final Examination

9 December 2021

Analysis of  Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me By DJ Savarese

     The Cultural Commentary: Communicate with Me by DJ Savarese gives insight on how it is to be autisic and wanting the world to communicate with you as they would anyone else. DJ is a film producer, poet, writer, and an activist. He grew up getting the normal education as any American child would, and went on to double majoring at Oberlin College. The only thing that makes DJ “different” from the rest of his classmates is that he is nonverbal and has autism. Within this article Dj gives explanations to why he does certain things, and what he needs for people without a disability to do in order to communicate with him. Within my analysis I want to understand why DJ needs to give explanations for some things that seem to be common courtesy and common sense. Also, I want to see how he responds to certain reactions of people without a disability and how those reactions affect DJ. Depending on the situation, certain things can affect him in a negative way. I believe this analysis will bring forward a deeper understanding of how people with autism want to be viewed by society, and also how they want others to interact with them.

As I began to break down the article, I noticed there was a common flow of a question or comment that would follow up with either an answer or explanation. While reading I found that although a question asked would appear to be short and simple, the response of DJ would be in depth and give a clear explanation so people would clearly understand. Dr.Gupta, the person who was interviewing DJ, asked about his facilitator and the controversy that comes about people who have one. DJ made it clear that his facilitator is there to make him feel safe and to help him focus during specific tasks. It was strange to learn that people had controversy about facilitators, however there are some people in the world who are not there to truly help and do take advantage of people with disabilities. I wondered how someone who is nonverbal was able to show that what their facilitators were communicating was true. For DJ, he had educators and past facilitators confirm to people that he was able to communicate his own knowledge and had the ability to learn like everyone else. However, there are many people in the world that do not have people who can prove these things so often what the facilitator or even guardians say is often used as a final say.  Another question that DJ included was how former classmates often asked if he had hearing issues as well because his aide would sign to him. A question that could be answered with a yes or no, but DJ gave us the entire breakdown. For DJ his body reacts to things differently than people without autism. When he gets scared, it is almost as if his body is disattached from itself. The feeling of fear makes it hard to hear and he can not understand what you are saying. When he is feeling stressed or excited his sympathetic autonomic system gets activated but then his body gets his parasympathetic response to engage, allowing for him to finally be able to respond voluntarily. I believe people without a disability are not patient enough with people with disabilities. This lack of patience can cause someone with a disability to perform actions that are involuntary and cause prejudice. DJ made it clear that, “I might act like you’re not there at first. It takes dear, real self time to tell my breaking-the-barrier heart to quit pounding so loudly, so I can respond.” Those without autism or with a disability are able to respond and react quicker to things, so we need to understand that for someone with autism it can take time to process all that is occurring. 

     At the end of the article there is the question of, “What can you free people do to help?” I wondered this myself not only as I analyzed this text but during the time I have been in Disability Lit. What can people without a disability do to not only understand those with disabilities, but interact with them in a way that is best for them. DJ gave us three ways we can help and made sure to explain it in a way everyone can understand. First he said to ignore his involuntary gestures, including his signs for done and break. The involuntary gestures are his body responding to what has just occurred and unfortunately sometimes the gestures he does are not even because of what is occurring in the moment, it is built up fear from past events. The second thing he says we could do to help is asking a question but writing answers on a piece of paper and giving him the chance to choose. This allows the conversation to continue and make him feel like you will not get bored and leave. The last thing DJ says we can do to help is simply talk to him. Oftentimes people without a disability talk to a caregiver or facilitator rather than talking to the person with the disability. By doing this it causes a disconnect to the person with a disability. When you do not talk directly to the person with the disability, it makes it seem as though you are not acknowledging that they are there. When you do talk directly to the person with a disability  it can make them feel  heard and seen. 

     Through my analysis I wanted to understand why DJ explained and described things the way he did. Through this analysis I have come to the conclusion that without him explaining the way he does people would not be able to have a clear understanding of how to interact with him in an appropriate way. Because of his explanation people without a disability now know that  people with autism can express their own ideas and feelings, use facilitators as a support system rather than a translator,  and simply want us “frees” to communicate with them as we would anyone else.

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

Works Cited

“About — Deej.” Deej, https://www.deejmovie.com/about. Accessed 1 December 2021.

“NEWS.” DJ Savarese, http://www.djsavarese.com/news/. Accessed 1 December 2021.

Savarese, DJ. “Communicate with Me | Savarese.” Disability Studies Quarterly, 2010, https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1051/1237. Accessed 1 December 2021.

Disability Month Table Fair

At the Disability Month Table Fair there was a plethora of tables, however one that stood out to me was the service animal table. Here I learned about UMW’s program to be a volunteer puppy raiser and too help train canines to be service animals. From the ages two to eighteen months is a crucial developmental period to prepare puppies for a lifetime of service. Service animals can serve to assist people with various kinds of disabilities and thus the training for each puppy varies. However, all puppies do receive professional training for nine months after being with raisers for a year and a half. There is a plentitude of people dedicating themselves to training these future service animals and they make a tremendous difference for people with disabilities.

Key Takeaways From “Can You HEAR Me?” (Article From Autism Unit) (Extra Credit)

  • Korean culture used masked normally
    • when used in the USA, people looked at her strangely
  • Hard-of-hearing disability
    • difficult with not seeing lips
    • often needs someone with her to tell her what the
      dialogue is
    • note pad in her purse/ talk to text app
    • Hard-of-hearing & English is not first language
    • Cochlear implant surgery
  • Racial discrimination due to COVID
    • Covid = Chinese virus?
    • Harassment has increased since COVID
    • “Suddenly, [when the pandemic began] I started to not
      feel as safe. If you don’t feel safe in a place you call
      home, that’s traumatic” (Brown, 2020).
  • After COVID
    • build the world back by addressing the needs of all people
    • services should be reformed to serve Deaf & HOH
    • Accommodations help people reach their full potential &
      help society as a whole
    • more inclusive society

Elizabeth’s Class Summary! November 18th, 2021

Our class started off when Dr Foss walked in with a new haircut which everyone immediately noticed and complimented him on.
Although after Foss walked in he sadly decided to give the class a quiz. One of the questions was phrased very oddly that it needed to be repeated a couple times. Luckily at the end of the day we got through the quiz and turned them in.
Dr Foss further informed the class that despite Thanksgiving happening next week, we still have class next Tuesday. As well as if any students are not attending next class period to inform Dr Foss through an email, so that way he has the projects in order of what to grade.
As the class moved on from the quiz, we moved into discussing the things we read for class. The first topic we talked about as a class was, “Don’t Mourn for Us”. Miranda started the class discussion by voicing how the reading of, “Don’t Mourn for Us” said that people with autism are not defective but normally compared the autistic children to aliens of this world, who landed here by accident. This comparison is set up for insinuating that autistic children cannot be loved the same as a “normal” child.
Dr Foss commented back saying how not everything withstands the trials of time. Comparing autistic children to a computer or being an alien to our world is not okay anymore. Although this is something that was done for a while and is still done by many people.
The class went on to discuss how the stereotype of autism isn’t thinking of someone you know. People don’t hear about autism and usually think about their kid, their spouse, their sibling. People usually think about someone outside of them and outside of who they know.
Jacob added to the conversation by bringing up how when the mention of autism comes up in a movie or song it’s always sad. Even though the child has had autism the whole time parents imagine and think about the fact that their “perfect” child is gone.
Moving back to everyone as a class we talked about how getting diagnosed with autism is something that is seen as traumatic or sad. When anyone announces the news it is always seen as sad. We as a society need to get away from mourning and get to an understanding of difference.
After this Megan added how people who are different somehow automatically don’t have the same humanity. Having someone in your family who is autisic can make it difficult to understand them.
The class moved onto a discussion of the quote, “I wish my child had been born without autism” really means, “I wish I had a different child”.
We then moved into a discussion about Ava. How most students in the class didn’t think about how the way most people see the therapy is pessimistic. How trying to “fix” stimming and how they act are like forms of torture. Ava therapy is seen as “correcting incorrect behavior”. Which can be and is degrading. There weren’t and still aren’t enough studies done to prove that Ava therapy actually works. Ava therapy usually involved shocks. Many people who went through Ava therapy described it as a form of torture.
The class also discussed how most therapies to help with autism are not covered by insurance.
We moved on to talking about how parents handle autism. Some of the parents can’t handle their child having autism, some couples even break up. Also how parents need to start realizing that they need to stop mopping and feeling sorry for themselves. They need to see autism as a good thing, and how it can be a prospect for something amazing. They get to learn new ways to love, communicate, and interacting with their child.
I added to the conversation how I enjoyed that the paper we read talked about the fact it’s okay to mourn the “normal” child, but then try and move on and start loving the child that the parents have.
The class then moved into a small group discussion about “Dueling Narratives”. In our small group we discussed the general idea we’ve gone over a lot in this class of “Nothing about us without us”. Our group discussed how it is interesting how to learn about the idea that you cannot take autism away from an individual because that is who they are. Going off of this idea our group went into the idea of autism can’t and does not steal your child. They are born with it. Just because a person didn’t know the child had autism doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. We ended our discussion with talking about how not every child with autism can be categorized into one group. They are all individuals and one person’s experience isn’t everyone’s experience.
Our class came back together out of small groups and started a big group discussion about “Communicate with me” by DJ (DEEJ). We started off by watching a video about him going to college and experiences. After watching the video we moved from the video to discussing what we read about DJ. I discussed how I liked how he communicated how he would like people to communicate with him and I think it would be very helpful to have any person with autism in a class to quickly debrief the class on how to communicate with them because I think that would improve how people view autistic people and help them to making more friends. Jamie joined in with discussing how people shouldn’t start talking when DJ is typing because that is interrupting him. And how people shouldn’t talk to his assistant and to talk to him directly and give him time to respond. That is how you respect and talk to him. The stereotype of autistic people is they can’t speak and that they aren’t there intellectually. Megan joined back in saying how she liked the part about DJ saying, “if you don’t know me just start talking to me” liking that autistic people just want you to try and get to know them so you and them can move forward. There are many ways to inform yourself about autism but the best way is to talk to them. Miranda joined into the discussion by talking about how just asking autistic people basic questions can help so both parties can form a deeper connection. Going back to a group discussion we talked about how when DJ learned how to type, he needed his mom’s help to help him type better and be stable. Over time DJ needed his mom less and less to help him type. At a certain point he only needed his mom in the room. DJ said how just because autistic people have a facilitator it doesn’t mean they cannot communicate with you themselves.
The class moved on to watching another video called “In my Language”. This video tied into our small group discussion about “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: my richness and yours” by Baggs. Miranda commented how the world was built as not needing wheelchairs and it’s hard to get around. This was linked to how there’s yet another group of minorities dealing with injustice.
The conversation shifted onto how autism is this valley and it’s dry and desolate, colorless. Yet, autism is the opposite, it’s colorful and amazing.
The class nicely ended on an AMAZING duck joke.

Why did the duck cross the road?
It was following the chicken!

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