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.

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.

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.

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, 

America, Human Rights, and the Unheard Voice

Tristan Barber – Section 02 – Final Paper

06 Dec. 2021

America, Human Rights, and the Unheard Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Word Count: ~1172

Works Cited

“Disability History Timeline –” National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2007, 

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

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” 

Taylor, Chris. “Coping with the High Costs of Raising an Autistic Child.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 June 2014, 

Tabitha Robinson’s Final Exam Essay

Abundance of Right: Literary Analysis of “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay

Tabitha Robinson

Dr. Foss

ENGL 384: Disability and Literature

7 December 2021

Word count: 1,046

Abundance of Right: Literary Analysis of “Misfit” by Tito Mukhopadhyay

              The wind blowing, birds fluttering, the stars turning with the earth—these are all aspects of nature that are universally beautiful. In poems, their awe is rarely compared to anything except the poetic speaker’s love interest, or the sublime feelings raised by romance. The lived experience of disability is not a typical comparison for a beautiful sunrise. However, in “Misfit” by Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay, he compares his life with autism to nature’s beauty. This poem questions what is “natural” by comparing the autistic experience to aspects of the organic world.

              “Misfit” uses the villanelle, a strict poetic form. The villanelle traditionally deals with pastoral or rustic themes, which is fitting for the subject of the poem. A step further than “natural,” “pastoral” refers to an idyllic life in nature full of beauty, peace and romance. The elements of nature described in “Misfit” have an idyllic quality and blissful tone; there is no speech, but at the end, the speaker references his “laughing lips” and finds right in everything. While the villanelle form has no set meter, it has a strict pattern of refrains and stanza lengths that give it rhythm.

              A villanelle consists of five tercets (or three-line stanzas) and a quatrain (four-line stanza). “Misfit” follows this pattern exactly. There are five stanzas of three unrhymed lines each. The last stanza contains four unrhymed lines. The refrains of a villanelle are two lines which are repeated alternately in each stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated, alternatively, in the next five stanzas. The two-line refrain comes together in the quatrain and serves as the final two lines of the poem. In “Misfit,” the refrain lines are “turning and turning” and finding/found “no wrong with anything.” This structure is hard to find at first in the poem, but the repetition of these lines gives the poem a circling feeling, much like the turning of the earth in the first line. It may seem strange to discuss something as wild and free as nature in such a strict poetic form, but the pattern allows for great syntactical creativity while structuring the speaker’s thoughts.

              There are many areas of comparison in the poem. The speaker with autism flaps his hands like the birds, turns like the earth, and in what he calls an unseen “trick,” becomes the wind blowing. This sets up the idea that the disabled body, long seen as unnatural, may be closer to nature than the nondisabled body. Similarly to how the speaker breaks down the natural/unnatural binary and becomes the wind, the refrain comes together in a new way in the quatrain. Suddenly the line is blurred between the earth and the speaker. “Why stop turning and turning / When right can be found with everything?” it asks. It is unclear whether this refers to the earth’s turning or his own. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, “since right can be found with everything,” whether natural or unnatural.

              The speaker’s perspective does not even enter the poem until the third stanza; the first two stanzas instead emphasize the natural rhythm of the earth. The speaker slips in like one halfway through a dance. In the first stanza, the earth is “turning and turning”; the stars recede in dawn, “finding no wrong with anything.” In the second stanza, there is an early morning feeling. Birds fly “all morning.” The sky lights up “from the earth’s turning and turning” (emphasis mine). The repetitious movement of the earth is necessary for life, for light, for the sun to rise. Does that make the speaker’s repetitious movements unnatural? On the contrary, as the speaker enters in the third stanza, flapping his hands, “The birds knew I was Autistic; / They found no wrong with anything.” The birds, flying/flapping all morning as the earth turns and the sky lightens, see no wrong in the speaker’s autism.

              “Men and women” enter in the fourth stanza, seeming very out of place after the descriptions of the natural world. The speaker fits more into the natural world than they do. They never move or say anything. Their only action is to label the speaker “a misfit.” While the speaker flows along with the rhythms of the natural world, the (presumably non-autistic) men and women feel stiff and unnatural with their naturally nondisabled bodies and staring at the speaker’s movement.

              The speaker engages in several types of movement with several different responses. In the first stanza, the impersonal stars find “no wrong with anything”; In the third stanza, the birds find “no wrong” with the flapping of his hands. In the fifth stanza, the speaker himself finds “no wrong” with his blowing as the wind. It is only in the men and women in the fourth stanza who “stared at my nodding; / They labeled me a Misfit.” Still, as if to remind the reader that this is the action of the earth, approved by stars and birds, he adds, “(A Misfit turning and turning).” The sixth and last stanza poses the indirect question: Which is more natural, my movement or the labeling gaze of the men and women?

              “Why stop turning and turning / When right can be found with anything?” rings the final refrain. This final line comes closest to breaking the villanelle format. While the idea is the same, the word “right” has not yet been used in the poem. The refrain thus far was finding “no wrong with anything” (emphasis mine). Using “right” instead is a crucial word choice. The world goes from finding no wrong with these movements to finding an abundance of right. There is no reason to stop the natural rhythms of the earth. There is nothing but right in these movements, the speaker concludes with “laughing lips.”

              Like the blowing wind, fluttering birds, and rotating stars, the speaker’s autistic movements are a natural part of earth. Far from being a far-fetched comparison, this poem shows that our idea of what is natural may be the most unnatural way to think. “Misfit” compares aspects of nature to the speaker’s experience of autism, questioning what is “natural.” In the end, the reader is left to conclude that turning and hand flapping are just as natural, beautiful and even crucial as the spinning of the earth.

I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. –Tabitha Robinson

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

The Curious Incident Reflection

I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time last Friday night, and I found it to be a thought provoking, well done production that connects to what we have discussed in this course on many levels. Very early on in the play, Christopher talks about the other children at his special school and shockingly assigns more value to the tragically murdered dog, Wellington, than to one of these boys who cannot even feed himself. Christopher’s genius in math and his repetition of the prime numbers as a calming mechanism for himself reminded me of several case reports in Dr. Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, one of which follows twin brothers with intellectual disabilities who can do complex math in their heads instantaneously without actually understanding how to do the math. There is a scene in the first act where Christopher’s dad argues with the principal of his school to allow him to take his math A levels that I found particularly relevant to our class discussion. The principal’s reason for not allowing Christopher to take the test is that she cannot allow him to be treated like he is special, all the while he is at a special school for children with disabilities. She comes across as simply very unwilling to ensure equity of access for her students but must eventually have a change of heart as she allows him to take the test even after his mother calls to cancel it. Another small connection I saw to our class was when Christopher names the models of cars he saw driving by in London as a tool for self-regulation. This reminds me of the poem “Normal” by Jim Ferris where the children watch cars drive by out the window of their institution and name them. 

To me, the most impactful part of the play was Christopher’s relationship with his mother. The scene at the close of the first act where he discovers she is not dead and that she left him because she did not know how to connect with him and was ashamed by her faults in raising him and her lack of patience was very raw and emotional. His mother seeks to reconnect with him in the end, but, as an audience member, I still was not sure whether I forgive her character. In a way, she adopts the cure or kill mentality and “cures” her son in her mind by running away and idealizing what his life must be like with his father who can better understand him. I was also left to wonder whether the mother had some form of mental illness herself because the first thing Christopher asks when his father lies and says she is in the hospital is whether she is in a psychiatric hospital. Overall, I thought the play gave a rich look at the different implications of living with autism or being intimately connected to someone who does, both the highs, lows, and confusing times in between.

Reflections on Murray and Walker

When we met in class today, we briefly discussed Walker’s article on the definition of neuroqueer. We found it interesting how much of the definition was based on the verb form first. She compares this process to that of the transformation of the word queer from the verb to adjective form. Usually, when I think of the word queer, I think of it as an adjective, but it gives a lot of insight to know that the verb for came first. Walker says, “One can neuroqueer and one can be neuroqueer”, and she defines neuroqueering as actively subverting and defying neuronormative and heteronormative standards. It is a reminder that, not only is this a label one can give themself, but it is also a way of existing and shaping one’s own life.  

In skimming Murray’s book, I found the author’s approach to the medical versus social model of autism interesting. Some of the medical evidence, such as differently shaped brains, denser brain matter in certain regions, and functional differences seen on MRI point to the tangible differences that account for behaviors seen in autism. I also liked how Murray made it clear autism is not an epidemic as some people have been recently implying. Yes, the number of occurrences is increasing, but this is due in large part to the broadening of the definition of autism spectrum disorders and increasing awareness of the condition. However, referring back to the medical model, if a biological marker or gene connected to autism could be discovered, their diagnoses would not need to rely on the somewhat subjective questions asked by psychologists that are currently used as criteria for diagnosis. This would take the subconscious opinions of others out of the diagnosis. Moreover, the use of the word epidemic gives a strong negative, frightening connotation that should not be connected to autism. Finding a particular cause would also help lead to a cure, but Murray asserts a cure is not really necessary because autism does not come from a lack of function but an excess of it; it is the most true representation of humanness.