Delta Alpha Pi Induction Ceremony (Extra Credit)

Towards the end of Disability Awareness Month, I attended the Delta Alpha Pi Induction Ceremony. This Honors Society is specifically for honors students with a disability who agree to serve as role modules for other students.

To my slight surprise, the ceremony was run entirely by the Office of Disability Resources, rather than current members of the UMW Chapter. The ceremony began with opening remarks and information about the honors society and the UMW chapter. Then, each of the inductees recited the pledge as a group:

“I pledge to continue my pursuit of academic excellence, to demonstrate leadership in advancing the rights of individuals with disabilities, to serve as a role model for other students with disabilities, to advocate for myself and for other individuals with disabilities, and to assist with educational events through my active participation in Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society.”

Following the pledge, the inductees were called to the front one by one to receive their certificates and pins. The ceremony ended with closing remarks and a commemorative photo.

At a previous college, I helped to run an induction ceremony for the local honors society. As someone learning about Delta Alpha Pi for the first time, I was surprised and disappointed by the fact that the ceremony was not run by current members. I feel like this is a good opportunity to show your new members some of what you are about. However, since this group is so involved with the Office of Disability Resources on campus, this may not have been their choice.

Kenny Fries and the Fries Test (Extra Credit)

The keynote speaker for Disability Awareness Month was Kenny Fries. He is based in Germany and the discussion was held over zoom. The majority of his speaking time was spent reading several different pieces that he had written. However, what interested me the most was the Fries Test.

The Fries Test, as it has come to be known, is a test Kenny created to determine if a book represents disability correctly.

  1. Does a work have more than one disabled character?
  2. Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character?
  3. Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?

I would like to briefly apply this test to Of Mice and Men.

For the first question, the answer is yes. Candy has a physical disability and Lennie has a mental disability.

I’m not sure about the second question. Lennie definitely seems to be disabled for the education/profit of George. George is the one that must make a life-changing choice at the end of the novel and thus learn a lesson. However, Candy is the wild card. He doesn’t really have his own narrative purpose, but he also doesn’t appear to be disabled for George to learn a lesson.

For the final question, the answer is yes and no. Lennie is killed at the end of the novel, but Candy is not.

All in all, I think Of Mice and Men fails the Fries Test, but it does a better job than many popular books or movies (such as Me Before You) with disabled characters.

Disability in the Workplace (Extra Credit)

On October 6th, I went to a presentation by Jessica Machado, the director for the office of disability resources at UMW on disability in the workplace.

She started out by discussing the legal definition of disability and how it applies to disability accommodations at the college. She then branched out into what constitutes employment discrimination (unfair treatment, harassment, denial of reasonable workplace change, etc.)

This spawned two very interesting discussions. First of all, she asked the crowd whether they would state that they were disabled during the job application process. Why or why not? The general consensus was probably not. There is too much of a risk in today’s society for people to judge you based on your disability and that isn’t the best first impression. Instead, the large majority of the crowd stated that they would either share that information later in the interview process or after they had been hired.

The other interesting discussion was what constituted reasonable workplace change. The responsibility to decide what is a reasonable accommodation falls on the employer. The reality is that each workplace is very different. Furthermore, some workplaces may be able to provide a specific accommodation that others cannot. A small business might struggle to be able to provide the same accommodations that a large corporation could provide.

The presentation wrapped up with the mention of a couple of sites that specifically work to help people with disabilities find jobs. These organizations are Workforce Recruitment Program and the Talent Acquisition Portal.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Extra Credit)

Before Thanksgiving Break, I went to watch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. As many of you may have seen the show, I will not be talking about the overall plot. Instead, I would like to describe some of the elements in the show that illustrated autism in Christopher, the main character, and briefly discuss what overall benefit or detriment this story can bring to the autism narrative.

Christopher exhibited a number of familiar autism symptoms. At one point, he is at the train station and suffers sensory overload multiple times. He gets himself into multiple difficult situations due to his sensory overload but still manages to make his way safely to London (after a near-miss with the train).

He mentions early on in the play that he doesn’t understand metaphors. He knows the definition of metaphor and how it is used, but, for example, being “the apple of someone’s eye” doesn’t make sense to him when he tries to visualize it. This could be reflective of what the Murry piece discussed about language fitting into patterns and organized locations rather than truly understanding the language. This could also explain why he doesn’t understand sarcasm.

Another interesting factor of Christopher is that he doesn’t like being touched. This becomes a serious problem because his family’s love language is touch. Whenever they are arguing or discussing something difficult with him, they want him to reach out and touch their hand to show that he is ok and still loves them. When he is reunited with his mother, she immediately tries to hug him, to which he reacts very poorly.

The play also dealt with how his parents reacted to him being autistic. His mother claims that part of the reason that she left him and his father in the first place was that she didn’t know how to take care of him. She was scared and overwhelmed and his father was patient and better with him. Thus, she left him. This is a very serious example of how some parents may react to their child’s autistic diagnosis.

Overall, the play was fantastic. The actor did a fabulous job of presenting the autistic character. I am, however, not sure it is the best representation of autism from a disability awareness point of view. For one, some of his autistic quirks were used for comic relief throughout the play (not maliciously, but in an “awwww, that’s kind of sweet and funny” kind of way).

Another thing to consider was his relationship with his parents. It had multiple problems. First, as I mentioned with the love language earlier, they kept trying to force their ways of love onto him rather than learning to accept him for who he is. Second, his relationship with his father had several indicators of developing into an abusive relationship (his father getting angry and even violent and then saying it will never happen again) though it worked out well in the end.

Even with these factors, I think the overall message was positive. Christopher ended the play having written his own story, passed a difficult math exam, and proved himself capable by riding the train by himself. Depending on the opinion of the audience, these may be things that many would not consider possible for an autistic boy. Thus, the play helped to introduce the audience to how an autistic boy might behave and prove that he wasn’t as incompetent as some might try to make him. There is a lot more that I could cover in this post but I will end it by saying that this was a fantastic performance and if you didn’t go see it, you definitely are missing out.