Mary Ainsley Fox I Pledge
7 December 2021
Option 1: A thesis driven literary analysis focused on: Ari Ne’eman Dueling Narratives Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum
Whether it be a film, music, or television, people from many different categories have prejudice against them. However, people on the autism spectrum do not receive their due respect in any form of pop media and/or culture. In the work of Dueling Narratives: Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum by Ari Ne’eman, the audience is quickly told that autistic individuals do not have numbers in our society today. The autistic community does not have a wide representation in our culture today, whether it be within the media, politics, but most importantly in literature. This is simply due to the history of the treatment of autistic people and the negative stereotypes going along with the disability.
Ari Ne’eman, the autistic author of this work, urges us to understand that sometimes the most effective way to learn is not through colossal words, phrases, or even telling, but by showing. While reading this piece of literature, the two purposes for the audience is to remind themselves of the traditional way of building a foundation of autism and that the autistic community will have the opportunity to learn more about social, political, and practical goals. Traditionally, this paper will serve those trying to better themselves on the understanding of this constantly growing topic and one that remains important throughout the years. As stated, the most reputable source while discussing this matter is one who faces it on a daily basis, which is Ne’eman. Although there are many new movements happening for and with the autistic community, people may be there for different reasons.
History is constantly changing and the narrative of autism is as well. Some parents may believe that autism stole their child’s mind. They knew something was “taking” their son, but there was nothing they could have done to stop it. As the story continues, one day they looked up and noticed he was gone. However, the moment they realized their son was neurodiverse and had a lack of acceptance, that was the same time their child was no longer theirs mentally and emotionally. Although his body, his physical being was “their son,” his mind was one of his own and was unique to himself. Every autistic child deserves the same affection and attention a neurotypical child receives, and instead of being “disappointed” in the child you have, be thankful to explore the different possibilities this child will show and teach you.
Although our society prides itself on acceptance and understanding of individuality, it seems that somewhere this was lost in translation and/or it only seems to be when we choose to apply it. For example, when defining the term “disability,” instead of looking for a scholar, look for one who knows the direct effects of a disability. An individual who actually has a disability and how they view the society in which they are surrounded by is the person who should be teaching and defining their disability. Ne’eman explains to the readers that autism is a misconception to many, many people and has previously been defined as a “disease.” Due to this inaccurate verbiage, neurotypicals have many different prejudgments to those of neurodiversity. Ne’eman also explains that a previous autistic writer, Sinclair, has explained that there is no cure for autism and that this is who he was made to be and that this is simply the wiring of his brain.
Of course a parent should be understanding and supportive of their children, but sometimes that is not always the case. For example, a mother and advocate for the autistic community, Portia Iverson pushes for a cure for autism. In her previous writings, she states that her autisitic son possesses a demon within him and that his disorder is trying to take him away. Obviously offensive and inaccurate, Iverson’s writing and point of view limits her parenting skills as well as her communicative skills with not only her son, but with the community as a whole. Surprisingly, a prisoner in Nazi, Germany, Dr. Bettelheim promotes the theory that there is a reason why some children have autism. His theory about mothers who are cold to their newborns, causing autism, is obviously proven to be inaccurate. His theories began during his time in concentration camps, while he examined and analyzed each of his autistic patients. Neurotypical or neurodiverse, a concentration camp was a place of pure hatred and disgust, where anyone would have felt uncomfortable and they would have felt panicked in their environment. Although there are many disorders to avoid while pregnant, such as one given to a child due to smoking and/or drinking, autism is clearly not one of them. Instead of accepting a child for what they are and what they could provide, they are never truly welcomed due to their disability. Although a child may turn out to be one that has unexpected traits, blame is the last thing you try to place on a child. Autistic children and/or adults may have different perspectives and different views on the way life is lived, but that is a beautiful thing. Every human being is unique to themselves and a disorder, disability, anything labeled should not be the reason for ignorance. Disgustingly, this is not the worst of the unaware parents. Ne’eman introduces the audience to a list of mothers who abuse, injure, and eventually murder their autistic children. Whether it be uncertainty of the future, inability to communicate with their children, or any other reason, 66% of murdered children have been killed by their parents. Unfortunately, there is nothing being done about parents killing their disabled children. Everyone goes through uncertainty about the future, an unclear picture of what is to come, but rejecting your child and their future because of scaredness is an unacceptable way to raise a child.
Ne’eman allows the readers to hear the story of Cal Montgomery and the fact that the only representation of autistic characters in films are stereotypes. The “Uncle Bruce” stereotype is the nonverbal autistic character. In many films this autistic stereotype are the ones who become overstimulated in certain environments. He explains that he can relate to an extent but that is not how he would label himself. This stereotype is one where the individual is unable to live independently and are unable to care for themselves. Another stereotype discussed is one where parents try to shift their child from being autistic to neurotypical and to “beat” the disability.
The representation of autistic people not only through popular culture, but through history as well do not provide the autistic community justice. Most films and stereotypes about the neurodiverse brain are not representative of how autistic people view themselves. Feeling unwelcome and unwanted, autistic people find it hard to relate to many actors, politicians, etc. Ne’eman has shown her audience the battles of the autistic community and how the negative stereotypes throughout history are unrelatable and unrealistic of how autistic people view themselves and urge a change for this community.
Word Count: 1165
References: Ne’eman, Ari. “Dueling Narratives Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum” 9-11 November 2007, https://case.edu/affil/sce/Texts_2007/Ne’eman.html