On Tuesday, November 18th and 1:59 PM, Dr. Christopher Foss came into the hallowed halls of Combs, his hair freshly cut. Dr. Foss had an exciting quiz for the class, and judging by the facial expressions of my peers, it wasn’t just difficult for me. With the end of the semester coming, we have approached the last unit, focusing on Autism. Before diving deep into our discussion, Dr. Foss reminds us of the play about a boy on the autism spectrum, conveniently playing at the Mary Washington Theatre in conjunction with our Disability and Literature class.
We began discussing Sinclair’s Don’t Mourn For Us in large groups, a piece that defines what autism is; and what autism isn’t. Sinclair details that autism is not an impenetrable wall, an appendage, and it is definitely not death. The class then discussed the calling of a person on the spectrum “alien” and how this has grown to be potentially problematic in its way of making that person feel inhuman and an outsider. Kelly mentioned the irony that the website Don’t Mourn For Us was on an inaccessible large array of colors. The class discussed that this was a relatively old website, and some of Sinclair’s ideas are dated, such as the parent claiming their child was an alien. Sinclair’s points do have some virtue, and the class knew this. For one, he outlines that to wish someone to not have autism is to wish they did not exist at all. Autism is not an appendage- it is a personable trait that makes someone who they are. The class also used personal examples to explain the harmful expectations that parents can place onto their children, potentially relating the able bodied experience to the autistic one. The class concluded that it is eugenics and ableism that cause some parents to be unsupportive. Zeb makes an excellent point about the appendage piece, relating to person-first language. A person with cancer is not cancerous, so the falsity of this word structure cannot be used to describe a person with autism.
The class also discussed the importance of asking the community what they were most comfortable being referred to, outlining the difference between someone with aspergers and someone with autism; two disabilities often confused or unjustly connected. The class moved into small groups at promptly 2:40 PM to discuss the Ne’eman piece. Katy Rose, within two seconds of Dr. Foss released us into our groups, explained her fair hatred of autism speaks and the notion of “curing” autism and the image of a puzzle piece. Essentially, this piece is arguing the importance of omiting black and white thinking, especially when speaking on a child’s mental development.
After being in our smaller groups for exactly 19 minutes, me sneezing at 2:48 three times, we all directed our attention to the documentary playing from the projector. It was about a nonverbal person’s experience with our language- the “our” referring to neurotypical people. She explains that there is an unfair distinction between the deficit of her not knowing our language, but the natuaraily of us not knowing her.
The class on November 18th had a rousing and essential discussion on the affects, personalities, and differences of conceptions of autism.