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.

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