The Problem of Diagnosing Autism: The Medical Model

Olivia Bridges

The medical model for diagnosing autism is problematic for those who have autism. In order for an individual to receive an autism diagnoses their parents have to answer a series of questions. In cases of autism spectrum disorder, the individual may have to opportunity to speak with the diagnostician; however, when a doctor has to assess someone who is non-verbal, the doctor conducts the diagnoses through conversations with family members. As a result, the patient’s story is typically omitted. This can be true of individuals with autism spectrum disorder as well, but tends to be less of the case. The omission of the patient’s story is problematic because it takes away the voice of the autism community. According to Autism, there is no clear definition of autism, so people’s perceptions of autism derives from the medical model and how doctors diagnose autism. Thus, most people view autism in a negative light because doctors use curd language to describe autism, such as inflexible and abnormal. The use of said language leads people to believe autism is a problem that must be cured, but that conclusion is made without the consent and voice of the autism community. When an individual with autism receives an autism diagnoses, their very actions becomes defined by their autism and they lose their agency. The medical model in which doctors use to diagnose autism is problematic because of the association of negative terms and the assumption that autism is a deficiency that must be cured; therefore, resulting in a counterproductive mindset in parents who blame autism on their child’s ever action and only see the autism rather than the person (Murray).

Due to the lack of biological evidence of autism, doctors diagnose autism on assumptions of what they consider to be normal; however, the current diagnostic model typically omits the ‘patient story,’ which portrays autism as a problem. “It remains true, however, that the frequent absence of the ‘patient story’ for the individual with autism the narrative is then supplied by the diagnostic process method itself, which inevitably fills in the gaps with which it finds itself faced (Murray 13).” According to Autism, Murray asserts it is important to understand the concept that autism is deficiency or a problem is built into the diagnosing process itself. When a diagnostician is diagnosing an individual with autism, they do it off of what is considered to be normal. The favoritism towards normality can be seen in the questions asked in the diagnosing process. Developmental psychopathologist, Simon Baron-Cohen outlines a list of questions that is traditionally asked to parents when diagnosing their child. One of the questions is as follows: “Do they show a lack of normal social awareness (Murray 11)?” However, Baron-Cohen does not define what he considers normal social awareness. The term normal is such an ambiguous word and it is set by societal expectations and standards. By establishing the lack of normalcy in an autism diagnoses, individuals with autism are immediately ‘othered,’ which puts them at a disadvantaged because of the already apparent lack of the ‘patient story.’ The assumption of the lack of normalcy takes away their agency and their ability to share their story in the future because their ‘othered’ status discredits them (Murray).

Diagnosticians define autism using harsh language such as deficient and impaired; the use of negative language is problematic because people base their assumptions about autism on the doctor’s descriptions, leading them to believe they need to cure autism. Due to the lack of a clear definition of autism, according to Murray, people base their assumption about autism on the medical model; however, the diagnosing process has flaws and is full of negative connotations. “Looking back on Baron-Cohen’s list, it becomes readily apparent that it is full of descriptions of ‘difficulties,’ ‘limitations’ and assumptions about behavior being ‘wrong’ or deviating from that which is considered ‘normal’ (Murray 13).” By establishing those with autism exhibit behaviors that are wrong or deviant, doctors are setting up people with autism to be treated as lesser. The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM serves as an aid to diagnosticians; however, like Baron-Cohen, the guidelines contains the same negative language. In the DSM-IV, “Autism Disorders” it describes autism using numerous words that establish autistic individuals as lesser. The list of descriptors includes words such as impairment, failure, delay, lack of, inflexible, restricted, and abnormal. Further, organizations that are supposed to advocate for people with autism use the same language as well. The Autism Society claim people with autism may appear deaf and get upset for no apparent reason. They also suggest when interacting with someone who has autism to speak slowly and use simple language. While, the Autism Society is trying to raise awareness, their assumptions about autism stems from the assumption autistic individuals are incapable because their knowledge about autism derives from the diagnostician’s definition of autism. Furthermore, parents also base their assumptions about autism on the same medical model. All of which is problematic. It allows parents to blame their child’s every action on autism while ignoring the cause of their upset and promotes eugenics because it establishes autism as a problem that needs to be cured (Murray).

The problematic language and diagnostic definition of autism results in autistic individuals and their actions to be defined by their autism. According to Melanie Yergeau, “Introduction: Involution” from Authoring Autism, upon receiving her autism diagnoses, people—specifically her mother—view her autism as the root of all of her behaviors. “What autism provided was a discursive framework, a lens through which others could story my life….This, my body, this was autism–and suddenly, with the neuropsychologist’s signature on my diagnostic papers, I was no longer my body’s author (Yergeau 1).” In Yergeau’s article, she discusses the matter of autistic poop. She recalls a story her mother tells about how she used to have poop up to her neck as a baby. After Yergeau’s received her autism diagnoses, her mother associated the poop incident with her autism because autistic poop is a common discussion within the autism community; however, it is not exclusive to autism for babies to be covered in poop or even to play with it. It is not an atypical behavior, yet because Yergeau has autism, her mother views it as atypical and a result of her autism (Yergeau). Additionally, in Autism, the International Classification of Diseases provides a description of childhood autism. In the description, ICD associates temper tantrums and phobias with autism. However, like poop, phobias and temper tantrums are not excessive to autism, but as a result of the association when an autistic individual throws a temper tantrum, instead of trying to understand what is wrong, people typically round it up to the individual’s autism. In doing so, people with autism lose their agency and their ability to express themselves (Murray). For example, in William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, while it is not confirmed that Benjy has autism, he experiences the same lack of agency because people define him by his disability. When Benjy burns his fingers, everyone immediately tell him to hush even though his reaction is completely valid. However, due to his disability, his feelings and pain are invalidated and written off as white noise. Any time Benjy attempts to express himself, he is told to hush because his family does not believe he is capable of understanding the world around him; thus, once again, another individual is treated as lesser because of preconceived notions about disability (Faulkner).

The current model for diagnosing autism is flawed and is in dire need of redefining. When an individual is diagnosed with autism, the medical model sets them up for failure. Inevitably stripping them of their agency and voice. As a result of the negative language associated with autism, they are treated as lesser and people view them as impaired and abnormal. When doctors diagnose an individual with autism, they face dehumanization and an invalidation of their feelings. The current model for viewing autism needs to change because it promotes eugenics and devalues autistic individuals and their experiences. Additionally, parents need to stop blaming their child’s every action on autism. Instead they should try to understand why their child is upset or why their child is acting a certain way rather than just blaming it on the autism. However, people with autism will be unable to regain their agency until the negative language in the medical model that promotes said mindsets is eliminated. Change needs to be done at the diagnostic level because it impacts how people base their assumption about autism.

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Word count: 1,441

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. Penguin Books, 1964.

Murray, Stuart. Autism. Routledge, 2012.

Yergeau, Melanie. “Introduction: Involution” from Authoring Autism. PDF.

Those Two Lectures I Attended for Extra Credit

Amiti Colson

Leanna Giancarlo’s lecture “They Called Me Crazy” discussed the mad scientist trope and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. In her lecture she went through the stereotypical mad scientist characters that we have seen time and time again in the media. Amongst characters like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she talked about one scientist that our class is very familiar with, Victor Frankenstein. She questioned his madness, his sanity, if he was truly wicked for his creation or if he was simply a scientist who was willing to go that extra mile for discovery. Giancarlo showed us a clip from one of the older movies about Frankenstein that portrayed Victor as this manic man who wanted to play God, not to live out his scientific duties, but to instead grasp power with a tight fist.

Later in the lecture she talked about recent news of a Dr. He Jiankui of China who has made gene editing discoveries in relation to an immunity against HIV. He genetically modified the embryos of two twin girls in the womb of their mother so that they would be immune to getting the virus that their father tested positive for. The question then comes into play, what right does Dr. He have to perform genetic modifications, even if it is with the intent of good such as this. Does this lead into bigger things, genetically modifying preborn children to look a certain way, to be blessed with certain talents? This is the argument currently being made against Dr. He. Yet, if it is for the health of the person, is it so crazy for a scientist to dive further into gene modification?

The other lecture I attended was Craig Vasey’s lecture on an existential approach to madness. Now I will say that this lecture blew my mind and was the topic of conversation for most of the dinner I had with my boyfriend following the lecture. It really lingered in my mind for a long time after it was over. Vasey discussed the movement in treating people with mental health problems as human beings who deserve help and rights as people in our society. He discussed Freud’s discoveries in mental health saying that, “Freud was the first to recognize the powerful effect that our parents, in fact all our relationships, have on us and how our capacity to love is also the source of the most profound suffering.”He discussed the mind and soul, and how the answer prior to scientific discoveries had always been God. He asked, if theories come about that religion is false, then what is the meaning of human existence?

It turns out that anxiety is apart of existentialism. It is the heightened awareness of our existence, it’s the awareness that our human existence maybe meaningless. We are beings that care about the fact that we exist, we care about what/who we are, we need meaning to our life because we know we are going to die. We are all fully aware of our impending deaths. We are therefore born with this ontological insecurity. It is inherently in us, we can’t get over it. No wonder we have breaks in our mentality at times, or for the rest of our lives.

I pledge. -Amiti Colson

Amiti and Bekah’s Final Attack on Foss

It seems that there has always been this labeling of the autistic individual as unimaginative, lacking in the ability to fully feel, to comprehend emotions, to accurately understand and use language. These are stereotypes constantly reinforced by even literature today, but authors like Stuart Murray, Amanda Baggs and DJ Savarese aim to dismantle these running stereotypes and to show how the autistic individual is as creative and comprehensive of language and emotion as any other non-autistic individual. Therefore, in this essay we aim to showcase the main arguments that these authors have contributed to the autistic community, laying out these stereotypes in fine detail, at times explaining their feelings about stereotypes brought upon them and showcasing the creative work of other autistic individuals.

In his book Autism, Murray outlines the conception of autism presented in diagnostic literature, breaking down the ‘triad of impairments,’ or the “idea that the core of autistic behavior can be understood in terms of deficits of three central concepts—communication, imagination, and social interaction […] that originated in the late 1970s” (Murray 25). He relates it from the 1994 DSM-IV’s criteria of “delayed or abnormal functioning in at least one of” the aforementioned triad’s concepts to dominant thought on the condition in mainstream society (Murray 18, 25). This pervasive ideology plays into the binary of what is autistic and what is non-autistic; it insists that autistic individuals, by nature’s design, cannot be imaginative or creative. As Murray aptly points out, this presentation of autism is based more on metaphor and subjective speculation. Creativity quotients exist only in the realm of testing flexibility in response to a given stimuli (i.e. testing individuals in designed settings), and to conflate the fact that many autistics respond to change or process their reality in a given way with an inability to partake in more artistic expression implies that the thoughts and connections autistic individuals make is inherently uninventive or lacking in originality within itself. Autistic individuals such as Baggs have contested this view of autistic thought as cold or without attachment or creativity. In her article “Cultural Commentary: Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours,” she describes the ways in which mainstream society views the non-autistic process of thought as “[taking] place with a good deal of cognitive fanfare, so that they can hear or see themselves thinking,” and “[involving] abstract and arbitrary symbolism of some kind,” that can “reflect back on itself.” She then juxtaposes that with views of othered, autistic thought processes as “[taking] place so quietly they can barely notice it’s there—if at all,” and with “much more direct relationships, connections, and patterns formed between one thing and another.” She states that her own relationship with the world in front of her and the patterns she notices inform her about her own interests and what she cares about and suggests that autistic thought such as this is not regarded as thought at all. If views on autistic thought processes and creativity are linked as Murray suggests, then Baggs’ words work to show the ways in which the binary of autistic/non-autistic work to erase entire portions of autistic identity and reality.

In Baggs discussion of her own experiences with autism, she explains how those with autism have always been cast apart from mainstream society. They have been deferred in subtle and blatantly obvious ways. Baggs expresses the knowledge that few people actively intend on excluding those with a disability, but the way in which our society is constructed creates, what she quotes from Cal Montgomery’s 1987 essay about wheelchair access, “physical and social customs that seem almost designed to shut me out.” This comparison paints a picture for those who are not autistic to better see the social barriers that have been formed against those with autism. Using a wheelchair is an obvious disability, it is one the open eye can see clearly on the street. Our world was not built with those who use wheelchairs in mind. It was created by and for able-bodied individuals, only recently have newer buildings been required by ADA standards to have wheelchair access. This is of course, the step into the right direction, it being a standard to have accessible design in all buildings and to not discriminate against or exclude an individual from a building because they can not gain access to it on their own.

Baggs compares this to the autistic person’s relationship to language. She explains that, “like counters, stairs, and drinking fountains, language was built mostly by non-autistic people, with the obvious results, and my biggest frustration is this: the most important things about the way I perceive and interact with the world around me can only be expressed in terms that describe them as the absence of something important.” Here she directly points out this valuable discussion on how autistic individuals interact with conventional language and that their form of interaction with it is more often that not seen, by those who do not have autism, as an absence of something. In her experience she has been made to feel by those who try to define her, that her interaction with and strategy for learning conventional language is the absence of speech, of language, of thought, of movement, of comprehension, of feeling and of perception. Instead of her being seen as a creative and unique human being, she is othered, she is told she is missing something, she is not whole, not right, that she needs to be fixed in some way or another. Instead of acceptance most autistic people are faced with this push to be treated or cured. Baggs pushes back against this by saying, “I am telling you these things not to instruct you on the particulars of the mind of an autistic person, but rather to sketch out an image of how I perceive the world, and the richness and worthiness inherent in those ways of perceiving. It is anything but empty, and it is so much more than a simple lack of something that other people have.” As Baggs points out, there is so much richness that those with autism add to our world, whether that be love, expression, a portal of growth and knowledge about a different way of being, literature, art, there’s so much an individual can add to our society, whether they be abled or disabled.

DJ Savarese is the perfect example of an autistic writer who has created some beautiful pieces to add to our list of literary works in whole. His poem “Alaska,” analyzed and interpreted by his father Ralph James Savarese in “Prologue: River of Words, Raft of Our Conjoined Neurologist” from See It Feelingly, is a creative poem that uses an analogy for his relationship to his autism and having need for a facilitator. He writes, “the trees hurt their great places, they lose their treasures, their lying leaves tread. freed there branches they try to yearn freedom but they fear it. trying to get freed points out their great hurt yearning long.” Here he uses what Ralph James explains is a literary stable called pathetic fallacy, where he “stages the problem of separation as one confronting the natural world.” DJ compares his yearning for freedom, for independence, for a separation from reliance on his facilitator to the trees yearning for freedom, freeing little bits of themselves, like their branches. This poem not only demonstrates the creative use of language by an autistic writer, but it conveys the message that autistic individuals can feel and relate to their world and the people in it.

Conceptions of autism in relation to what it is not are common, given the deficit model of psychology; this representation carries out into other areas of society and presents a static, one dimensional lived experience. These stereotypes can prove harmful for the autistic community by erasing portions of their identity and therefore their place within the society we live. Through our examination of these stereotypes’ origins with Murray and their impact on autistic individuals’ relationship with themselves and society at large with Baggs, this paper brought us to analysis of work by autistic poet Savarese that exists in opposition of these beliefs. Our point is not that autistic individuals that meet the exact criteria do not exist, but rather that autism presents in a variety of different ways outside of the given binary and that the reinforcement of ideals that suggest otherwise needs to be challenged.


Baggs, Amanda. “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1, 2009.

Savarese, DJ. “Alaska”

Savarese, Ralph James. See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor. Duke University Press, 2018.

Murray, Stuart. Autism. New York, 2011.

WC: 1467

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Rachel Porchie’s Final Paper: Autism Within Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”

Faulkner’s novel, The Sound and the Fury, is narrated through the three brothers of the Compson family: Benjy, Quentin and Jason. The narration that catches the most focus of the novel is Benjy’s. Benjy is described as a speechless idiot who the family treats as a tiresome burden in their everyday lives. When analyzing the character through a disability and autism lens, one can argue that Benjy displays symptoms on the autism spectrum. Although Faulkner wrote this novel in 1929 before the first autism diagnosis in 1943, it does not negate the possibility of Benjy being autistic. People with autism diagnoses are often not considered capable of complete thought, communication or comprehension because of their mental disabilities. Common signs of autism include: delayed speech and communication skills, reliance on routines, unusual reactions to smells, tastes, sights, sounds or touch, and excellent memory; however, most cases of autism are never the exact same and can vary from mild to severe. The Compson family believed Benjy lacked the abilities to think coherently, understand and comprehend what was happening around him. However, as readers we are able to see that Benjy in fact did understand the world around him, maybe even better than his brothers, Quentin and Jason, could. Benjy demonstrated through his narration in the novel that he was indeed capable of all these things, he interpreted and understood the world differently but just as richly as the people around him. 

Throughout the novel there are many indicators that lead to the idea that Benjy Compson could be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The initial symptom the reader first notices is that Benjy is a mute, his family often refers to him as a “speechless idiot” or “looney”.  Unable to communicate with words, Benjy uses moans, cries and bellows to show when he is upset. He also knows simple terms and names like his sister’s, Caddy; however, he cannot distinguish the differences between different words that sound the same but have different meanings like “Caddy” and “caddie”.  One sees this through his interchangeable spelling and use of the two words in his narration. His inability to communicate not only frustrates his family but it also frustrates and upsets him, “I opened the gate and they stopped, turning. I was trying to say, and I caught her, trying to say, and she screamed, and I was trying to say and trying arid the bright shapes began to stop and I tried to get out” (Faulkner 45). As Benjy tries harder to speak the more frustrated, blurry and distorted the world becomes around him. Another characteristic resembling a symptom of autism is his reliance on routines and order that creates structure and stability in Benjy’s life. This reliance is shown when Luster drives Benjy to the cemetery and takes a different route, “Luster hit Queenie again and swung her to the left at the monument. For an instant Ben sat in an utter hiatus. Then he bellowed. Bellow on bellow, his voice mounted, with scare interval for breath….. “Don’t you know any better than to take him to the left” (Faulkner 320). Patterns and routines are crucial to developing Benjy’s sense of order in the world. His outbursts are derived from the abrupt interruptions of his repetitive behavior. Benjy also demonstrates this fear of change when Caddy leaves the Compson home, “Miss Caddy done gone long ways away. Done got married and left you. You can’t do no good, holding to the gate and and crying” (Faulkner 51). Benjy becomes overwhelmed when his patterns and routines are disrupted and the only way he can communicate his discomfort is through cries and moans. 

The last two symptoms Benjy exhibits relating to autism are his unusual reactions to senses, particularly his sense of smell, and his excellent memory. Through his narration one can see that Benjy relies heavily on his senses for structuring his thoughts and memories. Out of all his family members, Benjy receives the most affection and patience from his sister, Caddy. Benjy often associates his sister with the smell of trees or leaves multiple times throughout the novel, “She opened the gate and came in and stooped down. Caddy smelled like leaves” and “Caddy smelled like trees and when we were asleep” (Faulkner 6).  Once Caddy eventually moves out of the family home, Benjy starts to disassociate her with the earth-like smell. Benjy is also noted substituting his sense of touch for smell seen here, “I could smell the cold” (Faulkner 6). The last symptom that corresponds with Benjy being on the autism spectrum is his memory. Not only does Benjy have an excellent memory, but his narration of the past is the most organized out of the three brothers. His ability to keep his memories straight also comes from his unusual responsiveness to his senses. Using his sense of touch, Benjy is able to go from one memory to another after catching his pants on a nail, “You snagged on that nail again. Can’t you never crawl through here without snagging on that nail” (Faulkner 3). Immediately after this incident, Benjy’s conscious jumps to a memory from the past with his sister unhooking his pants off the same nail, “Caddy uncaught me and we crawled through” (Faulkner 3). This ability to associate sensations with long-term memory is also demonstrated by Amanda Boggs, who is autistic, “My first memories involve sensations of all kinds. Colors. Sounds. Textures. Flavors. Smells. Shapes. Tones. These are short words, but the meaning of them is long, involved, and complex. Some things caught my attention, others did not, but all of them were absorbed into my mind” (Baggs). Benjy uses his recollections along with his senses to compensate for his lack of language and communication skills to form a comprehensive narrative. 

In conclusion, Benjy Compson’s narration in The Sound and the Furycan be analyzed through an autistic and disability lens. Benjy’s lack of speech, reliance on routines and unusual sensory responsiveness all point to signs that he could be diagnosed as autistic.  Benjy is a mentally disabled character in the Compson family who is treated as an infant at thirty-three years old. Although he is perceived as an idiot, Benjy is one of the few characters who can understand the world around him. Because Benjy interacts with the world in a different way, he is seen as unable to comprehend events going on around him. Baggs also relates to Benjy in this aspect, “the most important things about the way I perceive and interact with the world around me can only be expressed in terms that describe them as the absence of something important” (Baggs). Through Benjy’s narrative, readers can see that he is capable of understanding the world maybe even more than his “normal” brothers can. 

Word Count:1130

Works Cited:

Baggs, Amanda. “Cultural Commentary: Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours.” Disability Studies Quarterly, The Ohio State University Libraries .

Faulkner , William. The Sound and the Fury. Vintage Books , 1984.

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Ben Fancher

Dr. Foss

ENG 384


            In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, figures out how to reanimate the dead in a process that is never really explained to the readers. To test his theories, he creates a Creation who is compiled of the body parts of several different corpses. To Victor’s surprise, the Creation turns out to be not as attractive as he thought, despite being made out of random people’s body parts and Victor, not getting the child he expected, runs away and completely abandons his Creation and the closest thing he ever gets to a child. Victor fears the Creation and completely neglects raising him, just because the life Victor created turned out to be different from him. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,the Creation’s experience in the world is the same as that of many autistic children; they exist in a world that doesn’t know how to interact with them, and they have parents that don’t know how to raise them and might even feel like they were denied the child they deserved. 

            In Jim Sinclair’s “Don’t Mourn for Us”, there is a section entitled “Autism is not death”, in which Sinclair talks about the fact that the birth of an autistic child is not the death of a non-autistic child, since the child was never not going to be autistic. Parents grieve because they feel they were somehow denied a “normal” child. Sinclair says it best when he says “Much of the grieving parents do is over the non-occurrence of the expected relationship with an expected normal child” (Sinclair). Victor’s interactions with the Creation after he brings him to life show a parent struggling with the birth (I know the Creation was built, not born, but it’s still the creation of a child, so hush) of a child that they were expecting to be born different than the way they were. That is, they were expecting their child to be the same as them. Frankenstein says in chapter five that he “had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!” (Shelley, 43) Frankenstein had intended for his Creation to be beautiful, tall, and strong. The Creation turned out tall and strong, but Frankenstein was horrified by his appearance. He had worked himself up imagining the perfect creation; and he had made himself believe that his creation would be just like him, perfectly alike in body and mind and soul. What he got was not what he expected to get, but what he got wasn’t any sort of monster or alien, as Sinclair would say. Frankenstein succeeded in making something that is made of more human than any one human being on the planet. The Creation stands on two legs. He has hair, two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth. He’s very, extremely, ridiculously muscular, but so is Captain America, and we all love him. We also know that the Creation has an amazing capacity to learn, as demonstrated in chapters 11-16, where he learns an entire language and several things about what it is to be a human being.  And yet, upon seeing the Creation in its finished form, Frankenstein says that “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart” (Shelley 43). Frankenstein’s dream was that of a perfect creation. He wanted to defy death and create a perfect human being. He expected that perfect human being, but he didn’t get it.

At this point, what Sinclair says that Frankenstein should’ve done was said to himself “This is not the child that I expected and planned for” (Sinclair). After saying this, Frankenstein should’ve taken time to grieve in PRIVATE, meaning NOT directly in the FACE of his creation, and then gone back to his creation and said to himself that, while this “child” is different from the one that he wanted, it is still deserving of care and attention, and since the “child” doesn’t have anyone like him to give him that care and attention, it’s Frankenstein’s job to take care of him. This is what Sinclair says that parents of autistic children need to realize. It’s what Frankenstein needed to realize. Yes, the Creation is different from you, obviously. He’s the size of LeBron James, he has yellow skin, and he’s scary looking, but he isn’t a monster. He’s just a challenge. The challenge is the same as raising an autistic child, since Victor would be raising a child that is different from the one he expected, and is different from him, but for a man who figured out how to combine parts of dead humans into one living one, it should’ve been a challenge well worth the effort. 

In DJ Savarese’s “Communicate with Me”, Savarese writes about the struggles his classmates have with trying to communicate with him. DJ himself isn’t the problem, but his classmates say that they aren’t sure how to talk to him. DJ uses a facilitator to help him communicate, and when people see that, they don’t know whether to talk to the interpreter or to DJ. Or they see that DJ is autistic, and they don’t know how to deal with that either. His classmates don’t know that DJ sometimes needs to be signed at to communicate, since sometimes his hearing shuts down. Or they don’t know that he sometimes loses control of his body, resulting in his reaching out towards whoever he is talking to. People would easily be able to communicate with DJ, but they just don’t know the rules, or they don’t know that the rules even exist. 

People don’t know how to interact with the Creation as well. They see that he’s a yellow skinned, unattractive, seven-foot-tall, muscular person, and they immediately start using words like “monster” and “ugly” and “ogre” for some reason. Victor’s brother, William, used all of these words to refer to the Creation all within the same breath which is, for one thing, very rude, but also, doing this means that he broke one of the rules of interaction with the Creation. The Creation is very much aware that the reason Victor abandoned him is that he thought he was horrifyingly hideous, having read as such from the notes he stole from Victor’s lab (Shelley 112). This makes the Creation particularly sensitive to any insult to his appearance, so calling him things like “monster” and “ogre” will result in…strangulation. People see the Creation and all they see is a giant scary monster, but they don’t see that he’s really just a human being. The only person that didn’t react with fear or yell at him or try to cause him harm was the blind man in chapter 15, and they had a very pleasant conversation, which shows that the only reason that the Creation doesn’t have more pleasant conversations is that most people see him and they don’t see someone to have a conversation with. They see someone to run away from or shoot at. They don’t understand that it isn’t difficult to have interact with this person, because they don’t try to learn how to interact with this person. But if they tried, they would discover an individual with a kind heart and a sharp mind, who is ready and desperate to share themselves with the world. 

The Creation in Mary Shelley’s Frankensteinis not the child who Victor Frankenstein wanted, but he is the child who Victor got. He is equally deserving of love and happiness and care as a Creation with a beautiful, perfect face and amazing flawless skin. The challenges of having to raise the Creation are obvious, but they in no way mean that the Creation is some sort of monster who is impossible to raise. There is obviously a challenge in raising the Creation, and there is a challenge in raising autistic children. They might not be the children that their parents wanted, but they’re the children they got. They might seem hard to interact with, but you just need to learn how to do so. It’s a challenge, but it’s one worth undertaking. The happiness and success of a human life is something too valuable to decide to give up on, just because it’s a life too different from your own. 

Word Count: 1375

Works Cited

Savarese, DJ. “Communicate with Me.” Disability Studies Quarterly, 2010,

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Electronic Text Center. University of Virginia Library.

Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn For Us.” Our Voice,vol. 1, 1993.

Caitlyn Valenza’s Final Exam

Caitlyn Valenza

ENGL 384

Dr. Foss

May 2, 2019

The Importance of the Autistic Voice

As a whole, the disabled community is often thought of as lesser – less capable, less talented, less intelligent. Less of a person. Often these stereotypes are supported by negative, and incorrect depictions in everyday media, allowing for further discrimination and divide between those who are considered neurotypical and those who are not. And while one could argue that any discussion of the disabled community is inherently helping increase representation of those who are affected by a disability, that is simply not the case. When marginalized groups are not involved in making decisions about their own representation, it can lead to the spread of harmful misinformation and is ultimately a lost opportunity for inclusion. In Jim Sinclair’s, “Don’t Mourn for Us”, Amanda Bagg’s “Cultural Commentary: Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours”, and Melanie Yergeau’s, “Introduction: Involution”, the importance of allowing autistics to speak for themselves in both everyday media and literature is highlighted, as well as the negative consequences of treating an autistic diagnosis as meaning an end to the possibilities of creative thinking.

Although autism is one of the more discussed and well-known disabilities in the United States, that does not mean that individuals with autism themselves are the ones who have been given a platform, or are even the center of discussions. When an individual is diagnosed with autism, often in childhood, both their lives as well as their parents’, are forever changed. Jim Sinclair, an autistic rights advocate, discusses the feelings parents often have of trauma and loss after diagnosis but writes that “…parents [must] make radical changes in their perceptions of what autism means.” (Sinclaire). If parents view autism as either a burden for the family to carry, or an obstacle for all to overcome, it is easy to see why conversations would not focus on the individual’s autistic story, but instead the struggles and accomplishments of the family. And while those stories are also important to tell, they cannot be the highlight. After the initial diagnosis, “…nonautistic stakeholders become authorized as autistic somethings-as autistic parents, as autistic researchers…” (Yergeau, 2) and this allows family members to also take up a new identity, a new sense of purpose. And while this practice can have positive implication, such as creating support groups and acting as a label to relate to those in a similar situation, it also allows for the emphasis of the autistic narrative to be the story of parents, not of individual growth.

Individuals with autism can also be the victim of this loss of voice due to the harmful stereotypes that those with autism do not know how to properly function said voice, or do not have a voice at all. Autistic individuals are often times portrayed in media as fitting into one of two distinct categories, either a hyper-focused, socially awkward, young white male, or completely helpless and nonverbal. These two harmful ideas often lead to the belief that individuals with autism either cannot express, or cannot experience the world as those without autism do, and therefore do not have the capability of rhetoric, or even communication at all. The idea that autism prevents an individual from expressing ideas is disproved time and time again, but still the trope persists. Even while writing Involution, Melanie Yergeau was “…told that autism preclude[d her] from being rhetorical, much less a rhetorician”. Discussions of accomplishments like these need to be the focus of autism organizations in order to champion and inspire individuals with autism. When seemingly the only available media revolving around this disability is of the struggles and limitations, where are those who are newly diagnosed supposed to find hope? The infantilization of individuals with autism in media is overall problematic, but especially when considering the lack of autonomy already granted to those with autism. When the idea that autistic individuals cannot think or care for themselves is consistently perpetuated, it furthers harmful misconceptions, and takes away opportunities for autistic individuals to speak for themselves.

Those who do not have a disability are often of the mindset that there is only one right way to do things, and only one type of person who can do them. The idea that spoken language is the only way to communicate or that those with a mental handicap cannot be prolific, harm those who cannot fit into society’s standards of ‘normal’.  In Amanda Bagg’s piece she references her ability to communicate with body language or facial features, emphasizing that those forms of communication “are rich and varied… in their own right, not inadequate substitutes for the more standard forms of communication, and like all forms of communication, some parts of them came naturally to [her] and other parts [she] had to learn” (Baggs). This is the message that should be standardized in disability discourse. In order for individuals with autism to have their own space to champion each other, autism societies should no longer be about mourning for what never was, but exploring what is (Sinclaire). With the focus on the autistic individual and their possibilities, the chance for autistic self-advocacy grows. Additionally, space must be made in society for those with disabilities in general, but autism more specifically, to be able to freely express not only their hardships and struggles, but also their own ideas, stories, inventions, and other creative pieces. It must become commonplace to include autistic voices in every aspect of today’s culture. The possibilities for individuals with autism are endless, if only they are given the chance to explore them.

The addition of an autistic narrative in everyday media allows for accurate representation of said individuals in a society where they are often mislabeled as outsiders. Inclusion allows for individuals to claim the rights to their own story, and help serve as an example for the rest of their community, and even future generations. While ‘autism awareness’ is necessary in a society that often ignores the needs of its disabled population, this awareness must come from individuals whom actually have autism. Through autistic self-advocacy it is possible to falsify the idea that an autism diagnosis means a loss of all opportunities, and prove that it instead opens up a new world of possibilities.  


Baggs, Amanda. “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours.” Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1, 2009

Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn For Us.” Our Voice, vol. 1, 1993.

Yergeau, Melanie “Introduction: Involution” from Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.

Word Count: 1036

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. – Caitlyn Valenza

Dylan and Kyelin’s Final Paper

Autism: The Rift Between Parent and Child

Found within Craig Romkema’s “Perspectives” and also Jim Sinclair’s Don’t Mourn For Us, is the problem of an existing gap in understanding or consensus between an autistic child and their parent(s). Through analyzing these two pieces, it can be established that to bridge this lack of understanding between parent and child the first thing that must be done is to formulate some kind of communication that works and also avoid separating the child from their autism. The manner of what medium this communication may be exhibited through and the level of sophistication/understanding that is brought forth due to this communication is irrelevant. The goal in this establishment of understanding, without envisioning an autistic child as not having autism, should help parents to understand their child’s situation more clearly and overall make their relationship stronger.
In Romkema’s “Perspectives” he begins the poem by presenting the explanations for his autistic behavior through the eyes of “experts”,”Eastern Mystics”, “Psychologists”, “Optometrists”, and “Researchers”. This variance of explanations leads readers to conclude that we truly don’t know why exactly people of an autistic nature do the things that they do, whether they fall under any one categorization of autism (verbal, nonverbal, etc.). In presenting the measurements of his physical processes and body, “…measuring my head, the tightness of my muscles, the tracking of my eyes, the dysfunctions of my stomach.”, Romkema exhibits to us implicitly that there is no singular point of explanation for the nature of autism; mankind cannot yet express the etiology of autism. This lack of explanatory signs is one of the main reasons for parents separating their child from it’s autism, when people don’t have an explanation for behavior they would rather detach that behavior from the “reality” of things such as a living, breathing person. Romkema introduces an important point in saying that some of the researchers who were supposedly trying to help him “overcome” his autism were wrong from the beginning in thinking that as a nonverbal autistic, he could not understand a thing they were saying. Not only is this extremely demoralizing to any sort of person but it brings up the almost obvious solution to this gap that parents of autistic children oftentimes miss, communication. “…somehow we would find each other / connect.” is utilized after this to show that without reciprocation from their child, parent’s can feel discouraged and think that possibly their child has a disconnect from them; that their child is unable to relate to them thus viewing the autism as a barrier in the formulation of their relationship. Romkema then turns his role around in this poem establishing himself as a “researcher” rather than being seen as a victim of autism which is implicit in the beginning of the poem. This idea of an autistic as their own researcher for the disorder brings up an idea differing from what is generally done in medical research, since there are no completely proven reasons for how and why an autistic person acts we can learn best from them since they are the ones who perceive the world through an autistic lens. The idea of communication here acts as a catalyst, the establishment of some form of communication between an autistic person and the people around them is what paves way for the conception of self-research. This communication does not only give an autistic person the ability to make themselves heard but it also lets them be seen as a person with their own individual thoughts and feelings. The idea of seeing an autistic person as an individual with their own desires is seen through Romkema’s repetition of, “Watching my fingers, / Doing nothing, / Down in my room.” Since he established that he is fully able to comprehend the world around him, he earned his right as a person to be left alone to do what he pleases without constantly having to put up with studies and people disrespecting him to his face. Finding a form of communication within this poem offers a solution to the problem of parents, or even random people, in the lives of autistics not letting them decide what they wish for themselves.
Don’t Mourn For Us by Jim Sinclair establishes a very clear theme of parents of autistic children not understanding their words and treatment to these differently abled kids. Sinclair opens the short piece by describing parents initial reaction about finding out that their children are autistic by stating it as, “the most traumatic thing that ever happened to them” (Sinclair, 1). Parents of autistic children feel that the greatest tragedy they could have been given is having a child who expresses differently than what they originally expected. In a sense, the parent is selfish in their way of thinking by seeing this child as a detriment to their life solely based on the fact that that their current autistic child did not meet their preconceptions. Sinclair breaks down his short story into three different categories outlining important messages to parents of autistic children.
“Autism is not an appendage,” is Sinclair’s first important message that signifies to parents that they need to expel the notion that their child may someday be “normal” (Sinclair, 1). The child is autistic and will always be autistic, so the exploration of possibly “relieving” the child, but mostly the parents, of the disorder is a waste of time. Unfortunately, trying to wish that the child did not have autism translates as wishing, “the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead” (Sinclair, 1). This leaves these autistic children feeling unworthy and under appreciated for what they have to offer. This mindset in parents of children who have this disorder is a huge setback for positive representation in the autism community and for their autistic child.
The second representational message states, “Autism is not an impenetrable wall,” showing that parents of an autistic child may not connect the same way they expected (Sinclair, 1). Parents were prepared to interact in a certain manner with their new child and did not come to terms with having to communicate in another fashion. “It takes more work to communicate with someone whose native language isn’t the same as yours,” which makes it difficult for some parents to understand (Sinclair, 1). A new form of communication and interaction needs to be established with both parent and child to help create bonds that the autistic child needs and that the parent hopes to institute. This will help mend the bridge from parent to child by introducing an open understanding that each works differently than how originally expected.
Sinclair’s final message reaffirms that, “Autism is not death,” and should not be characterized as such (Sinclair, 1). Parents have this idealized notion that their child should be “perfect” and that somehow this disorder wrecks them of any future they could have possibly held. Parents always feel that they lost a child to autism, but in reality they “lost a child because the child [they] waited for never came into existence” (Sinclair, 1). Parents of children with autism need to comprehend that autism is not a tragedy or the worst thing that could ever happen to the child. Death is the most tragic incident that could happen to the child and autism does not worsen the child, but changes the parents’ label of “normal” and how normal should be described.
When this preconceived notion of what the “normal/perfect” child should is expelled, then children who are labeled with disorders will not be deemed as less. Mending the gap between parents of autism and autistic children themselves can help expand a new, more efficient range of communication. In analyzing the two works, it is made clear that every child reacts differently in any given situation, so a set standard for normal cannot realistically be sanctioned. In turn, parents acceptance of the child’s disorder will increase the bond between the two parties.

We pledge.

Word Count: 1340

Sinclair, Jim. “DON’T MOURN FOR US.” Don’t Mourn For Us,

Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives” Perspectives

Lauren C. Magee’s Final Paper: “Claiming the Transformative in Retrospective Diagnosis”

Lauren C. Magee

Disability and Literature Final

Professor Foss


Claiming the Transformative in Retrospective Diagnosis

Ill-informed neurotypical analysis of the autistic mind and body has been the unfortunate standard for practically all of the modern era. Centuries of abuse and pain have naturally followed, manifesting in scale from the eugenics movement to common microaggressions today, such as the practice of speaking to an autistic person’s caregiver instead of the autistic person themselves. Misconceptions surrounding autistic people’s expression are unfortunately common. The message is the same: the neurotypical lens is the correct one to view autistic forms through, and autistics cannot be trusted to control their own narrative. This has led to movements such as the slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us,” increasingly widespread autistic self-advocacy, and a portion of the disability rights movement as well. In the introduction of her book Autistic Disturbances, Julia Miele Rodas uses a section to examine one of these neurotypical analyses, specifically through the concept of “retrospective diagnosis.” Rodas makes the well-informed point that in reading fictional or historical characters as autistic, the concept can quickly become an unfortunate game of sorts that seeks to further divide autism from the imaginary normal. However, in her examination of retrospective diagnosis, the author missteps in only considering the angle of neurotypical analysis, and not the possibility of transformative representation.

While Rodas’ original point is correct, it should not be used to limit the potential of autistic empowerment and creativity that results from an autistic person’s reading of otherwise “normal” characters. She uses the concept in the first place to discuss the messy history of autistic diagnosis. Diagnosis as a list of categorizations has been around since the first iteration of the DSM. The book itself has also been constantly updated to change our modern standards of what a person’s disorder should entail. As Rodas also states, narrowing the definition of autism to one unquestionable set of rules is nearly impossible, and further, is in some ways problematic. Examples can include the complex social norms that dictate the labels of “high-functioning” and “low-functioning,” and the subsequent challenges to them. The allure of fitting autism into a box only further separates the community by questioning other’s validity and concepts of personal identity—essentially, who is “really” autistic. But recent attempts have been made to queer the narrative, removing gatekeeping when it is needless. Surrounding this, as a cultural phenomenon (and when done by and for autistic persons) retrospective diagnosis can become a function of empowerment. It is important to state the difference in the readings of fictional versus historical characters, however. Retrospectively diagnosing a once-living person introduces more subtle questions of morality and agency that a text-focused fictional character simply does not have. As such, to clarify the intended message, only readings of the fictional are discussed.

Rodas discusses retrospective diagnosis as a performance of sorts to find an imaginary autistic baseline. Taken in the context of an autistic person looking for the self, however, the connotation changes. Now more than ever in media we see calls for more frequent and accurate representations of diversity that reflect the real world. The narrative of identifying with or being empowered by a character is increasingly spotlighted at all levels of our entertainment culture. And we are living now in an age of transformative works—instead of an author’s word being taken as final law, we are increasingly encouraged to reflect more critically on the text, even re-writing or changing certain aspects of it. At the more extreme end of reading a character as “self” is the notion of tongue-in-cheek declaring a character with a minority you yourself represent, regardless of solid textual proof. This simply because the personal connection to the story finds this type of interpretation comforting. After all, who gets to decide which interpreted traits are autistic expressions?  Rodas references Sherlock Holmes, one of the most popular figures commonly interpreted as autistic. When a list is made of theoretical evidence to attempt to find the autistic traits of the character (cold, socially inadept, savant) Autistic Disturbances is right to call out the fall into stereotype. Yet when interpreted by autistic person, the goal becomes not to claim false diversity but to celebrate the connection to self. As in, a neurodivergent reader who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder might pick up a character’s nervous tendencies and read them as having GAD to further establish the joy of having a hero reflected in themselves. The same can be said of autistic readings, and intersectionally: the gay reader might want to find representation in a homosocial relationship, the non-white reader might interpret a never-stated appearance as close to their own. Culturally diverse consumers of media have long been surviving on scraps. To purposefully seek out representation instead of waiting for change cannot be compared with neurotypical analysis of stereotypes.

Furthermore, establishing such beloved, well-known characters as autistic shifts the frame of comfortable normalcy in a dominant neurotypical culture. Autism by the general population is still misunderstood, demonized, and often seen as uncomfortable to interact with. By pushing a reading of popular characters as autistic and otherwise neurodivergent, the perspective changes. The question becomes not why but why not? and encourages discussion. Neurotypical readers are nudged into becoming proximate with an otherwise distant idea, and proximity to divergency results in acceptance: common ground becomes recognized. In addition, the more of this that there is, the more aspects of autism are explored in fiction. Standard cultural figures purposely written as autistic such as the “Rain Man” can now be understood as single pieces in a larger tapestry of identities falling under the same label. Rodas includes a section from Sonya Freeman Loftis discussing how public perception of a character can in itself contribute to dominant stereotypes, as the character is then used as the standard for interactions with actual autistic individuals. This is upheld only in a society that allows for just a few popular representations of autism in the first place. Allowing autistic interpretation to, within reason, blur the lines of this standard boosts representation and deconstructs the idea of the imaginary normal.

At the heart of the matter, the disability rights movement is one in a long series of conversations on how the minority can be accepted by the majority. The neurotypical analysis of retrospective diagnosis offers assimilation to the dominant culture, and therefore it is rightfully distrusted by scholars such as Julia Miele Rodas. It seeks to unearth the “abnormal” traits of a character and prescribe autism to them, othering further an already marginalized community. But the autistic analysis of retrospective diagnosis brings revolution, rejecting assimilation. It shows that transformative interpretation helps the definition of autism stand alongside other social constructs. It is either our many facets of human identity exist together in equality, or slowly some identities will be forcibly pressed into the mold of the larger ones. Anything that disrupts the latter narrative should be seen as legitimate.

Works Referenced

Rodas, Julia Miele. “Introduction,” Autistic Disturbances. 2018. PDF File.

Word Count: 1144

Pledge: “I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” -Lauren C. Magee

Autism and Identity

Meghan McDonagh


Disability and Literature

Final Paper

If you are not autistic, chances are, you can not understand what it is like to be autistic. Similarly, if you are not black, you will not understand what it is like to be black, no matter how much you think you understand. Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu can say it best in her article “Autistics of Color: We Exist…We Matter.” She also writes that the people who make offensive statements are often people who are not intending to do so.

“They are our friends. Our colleagues. Our neighbors. They genuinely care for us and people like us. They want the best for us. And yet their perspectives are so obscured by their intrinsic privilege in regard to race or ability that they don’t understand. Can’t understand.” (Giwa-Onaiwu xi)

What people with privileged identities can do is accept every human they encounter regardless of their race or ability, without forgetting that it is a part of their identity. Autism is part of an autistic person’s identity, and it should be recognized as interwoven within the person just as one’s race, gender, or sexual identity is and not like a disease.

Autism is commonly viewed by ignorant people as a disease or a preventable disorder that hides the identity of an autistic person’s “true self.” Jim Sinclair states in his article “Don’t Mourn For Us,” that autism is not an appendage, and that an autistic person would be an entirely different person without it. To wish to cure is to erase the existence of disability and the person’s identity completely. This erasure can only be viewed as ableist. This mindset comes much more commonly than we think it might. Unfortunately, this narrative is perpetuated by organizations like Autism Speaks and other sources of media or literature that depict autism as tragic or “curable.” Autism Speaks is not led by autistic people themselves and they have a history of searching for a cure and trying to rehabilitate autistic behavior through harmful means. It is not an organization that strives to accept and improve the lives of autistic people and their families, it is a group that seeks to change or eliminate their autism so it easier for neurotypical people to deal with.

Another interesting way at looking at autistic identity is analyzing the way we use language. Speaking with an identity first implies that an aspect of them is attached to that person For example, saying autistic person. However, if it is broken up and written as “person with autism” it separates the individual from their autism and implies it is a disease or add-on condition. If it is part of identity, then it makes sense to use it first. It would be like saying “Person with gayness” rather than “Gay person.” This is debated in the disabled community, but the point is that it is harmful to treat autism as if it can be fixed or removed from an individual.

The most harmful repeated representation is that of a burden. The dehumanization of autistic individuals is perpetuated by resources catering to accommodating parents and caretakers of autistic children as victims and treating autisics as “a ready scapegoat for all their caregiver’s life disappointments.” (Giwa-Onaiwu xv) Jim Sinclair also touches on this is “Don’t Mourn For Us.” He makes the point that the grief of parents with autistic children does not come from the child’s autism, but the loss of neurotypical child that they did not have. He highlights that parents of autistic children usually treat autism as a tragedy, or even a death. The phrase “losing a child to autism” or similar phrases are extremely harmful to the community as a whole. If you took someone’s autistic identity away, they simply would not be the same person.

Jim Sinclair also talks about how parents often think they cannot connect with their children when they have autism, but it is possible with effort, understanding, and most importantly, acceptance. The main issue with the parent/caregiver victimization is that we are looking at their autistic children as a burden on them rather than human beings who need the care and love of their parents.

As a society, there is an idea we have of autism that is either one-dimensional or untrue due to the lack of representation. Giwa-Onaiwu speaks about the common stereotypes all involving primarily white male-presenting presences. From T.V. savant personalities or introverted gamers, Giwa-Onaiwu could not find her unique identity represented anywhere and that autistics of color are usually invisible or seldom acknowledged unless they are discussed as burdens to society or presented with other troubling data.

She describes her existence as “in a minority group within a minority group within a minority group within a minority group!” (Giwa-Onaiwu xiv). Giwa-Onaiwu emphasizes that finding her place in society with her identity as an autistic person of color was extremely difficult. Her article talks about how it is common to be known as defective and a person to be pitied when they are both autistic and of color. When questioned about why race and autism have to be mixed, she answers that they have everything to do with each other as they are both vital parts of herself.

Giwa-Onaiwu writes that  “Ableism and racism have become deeply ingrained into the collective mindset of humankind.” (Giwa-Onaiwu xi) Both of these things are heavily sources of history that relate to the dehumanization or even euthanization of people because of identity.

“Autistics of Color: We Exist…We Matter.” includes a quote from Lydia X.Z. Brown that highlights  Giwa-Onaiwu’s main argument as well as my own. She says:

“Just as I cannot separate my disabled experiences from my racialized identity and experiences, I cannot recognize ableism without recognizing how it is affected by racism or recognize racism without recognizing how it is affected by ableism…” (Giwa-Onaiwu xvi)

Discrimination is discrimination, and race and ability will always be connected for someone like Giwa-Onaiwu who share the experience of having multiple vital aspects to one’s identity. Autism is a spectrum and there is not one singular autistic experience. And despite the stereotypes presented by white americans in popular media, there is also no singular way to be black. Interlacing race and autism is necessary because they may make up one person’s identity, such as Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu.

As white people, let’s stop silencing people of color. As allistic people, let’s stop speaking instead of autistic people. As parents, let’s listen to our children. What privileged people like myself need to strive for is to accept autistic individuals, and accept autism as a part of someone’s identity just as we would look at race, gender, or sexuality.

Word Count: 1111

Works Cited

Brown, Lydia X. Z., and Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu. “Autistics of Color: We Exist…We Matter.” All the Weight of Our Dreams: on Living Racialized Autism, DragonBee Press, 2017, pp. x-xxii.

Harris, Andrew E. “Why Language Matters: Identity-First Language.” Massachusetts General Hospital,

Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn for Us..” Autonomy, the Critical Journal of Interdisciplinary Autism Studies [Online], 1.1 (2012): n. pag. Web. 2 May. 2019