Autism, Culture, and Representation

Let me introduce myself before jumping into my next topic. I’m Trisha, a sophomore at the University of Michigan. I am aspiring to be a Pediatrician, and I am majoring in English (declaring tomorrow!). I love to read and write, as well as dance ballet and lyrical. This semester, I want to use literature to learn about autism and its culture.

Broderick introduced an important part of this culture: ABA recovery program. The start of ABA created a ray of hope for families with autism by uncovering a solution that they had not known was possible: recovery. ABA opened people’s eyes to the possibility of normalcy, but it also blinded them from understanding the consequences. The language of ABA urged families to seek recovery, to do something about autism. With the potential of recovery, the art of autism was lost; it became merely something that must be fixed.

Maurice’s advocacy of ABA as the only scientific, and therefore only “legitimate,” means of recovery was a source of reassurance for many who then turned to place their faith in science (Broderick 2011). But in doing so, they turned their backs on other interventional methods without question. Scientific language convinced people of its veracity, and they failed to see that other solutions existed.

Lastly, Broderick described Autism Speaks as an organization that gave the once speechless disorder of autism the gift of words. With these words came power that enabled the successful spread of awareness, but this ideal power was buried within the large organization. Funds created to relieve families with autism instead to funded research in the hopes of stumbling upon a cure. Although the hope of  a cure for autism can inspire us with optimism, it distracts us from learning to cope with it.

Burke made me think differently about words by highlighting their illuminating but repressive nature.  Using the metaphor of terministic screens to examine disability allows us to be aware of how we perceive things, to consider how our knowledge of one thing may be paired with our ignorance of another. But terministic screens add a filter of complexity to disabilities that is not always necessary, which can only distract us from understanding the more simple situations. Like a pair of glasses, the usefulness of the terministic screens metaphor depends on the situation; when needed they can be of great help, but when superfluous, they are merely a distraction.



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