Autism, Culture, and Representation

Last Thursday, I found myself in a dark open space in the Video Studio at the Dudestadt for the 2012 Disability/Culture Symposium. There was an intimate group of people seated in a semi-circle, listening intently to the speaker. Although I was late to the Symposium, I immediately felt welcomed into the room and comfortable with the setting.

This was the kind of event that really changed my perspective. The more that I learn about Disability Studies, the more intrigued I am by the variety of disability cultures that are out there. It’s fascinating to hear about the different ways that people cope with their disabilities. Activities ranging from dance and physical movement to learning expression through artistic mediums can all help individuals in different ways. The videos that I saw of the Wobbly Dance were just incredible to watch, and I was really excited to hear about opportunities for art students to work with autistic children in Japan.

I think that these alternative means of working with disabilities can be so much more beneficial than some of the more standard therapies that aim to cure disability. What’s interesting to me is that there are so many people who are entirely unaware of the rich disability culture that exists in our world today. I think that the integration of education about disability culture is absolutely crucial, especially since disabilities are often unlooked. My own perception of what a disability is as well as what it means to have a disability has changed so much over the past year because I have been lucky enough to take a class that exposed me to the culture of Autism.

I’ve also started reading With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child by Keiko Tobe this week, which has been entirely different from anything I’ve read about autism. I’ve never really read manga before, so that in itself has turned out to be an experience. I never expected that it would take so much effort to get used to reading from right to left. While manga is still a bit confusing to me, there’s no doubt that it brings something to literature. As the mother Azuma learned about her child’s autism, it was interesting to see how her facial expressions were depicted. Manga also enables the reader to follow the author’s train of thought better  with the illustrations in addition to the text.

More to come about my perspectives on the book !


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