Eliana’s Thoughts on “Neurotypical and Autistic Perspectives About the Autism Spectrum” and Autism Charities

This entire piece stood out to me, originally from the written point of view from someone on the spectrum and then furthermore to the points made within the paper. What really struck me though was in the beginning where Ne’eman begins the dueling narratives, the first one by Portia Iverson. She writes in her book Strange Son, “It was his mind they came for. They came to steal his mind. Before anyone could give it a name, even before I knew what it was, I knew it was in our house. I can’t say exactly how I knew. Except that I could feel it. Not that I wanted to. Believe me. They were very, very dark things. And there was no way to get rid of them. Sometimes I could hear them, late at night, when the house was very quiet; a creaking sound, an inexplicable hiss, a miniscule pop, a whistle out of nowhere…Night after night I sat beside his crib. I knew he was slipping away from us, away from our world…And then one day it happened. He was gone.” First off even though it wasn’t a direct reading for the course, this has hands down one of the most rage invoking pieces I’ve read this semester. There’s a lot to deconstruct, especially regarding negative connotations toward autism. First with the book itself being titled Strange Son, it already allows for the stereotypes to be applied to autism. Within the quote, who is they? Iverson writes as if her son was not born with autism, rather that some ghost or alien came into the house and possessed him. Referring to “they came to steal his mind”, it furthermore contributes to the incorrect generalization that autism means intellectually dumb or lacking. No one stole your son’s mind, and there’s nothing wrong with him. Additionally her overestimation of being able to ‘feel’ something was ‘wrong’ with her child? The entire paragraph sickened me. To assume that some sort of evil being took over your son or that autism ‘stole’ who your son is just completely removes any agency for an individual with autism and dehumanizes them. Quite frankly there was not one part in this excerpt that didn’t make me angry.

When quoted in Ne’eman’s paper, she refers to Portia Iverson as a parent and founder of Cure Autism Now. Those words alone tell us what we already need to know; that Iverson and others with her same view simply discriminate against individuals on the spectrum and see autism as a sickly disease. I decided to look the organization up and although there’s not much on it, I found a link discussing the differences between anti autism and autism accepting charities and organizations, which I found to be an interesting and important read. https://intheloopaboutneurodiversity.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/good-autistic-advocacy-organizations-vs-bad-autism-charities/

This article goes deeper into the means and organizations of autism groups, and separates ones that may seem charitable, but actually do more harm than good in the autistic community. Additionally, the diction used in the titles of the organizations can often be a strong teller for their inclusion and celebration of neurodiversity or lack thereof. For example the controversy of organizations like Autism Speaks which claim to be inclusive, yet the money raised is donated to science to find a curre, which furthermore contributes to a negative connotation on autism to be seen as a disease.

Major Project, Eliana Black, Collage

Eliana Black

Professor Foss 

Disability in Literature

13 April 2021

Major Project Art Collage of Disability Depiction in the Media

Disability is a key part of society as it makes up 15% of the population according to the World Health Association, yet mass media often has a skewed perception that is pushed onto viewers. Incorrect stigmatization, no matter how well intended, forms harmful stereotypes in societal norms that affect people with disabilities. In my piece, I focused on examples of real media taken directly from newspapers and magazines which exhibit contribution to a warped viewpoint including those we’ve spoken about in class such as infantilization and savior complexes. 

Media has a substantial influence on sociological and societal norms which are developed by continuous acceptance and production of certain views for what is considered ‘normal.’ Already there is a lack of representation of disability in each source that we take in. Seen on the top middle area in my collage, The Ruderman White Paper is portrayed which refers to the study that shows 95% of characters with a disability are played by non-disabled actors. This creates yet another division for a person with a disability, as even the representation in television is somewhat of a lie as well . To the right of that photo is a scene from American Horror Story which is one of my favorite, more accurate depictions of a character with a disability. The character Nan is played by actress Jamie Brewer, who has Down Syndrome. Instead of using Brewer’s Down Syndrome as a character trait, American Horror Story incorporates her as a main character, living the same way as the other girls in the house. The subtitles show a scene in which one of the girls asks Nan if she’s a virgin, and she says “Hell no. I’m not a virgin. I get it on all the time and guys find me hot” (“The Replacements” 12:26). In this scene, the rest of the girls talk about their sexual interests, but Nan’s claims are never second guessed or disputed by the others, but rather accepted. This scene connects to the class reading from the Introduction of Sex and Disability, where normalization of sexual desire and acts often exclude people with disabilities. 

Another seemingly small but incredibly impactful is the diction used when referring to disabilities in the media. Highlighted in my piece are article titles such as ‘How to handle grandma with cancer’ and ‘Texas HS football player gives the cutest promposal to his special needs friend.’ Headlines and wording like these contribute to the infantilization of people with disabilities, and takes away agency as their own person. These representations also idolize the caregiver for their job, which instills the mindset of disability as an issue or a nuisance to be cared for. In the reading Coming out Mad, Coming Out Disabled, author Elizabeth Brewer highlights the negative connotations associated with disability and how ever then society still has an expectation for those with a disability to come out. The concept of coming out furthermore creates alienation for people with disabilities and other viewpoints are easily unconsciously changed. 

Ableism is exhibited in a variety of ways throughout society, some of which are not always direct or visible. In an attempt for allies or supporters of the disabled community to make disability more normalized, there is also the risk of over-encouragement. Statements seen in the collage graphic titled Spectators exhibits a man in a wheelchair completing his race, as the crowd holds up a sign saying “handicapable” and the audience remarks on his ‘bravery.’ The Teen Vogue piece shows a model in a wheelchair for their Disability Awareness Special. Referring back to the promposal article displayed, the football player praising was broadcasted nationally, for a simple high school dance. Examples like these are controversial in the disabled community and although the intentions may be positive, the actual execution contributes to even more segregation of disabled people in society. It creates the concept of ‘inspiration porn’, which is defined by Wikipedia as “the portrayal of people with disabilities as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability” (Wikipedia).

In my collage piece I demonstrated a handful of the vast examples in the media that either misrepresent disability as a whole or aid in the formation of harmful prejudice and accepting generalized views. It creates an environment in which disability is seen as an issue or a lack of ways of life, where instead it needs to be more accepted and easily accommodated. Media is only one of the many impactful variables that create society’s conforming definition of disability onto people who have a disability. As inspirational author and advocate Robert M. Hansel states, “There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more.” (Quotefancy.com)

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

Eliana C. Black

Works Cited

“Inspiration Porn.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Apr. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inspiration_porn.

“Robert M. Hensel Quotes.” Quotefancy, quotefancy.com/robert-m-hensel-quotes.

Woodburn, Danny, and Kristina Copic. “Employment of Actors with Disabilities in Television.” Ruderman Family Foundation, 3 Oct. 2017, rudermanfoundation.org/white_papers/employment-of-actors-with-disabilities-in-television/.

“World Report on Disability.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 14 Dec. 2011, www.who.int/teams/noncommunicable-diseases/sensory-functions-disability-and-rehabilitation/world-report-on-disability. 

“The Replacements.” American Horror Story, created by Ryan Murphy, season 3: Coven, episode 3, FX Networks LLC, 2013. 

Eliana’s Response to Susan Nussbaum’s “Good Kings Bad Kings”

In Susan Nussbaum’s Good Kings Bad Kings, the audience is refreshed with a completely honest and raw take on not only the mindset of people with disabilities, but also those who are associated. Instead of repeating one person point of view with the plot of epic overcomings, Nussbaum offers multiple character’s points of view that allow for a much more diverse and stimulating piece of literature. 

In relation to the other works for class, Good Kings Bad Kings seems to be not only one of the most diverse and powerful narratives from this class, but also from all I’ve read. Usually with diversity literature, there are often either the sole token diverse characters or a character with a disability/illness that is severely misrepresented. Fiction with minimally acceptable or even outstanding presence of diversity is rare, but Nussbaum is able to incorporate it as a part of each character. She does so in a way that their said ‘difference’ is just a trait, without making the character’s personality solely revolve around their diversity factor. 

These practices can be seen in every character we have been introduced to so far, and cannot easily be labeled as inherently good or bad people, just human with flaws. This is also illustrated by the change of viewpoints, where we are able to see into the mind of each character. My favorite character so far is Joanne, as I appreciate her self sufficiency alongside her anti sugar coating persona. She is able to form connections with the neurotypical staff, but also to the kids in the ILLC as a wheelchair user. Her viewpoint and personal experiences are able to bring attention to the injustices that the kids are facing that staff weren’t able to realize. Nussbaum’s authentic perspective is displayed easiest in Joanne’s character also, with her satire and complete honesty. As seen in quotes like “And that’s the inspirational true story of how I overcame my disability and became a contributing member of society.” where she challenges the cliche norms. 

In addition to narratives on ILLC patients like Yessina and Teddy and a disabled caretaker like Joanne, another interesting character is Michelle. Here I feel is where the outlook on humanity is displayed the strongest of a mix of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Nussbaum intentionally creates first person viewpoints on characters that would be deemed as antagonistic from a singular perspective. She’s incredibly monetarily motivated and it disconnects her from stronger morals. Although she works in the healthcare system with disabled patients, it’s evident she has significant ignorance regarding their lives and disabilities. Displayed how she genuinely thinks the system is the best it can get for a disabled person, and seeing it as humanitarian work. Regardless of affiliation in her career, her primary focus is money and possesses a sort of savior complex encouraging disabled stereotypes. Her interaction with a patient in her chapter reinstates her unfamiliarity, saying that a girl with schizophrenia didn’t look the part by seeming too lucid and controlled. While commissioning she states, “the work I do is important because I’m getting people off the streets and into warm beds with three meals a day and medical care.”

It’s important to have representation that accurately depicts a community. False representation or misunderstanding can do more harm than good and continue to feed the stereotype surrounding it, instead of showing an authentic approach. Nussbaum is able to effectively deliver an inclusive and down to earth story about diversity, disability, and typical successes and struggles of life. Instead of feeding into savior complex troupes to ‘save’ the disabled or delivering the inspirational achievement story due to a disability, she gives her readers a refreshing and genuine work of realistic fiction that represents diversity and disabilities alike.

Eliana Black Thoughts on “To Kill a Mockingbird”

When I originally first read this novel, I was an angsty 14 year old in a freshman english class with not much care for any type of assigned reading. I loved to read, but anything that was assigned to me I instantly distained. Additionally, the theme main focus when we were reading the book freshman year was about social and systematic racism in society and so the Radley family as a whole was much more of a background influence than anything. Fast forward 5 years later reading it for a college class I actually sought out to put on my schedule, not only is it refreshing to reread it from a different lens, but also I much more enjoy the book now. With Arthur Radley becoming my main character to focus on in regards to content for this class, it has changed everything I previously remembered the book as. For this semester I’m actually using the same copy I annotated in high school, so it’s been amusing to say at the least in seeing my old responses to the plot and characters. Even before I read the book I, like Scout and Jem, already had a judgement of the character “Boo” before actually being introduced to him. Even outside of the fictional world of Maycomb, Arthur is a heavily misunderstood character, and reading it from the viewpoint of potential disability has provided much more insight and explanation. Instead of assuming based off rumors and other people’s opinions on Arthur like the rest of the town, I’m able to see him in a new light as an almost reintroduced character.

Response to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Last Thursday, my group and I talked a lot about Victor’s more subconscious meaning for making the creature. Albeit we were all stumped by the fact that throughout the process of Victor’s engineering he knew exactly step by step what the creature was becoming and how it was being formed, and yet when it is finally finished, Victor detests it. Jessie, Sonia, Keona and I explored his reasonings of his hatred for the creation that he made, and how even though he had the power to change it, he never did. Jessie brought up that Frankenstein was actually his fiancee’s favorite book, and that she had an interesting theory about Victor and his creature. He talked about how the theory was that Victor was actually gay and had intense internalized homophobia, therefore his intentions of making the creation. The theory of hers is that in making the creation, Victor wanted a partner, but the internalized homophobia was what subconsciously motivated Victor to make it ‘hideous.’ In doing so, Victor could feel disgusted by the male gaze and gender, therefore strengthening his homophobia. It was backed up by the fact that Victor also was never seemingly in love with Elizabeth, and even didn’t really mourn after her death. Although none of this has ever been confirmed by Mary Shelley or blatantly expressed in the book, it does pose an interesting viewpoint of Victor’s possible true intentions, and therefore has a lot to explore when reading the book.