Jessie Harper’s Final Paper

Jessie Harper

Professor Foss

Disability and Literature

6 May 2021

The Offerings of An Unkindness of Ghosts

            What does the future hold? Not many of any of us know the answer to that. Sci-Fi authors have been trying to imagine what the future will hold for us for centuries. Most people think quite a bit of our technology we have has been based on these written ideas of what could be in the future. From the “pocket telephone” which comes from “Space Cadet” by Robert Heinlein, which is what we now refer to as smartphones. To flying cars in writing and in filmography has been highly characterized. My first encounter of the flying car was Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The use of a traditional model vehicle with merely the ability to fly. In comparison to others that barely look like a vehicle at all.

In a large majority of Sci-Fi material, you do not often see race or social class-based discrimination as a main plot point, but rather a side story or a filler for background. That is a past and current issue not fitting in a futuristic idea of space travel. This piece of written work, An Unkindness of Ghosts, that takes a spin on a racial disparities, all the while being staged on the spacecraft that has been traveling from Earth for 300 years. This concept is almost unrealistic as the reader. That an advanced intellectual crew of humans can be ignorant or intolerant of others upon their very ship.

            However, race is not the only factor in the case of Aster. Race can bind the group of people that have it in common together and also the discrimination that they face as a whole. Yet Aster still feels ostracized from those around her. We quickly learn that Aster is neuro-divergent from the first little bit of the book, “Aster was always memorizing new ways of being with people” (Solomon 9), then again from being called a name by a fellow lower decker, “Insiwa. Inside one. It means you live inside your head and to step out of it hurts like a caning.” (Solomon 12). Finally, it is pointed out by someone close to her, “It was like what Aint Melusine was always saying, that Aster was one who looked sideways, or one who saw through the corner of her eyes. When you saw the world sideways, you couldn’t always get a proper handle on things.” (Solomon 62). This reminds me of another piece we read in this class Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter. By Morenike Giwa Onaiwa. In this piece Giwa Onaiwa talks also about being black and being neuro-divergent or autistic and says this, “even those who accepted, cared for me, loved me still did not understand me”(Onaiwu, XV). Giwa Onaiwa also goes makes a statement that Aster most likely understands as well with, I “looked the part” I was supposed to automatically understand and be fluent in all these random aspects of life attributed to black American culture.” (Onaiwa XIV). Onaiwa notes that since it is not something that they do not just do something is wrong with them. For Aster she only felt at peace in her botanarium, “There, at least, there was some kind of quiet” (Solomon 12).

            Asher was different in the eyes of everyone on the ship from the guards to her fellow lower deckers. However, the abuse of the guards was known by Asher and her fellow lower deckers. “….the morale of the Guard, and the details of previous abuses: strength, force, duration” (Solomon 25). Again, Onaiwa is able to relate to this with race-based discrimination along with being disabled, when they say, “We are painted as defective, flawed, undesirable, different. To be pitied. Not only are we non-white, but we are also disabled too?”(Onaiwu, XI). Which takes me back to the part of this still being a problem of the present and hard to grasp the thought of it still being a vast issue for the future. Yet thinking about where we have been in the past and where we should be today and yet we are not. I perhaps should not be as shocked and quite frankly appalled. More so disappointed that someone could envision these races, merely skin pigment issues never being eliminating from our apparent mind. “Giselle knew as well as Theo how Lieutenant singled Aster out for a startling array of abuses.” Then a little later it says, “He had given her name to several guards, so though she rarely faced him in person, she frequently experienced his wrath by proxy.” (Solomon 18).

It is so easy for Lieutenant to do this because Aster is a lower decker. The only reason, she is around Theo is because she’s different because her mind works different. In another piece, we read for this class they describe this as, “assuming that one person can serve as the voice or face of an entire community is an assumption that has jumped straight from the hotbed of microaggressions” (Ashkenazy, XXIX). Then they define what microaggression is, “meaning of everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”(Ashkenazy, XXVII)

On the ship of Matilda, an everyday exchange for a lower decker is to do as you are told or be punished. Aster’s gift of Flicks foots from hypotherma to the Lieutanant as a reminder of the cold in the lower decks to him was a normal day’s punishment. However, I saw it as microaggression because of being not only aimed at the lower deckers but also at Aster personally. As Aster meets with him, she says, “Any leniency he gave was so he would have something to take away later. She didn’t know what her punishment would be, but it was certainly coming” (Solomon 82). Then Aster sees that come to fruition when “The person Lieutenant led out in chains to be executed was Flick.” (Solomon 84).

Through everything Aster faced, losing loved ones, her place of peace, she still started a revolution in part with the bravery of Theo. Not necessarily getting past the difference of being neuro-divergent but using it as a way to process things at different angles, seeing races as one people, seeing this ship as one society that needs to work together to survive successfully. Truly, I believe if the world had more Aster’s, that we would be in a much better place.

Word Count 1135

I pledge

Work Cited

Ashkenazy, E. Forward: On Autism and Race, All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, DragonBee Press, 2017, xxiii-xxxix

Giwa Onaiwa, Morenike. Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Mater, All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, DragonBee Press, 2017, x-xxii

Solomon, River. An Unkindness of Ghosts. Akashic Books, 2017.

Elena Marshel Final Project

Elena Marshel


Professor Christopher Foss

6 May 2021

“Apologies to my OB-GYN:” The Value of Disabled Lives

In her essay “The Case for Conserving Disability,” Rosemarie Garland-Thomson argues that disability is an integral part of human society and a source of connection and social change. Some of the earliest pieces of evidence of hominins with advanced intelligence and social structures (in other words, more human-like hominins) come in the form of remains with healed injuries that would have been debilitating before modern medicine. The fact that these early human relatives were able to heal and continue living shows that their community felt empathy and compassion. They tended to their sick peer, even when it was costly and had no benefits besides a life saved. This has always been one of the strongest defining characteristics of our incredibly unique species: our desire and capability to care for those who cannot care for themselves. This aspect of humanity is explored in Rebecca Foust’s poem “Apologies to my OB-GYN,” which is about her experience having a child who was premature and autistic. In her derisive and ironic apology, she brings attention to the way this age-old practice of caring for other humans has been corrupted by modern medicalization and finances, while also highlighting the beauty of life she sees in her son.

The first two stanzas of Foust’s poem describe the circumstances of her son’s birth through an apology, the sincerity of which is not immediately clear. 

“Sorry that my boy birthed himself

too early, took up so much room

in your prenatal nursery

with his two pounds, two ounces

and did not oblige your nurses 

with easy veins.” (1-6)

The very first word of the poem is “sorry,” setting the apologetic tone that pervades the entire work. It is initially impossible to tell how genuine the apology is, and it seems to convey conflicting senses of true contrition and biting sarcasm. She apologizes that her son “birthed himself / too early,” framing it as a conscious act by giving the infant agency in the sentence. The line break, which causes the first line to end at “birthed himself,” seems to be a brief appreciation of the ways in which disabled people, especially those with autism, may act in ways that defy social norms. This defiance is not rebellion, as Foust sarcastically writes it here, but simply the way disabled and autistic people meet their needs, which differ from an abled, neurotypical person. However, these expectation-defying behaviors are often perceived as something to be apologized for. Foust juxtaposes her apologetic tone with twisted descriptions of the burden her son caused the medical staff, apologizing for taking up too much space despite his tiny size and for her son’s failure to “oblige the nurses / with easy veins.” Her phrasing makes the apology seem unnecessary at the very least, and by the end of the stanza, her apology is more clearly insincere. 

“Sorry we were such pains in your ass

asking you to answer our night calls like that,

and that he did everything so backwards:

lost weight, gained fluid

blew up like a human balloon

then shriveled.” (7-12)

By the beginning of the second stanza, Foust’s frustration becomes more apparent as she moves to more aggressive language, calling her and her family “pains in [their] ass” for requesting simple medical services. She continues to emphasize the unrealistic nature of her guilt through the way she phrases her supposed offenses. Foust then apologizes again for her son’s deviation from standard practice, saying that “he did everything so backwards” and then describing serious medical conditions. She uses nearly comical language like “human balloon” in a faux attempt to validate her apology, but it serves a similar purpose. The comedic language seems nearly grotesque next to the medical descriptions of the premature child. 

“Sorry about how he defied your prognoses,

skyrocketed premiums, weighted the costs,

in your cost-benefit analyses,

skewed bell-curve predictions,

into one long, straight line;

sorry he took so much of your time” (13-18)

In this stanza, Foust moves from the guilt she felt during her time at the hospital to a more general trend in which disabled and autistic people, as well as their caretakers, are held socially responsible for the perceived cost of caring for them. Foust uses specific financial and analytical language in her apology, listing terms such as “premiums,” “cost-benefit analyses,” and “bell-curve predictions” that sound clinical and impersonal in the context of a child’s life. Again, she uses her imitation apology to point out the questionable priorities of the people who place guilt on her and her child. She ends the stanza with a cut-off line, “sorry he took so much of your time,” which, separated from the rest of the sentence, seems to hold less sarcastic intent than the rest of the poem thus far. However, the line is continued into the final stanza: 

“being so determined to live. He spent 

today saving hopeless-case nymph moths

trapped in the porchlight, one matrix-dot

at a time, and now he’s asleep; blue wingbeat

pulse fluttering his left temple—there,

there again. Just like it did then.” (19-24)

When the line is brought together, it becomes “sorry he took so much of your time being determined to live.” This line is a striking summary of much of the sentiment in the poem, but it is fragmented and interrupted by arbitrary divisions. Just like line breaks in a free verse poem, social constructs can be helpful but are not always necessary nor appropriate, and can in fact be harmful when they are applied to circumstances that require unconventional attention. For the rest of the stanza, as she describes the beauty of watching her child grow and learn to care for others, the lines are divided no longer divided by clause. Instead, they flow as feels natural, as she wishes for her son to do. This is the only stanza that doesn’t contain the word “sorry,” leaving a clear message: by breaking free from the need to adhere to detrimental social constrictions, one can alleviate the guilt autistic people often feel for simply existing.

The final stanza is centered around the very thing Foust found lacking in the hospital, the place where it should be most plentiful: access to guilt-free care. When freed from expectations that do not apply to him, her son attempts to save  “hopeless-case nymph moths trapped in the porchlight,” engaging in the selfless acts of care for others described in the introduction of this essay. The juxtaposition of this stanza with the first three, which are guilt-ridden and full of clinical terms, makes the disconnect clear. Although medical care should ideally be based on compassion and humanity, the emphasis on finances and cost in the medical industry has created an environment in which the non-monetary value of things, such as the life of a little boy, is overshadowed. This is caused by and leads to the stigmatization of disabled and autistic people as a drain on resources, rather than a valuable and necessary aspect of humanity.

Word Count: 1170

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

Nathalie Navia-Luciano’s Final Paper

Nathalie Navia-Luciano

Professor Foss

ENGL 384

May 4, 2021

Parents and Their Autistic Children: The Mourning Over A Perceived Normalness

When a parent is welcoming a child into the world, it is a moment of excitement and joy. There is no doubt that in the many month-long wait, time is filled with the parent imagining who and what the child would be like and what they will become. Their favorite colors, foods, dream jobs. When expecting children, a parent can imagine the life that child will have in the following years. In many cases, parents will be blessed with the delivery of a child that could be considered “normal” or neurotypical. While in others, parents will be blessed with a child that has a disability. Unfortunately, some parents may not consider a child with a disability as a blessing. They may not recognize the child as their own. They may mourn the “normal child” that they had felt they were supposed to have.The child that was supposed to go to school, learn to drive, and go off to college. Not that disabled children cannot grow up to do all these things, however there are some who are dependent on the care of others who may be unable to partake in much of the activities that can be perceived as typical to any lifestyle. An example of this challenge is a parent who is coming to the knowledge that their child is autistic. In Sinclair’s article the preconceived notions of burden that are placed on caring for a disabled child morphs the view that parents have toward their autistic child and in turn can affect the child and the support that they may receive from their parents in the long run. This occurs in both the misunderstanding that autism can be cured or removed from the child and that it would be impossible to speak and relate to them.

Previously, I noted that a challenge may present itself once a parent learns that their child is disabled, in this case autistic. With an ableist lens the challenge could be perceived as one that only belongs to the parent when it in fact also resides in the child themselves. Jim Sinclair discussed in their article, “Don’t Mourn for Us” the issues that lie in parents mourning their autistic child and how this belief is rooted in the preconceived notion of burden and loss. Sinclair uses solid statements that expose the heartlessness of a parent that puts how they feel over the child. Viewing this occurrence as a “great tragedy” in their family (Sinclair). Sinclair chastises parents in for their behavior toward their autistic children. Demanding that parents do not mourn for their children. One point that they brought out under their subheading “Autism is not an appendage” was that since autism is a way of being, there is no removing or separating it from an individual. In reference to the parent’s wish for a “normal child,” they revealed the true meaning behind the phrase, “I wish my child did not have autism (Sinclair)” that a parent may say toward their child. They brought out that this is in fact a way of expressing that the parents wished that their autistic child did not exist, and a normal child may take their place. This heartbreaking notion of being unable to love a child because of the difficulty that presents itself in learning and understanding an autistic child is a representation of how an unsupportive parent allows the illusion of burden to build a wall between themselves and their child. All of this over a shattered expectation of normal (Sinclair). 

Parent’s may also perceive their children as an “impenetrable wall (Sinclair).” This is certainly not the case. The root of this belief is also found within the expectations that a parent may have already conceived with their child that the language that they would use with a normal child would also be understood as well with an autistic child. However, an autistic child is not going to respond in a manner that is recognized as being a part of that language system (Sinclair). Sinclair highlights that “it takes more work to communicate with someone whose native language isn’t the same as yours (Sinclair).” This illustration further emphasizes that autistic individuals are “foreigners” in every society that they live within (Sinclair). A real effort will need to be made if a parent wants to support their child and better get to know and understand them. They would have to become fluent in their language and translate and make sure that an understanding can be made. Even then Sinclair admonishes that even once this is accomplished there will be no normal parent-child relationship. A whole new construction of normal would be required in order to accept the different. If the new construction is not built Sinclair warns that frustration, resentment, and even hatred can stem from a parent toward their child. 

The care of an autistic child is dependent on the parent understanding that any traditional, societal notions of “normal” do not apply. To mourn an autistic child is to not accept them for who they are. It is to wish and pray for a replacement child that is easier to swallow and handle in association. It is not impossible to communicate and get closer to an autistic child. It requires effort to learn and understand the language system that the child uses. The preconceived notions of burden that are placed on caring for a disabled child morphs the view that parents have toward their autistic children and in turn can affect the child and the support that they may receive from their parents in the long run. However, Sinclair advised that approaching “respectively, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and [the parent] will find a world [that] could never have imagined (Sinclair).” This remedycreates the opportunity. Don’t mourn an autistic child. Instead, explore who they are and what they will be (Sinclair).

Works Cited

Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to my OB-GYN.” Margie (2007): Electronic Ed.

Sinclair, Jim. “Don’t Mourn for Us.” Our Voice (1993): Electronic Ed.

I pledge – Nathalie Navia Luciano

Word Count – 1034

Brianna Fridriksson’s Final Paper

For my final, I analyzed the poems “Misfits” and “Apologies to my OB-GYN” and talked about how the medical community and people can do better with treating people with autism.

I pledge – Brianna Fridriksson

Zachary Welsh’s Final Paper

“How are an individual’s race and Autism related to one another?” This was the naïve, privileged question that I had initially asked myself when I read the opening title to Morénike Giwa Onaiwu’s Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter and E. Ashkenazy’s Forward: On Autism and Race. However, upon reading these two theoretical pieces, I, and other fellow readers are given two firsthand accounts of individuals living a life of being both colored and autistic, allowing us to momentarily be placed in their shoes. Through Onaiwu and Ashkenazy’s theoretical texts, it becomes clear to readers that there not only exists a relationship between one’s race and Autism, but that Individuals who fall in the category of both colored as well as autistic, are forced to struggle in society and life significantly more than individuals who do not identify as colored or autistic due to concepts such as microaggressions and the way in which their communities react to said individuals. 

To fully understand the way in which autism and an individual’s race are linked, we must understand the ways in which exclusively, a person’s race affects their everyday lives in society. We are given examples of this firsthand in Onaiwu’s Preface: Autistics of color: We Exist… We Matter when she states that growing up, before she was even diagnosed with autism, the color of her skin and the way society reacted to her made her “alone”, “strange”, “weird”, and like she “never fit in” (Onaiwu 12). Onaiwu provides readers another example when she mentions that growing up, her teachers were unable to properly pronounce her last name “which was two syllables and four letters long” (Onaiwu 13), but were able to pronounce her classmate’s western, caucasian names such as Kowalczyk or Schwarzkopf. Both Onaiwu and Ashkenazy also mention the concept of microaggressions, which are described as “Brief and common place daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slides and insults toward people of color” (Ashkenazy 27), and the way in which said microaggressions make them feel like the “other” in our society. For example, Ashkenazy mentions how often she is being told things like “yeah with that dark thick wild curly hair, I definitely knew you were black” (Ashkenazy 28) and “It’s really cool to have a black friend! My world is just too white” (Ashkenazy 29). What is perhaps most telling about these claims, is that Ashkenazy mentions that they come from close friends, and are out of ignorant innocence (Ashkenazy 30) rather than ill intent, as it shows that racism and racist remarks can often stem from a person’s lack of knowledge on the subject and even if they don’t intend to, can create difficult and uncomfortable situations for these individuals. Through examples such as these, both Onaiwu and Ashkenazy are able to paint a clear, vivid picture of how the color of their skin as well as their other physical attributes affect their everyday lives. 

We must now shift our focus on to how Autism can exclusively affect an individual’s life and their status in society. Autism is typically defined as a developmental disorder that can oftentimes diminish an individual’s ability to interact with others and communicate. Onaiwu gives us a firsthand example of how autism affected her life when she mentions that the way she “spoke, interacted, moved, and processed things was so very different” (Onaiwu 14) than any of her fellow classmates. The author also briefly touches on the divide created by society that exists between able bodied individuals and those diagnosed with Autism, as she mentions that growing up,  there was no place she “belonged”, no place where she could “find someone who understood” (Onaiwu 15) her. An individual with Autism may be forced to maintain a repetitive schedule due to them typically wanting to stick to familiar things. On top of these, Ashkenazy also notes that an individual diagnosed with autism may be “struggling with cultural expectations on top of general expectations from parents, significant others, family, and/or friends” (Ashkenazy 34). Ashkenazy also mentions that an individual diagnosed with Autism may not only be “struggling with culturally based power dynamics and/or hierarchal structures both formal and informal” (Ashkenazy 34), but they might also be struggling at home in the fact that they may be having “feelings of being an embarrassment to both family and community members” (Ashkenazy 34). Through examples such as these that have been presented to us as readers, it becomes clear that while Autism itself may present a wide range of challenges for an individual that is diagnosed with it, society amplifies those challenges, and presents individuals diagnosed with autism with completely new obstacles as well. 

By understanding the ways in which an individual’s race and being diagnosed with Autism can both exclusively affect an individual and their lives, we can now properly understand the way in which “we bring race into the great conversation about autism” (Ashkenazy 34). For individuals who are not only a person of color, but are also diagnosed with Autism, the pressure of not only society but of their community can present an innumerable amount of difficulties and challenges for the individual. Onaiwu mentions that “those of us who exist at the intersection of disability and race, aren’t treated as if we are real” (Onaiwu 12). This stems from the previously mentioned divide between abled bodied individuals and autistic people of color, as Caucasian, abled individuals typically only acknowledge autistic people of color when “others need to use” them to “make a point” (Onaiwu 12). The only sense of acknowledgment they get from other individuals is when they are forced to feel like “unwilling tokens for someone else’s cause” (Onaiwu 12). Perhaps Onaiwu’s most touching moment in the text is on page fourteen when it is mentioned that she was not only a person of color, but she was also a hyperlexic, twice exceptional autistic. In this realization, she mentions that she is a “minority within a minority” (Onaiwu 14). This short quote briefly describes in three words the challenges that Onaiwu and other individuals like her are forced to face simply for the color of their skin and for having Autism.  We as readers are also given a second chance. to be placed in the shoes of a colored, autistic individual in Ashkenazy’s piece, as they mention that “people often assume things about” them or labeled them “based on either innocent or intentional biases and prejudices” (Ashkenazy 26). Ashkenazy specifically mentions a connection between race and Autism on page thirty two when it’s mentioned that “we bring race into the great conversation about autism because artistic people of color are often times having a vastly different life experience in comparison to their white peers” (Ashkenazy 32). Ashkenazy immediately follows this up by providing multiple examples in which a colored, autistic person is faced with insufferable challenges such as “feeling out of place not only within the world or society in general, but within their own ethnic group as well” (Ashkenazy 34). 

Onaiwu and Ashkenazy’s theoretical pieces allow for individuals such as myself, who may not have acknowledged a relation between Autism and one’s race, to finally understand the link between them. By providing specific examples of ways in which a person’s race can exclusively affect their everyday life as well as ways in which Autism can exclusively change someone’s social life, we are able to better understand not only that a link exists between the two, but that they actually play into each other more than most people realize. By allowing readers into this aspect of their lives, Onaiwu and Ashkenazy give readers the chance to experience and understand what it is like being a part of two minority groups. Through this, Onaiwu gives us the answer to our long sought question of what race has to do with Autism. “Everything” (Onaiwu 22) Onaiwu says. It has everything to do with Autism, and we as readers, whether we are part of this double minority group or not, can finally understand that.

Word Count: 1347 

Honor Pledge: I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this assignment

Maddie Reilley’s Final Paper: Divided on Language

            Throughout disability studies, the discussion is often centered around the “abled” or the “disabled,” but is this idea as black and white as it seems? When discussing Autism, in particular, the conversation of the “spectrum” comes into play, bringing along stereotypes of what it means to be autistic, what people with autism “should” look or “should” act like. Melanie Yergeau poses this discussion in “Introduction: Involution,” from Authoring Autism, asking if “there can ever really be an in-between” (Yergeau 2) or if it instead is an absolute dichotomy between those with autism and those without. It is here that I am arguing that autistic writers have set forth to define and demonstrate this dichotomy through their writings and creative discussion of how their autism, particularly their understanding of language and use of language, creates a divide between the two groups when it comes to everyday discussion, as well as the discussion around autism itself.

            To begin, it’s important to understand Yergeau’s own discussion and proposition of dichotomy or no. Yergeau argues that “autism is typically characterized by what it contrasts” (Yergeau 2) presenting autism as an “antithesis” to the non-autistic, which she argues is demonstrated by the stories of those who raise autistic children and those who actually have autism as well. Yergeau’s primary examples include the discussion of “poop talk,” as discussed by parents of autistic children, “who have (presumably) never smeared their own [poop]” (Yergeau 3). Yergeau discusses these narratives as seen from the “other” perspective, and then recounts her own experience with remembering her own potty-training experience. She tells that time as more difficult than learning how to read discussing the “decoding of sensations, recognizing the tightness meant which function” (Yergeau 6) as things that have “long eluded” her. This distinct difference Yergeau discusses through “poop talk” is only the beginning of exploring the dichotomy recognized by autistic people between them and those without autism. While Yergeau is able to recognize the difficulties of her own potty-training and the ease that came with learning to read, those neurotypical parents focus more on the “anomaly” of  how autistic children respond to feces, and the  placement of autistic children as “victim-captives.” It’s through this small narrative the Yergeau presents the subtle beginning to the dichotomy defined by the autistic community itself. Even those who know the child the best, cannot fully understand them, or recognize their abilities in the way that the autistic person can, drawing a line between those with, and those without, autism.

            Another autistic creator, DJ Savarese, expresses similar ideas as Mukhopadhyay in his poem “Alaska.” Savarese utilizes the image of winter in Alaska, to bring forth this same idea of separation and divide between Savarese and his non-autistic facilitators. For Savarese, this divide is separated by those who “yearn for freedom,” (people with autism) and those who “live forever” (the non-autistic). In examining other works, this “freedom” that Savarese discusses is brought to light to be communication and understanding. In his essay “Communicate With Me” Savarese expresses his desire for people to talk with him, and not his facilitator, whether it be by waiting patiently, or making direct eye contact to show that they care about what he has to say. In his own process of communicating, Savarese must “free [his] body to respond” (Savarese 5). This discussion of language being “Freedom” is what separates the “you” and the “they” in the poem. Whoever the poetic speaker is addressing is holding onto the leaves, symbolizing Savarese and his desire for the “freedom” of conversation that he seeks, and the stigma that his conversation must be guided by his able-bodied facilitators. Savarese directly speaks out against this in his essay, asking people to “look at and talk to him” (Savarese 7), instead of addressing his facilitator, as if they are the ones having conversation for him.

            On the same topic of the differences between how those with and without autism can use and understand language, Amanda Baggs, another author with autism discusses what language presents itself as and how she can understand language differently than the non-autistic. In her commentary piece entitled “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours,” Baggs discusses her relationship with language, recognizing that:

            language was built mostly by non-autistic people, with the obvious results, and [her] biggest frustration is this: the most important things about the way [she] perceives and interact with the world around [her] can only be expressed in terms that describe them as the absence of something important. (Baggs 3)

This distinct lack that Baggs’ has to utilize language in the way that is seen as “normal,” along with her argument that “language was built by non-autistic people” demonstrates the difference between those with and without autism, and the consideration that would be needed to truly find a middle ground between the two groups, given their differences in social interactions.

            Baggs later goes on to describe how using traditional language “takes place in the clouds” (Baggs 18), with its multiple layers and the need to balance physical language, expressive language, and figurative language. For people with autism, these concepts can be difficult to grasp alone- facial expressions and sarcasm can be daunting and decoding them isn’t a natural process. This line between what society has determined to be “language” has become a recognizable divide in the autistic community. Making “typical” societal discussion between the autistic and the non-autistic creates a divide between interactions of the two groups, without having to learn a new way of speaking.

            In terms of disability, the conversation has always been led by the nondisabled. In the autistic community in particular, advocates and activists with this diagnosis have begun to speak about the current language barriers between those with and without autism, which creates a clear dichotomy between the two communities. This divide, however, could be closed and mended, if the non-autistic community could seek to listen, and truly seek to understand the autistic counterparts, instead of just assuming that their “language” is universal.

Word count 1008

I pledge that I neither gave nor received unauthorized help on this assignment.