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

Karlie Jahn’s Final Paper

Karlie Jahn

3 May 2021

ENGL: Disabilities and Literature

Dr. Foss


Of Mice and Men is one of the books in this semester that the main character is somehow mentally disabled, but due to the year, the book came out his disability was not labeled as autism. Lennie was rather seen as a character with multiple mental irregularities in how he acted versus the rest of the characters. Multiple traits could be from autism or another mental disability, but due to many of the traits Lennie had, it seems more likely that he has autism. These traits ranged from things like how he would stim, would hyper-focus on some details and ignore others, and asking things just to hear the answer he already knows. Due to the qualities that Lennie has in this book, it seems that he has autism, and the time the book was published is the reason he did not have an absolute diagnosis. 

One of the traits that Lennie does the most as a way of comforting himself is asking George to tell him about the rabbits and the farm. This is an autistic trait of hyper-focusing on one thing and ignoring everything else. Lennie is so fixated on this one dream that it seems to be the only thing keeping him going and working hard. After being told this dream of having the farm he seems to only care about it and is fixated with the thought. He keeps this mentality of everything that is happening is for the farm until the end when he is killed.

One of the most obvious autistic traits of Lennie is the way he seeks out the feeling of soft things. From the dress of silk to the soft puppies. He would seek out things that were soft to play with and touch, even if it was gross, like the dead mouse in his pocket. It is an autistic trait to try and feel comfortable or soft materials. Something like a soft blanket or in Lennie’s case an animal or person’s dress. The sensation of just something soft is comforting and a lot of autistic people enjoy the feeling of soft materials. 

Another trait of Lennie’s that is linked to autism is how he would remember the entire story that George would tell him about the farm and yet he would ask about it over and over again. There is a specific quote from the book about Lennie asking George to tell the story about how the farm will look and run, but Lennie keeps interrupting George to prompt him to tell the next part. This leads to George asking Lennie if he just wants to tell the story himself. Lennie just wants to hear the story from Georgie’s mouth. He asks again and again because he wants to hear the same answer, in the same way, every time. It is a sort of comforting thing to hear the same answer every time a question is asked. It’s reliable and gives Lennie a sense that things are not changing, that everything is the same as it was the last time.

Another trait of Lennie’s that could be linked to autism is how Lennie remembers specific things, but other things are gone from his memory within minutes. Like how he remembers the entire story of how the farm will be run and how they will be able to get the farm to be theirs, but tasks that George asks him to do are gone from his memory in a matter of minutes. He does not have a selective memory but rather he is not fixated on them so they are not as important. One of the most heartbreaking items he can relay word for word aside from the dream that he and Geroge have is how George tells him that he would be better without him. Lennie can stop George and continue what he was going to say about how things would be easier for George if Lennie was still with his family instead of being with George. 

One of the best-described items that seemed to be added in without thought of what that says for Lennie’s character is how he stims. There are a couple of different types of stimming he does. There is a physical one where he moves his hands in excitement or the rubbing on the mouse in his pocket to try and calm himself down. Then there is when he would ask George to tell about the farm and he would stim through George talking about that and his excitement was apparent. This is a trait of a lot of different disabilities, but the most likely given the other traits is autism. 

The last trait can be put under many different disabilities just like stimming, but this one is how he does not seem to have control over his body. There are obvious times when this happened like when he was too strong and killed the puppies and the mouse. When Curley’s wife is killed it is because Lennie was touching her too much, but he was enjoying the feeling of her hair and dress. He did not want to let go which ended with him being too strong and breaking her neck. The lack of body control is not always one that is hand in hand with autism, but like stimming, it makes the most sense with his traits and character as a whole. 

Lennie’s character is believed to be autistic, but at the time that the book was published in 1937 autism was still not a diagnosable disability. Autism was only made into an actual diagnosable disability in 1943, so the character may have not been labeled as autistic, but I believe that he is from his description. His character exhibits some very classic traits for autism, and because of that, I believe he was written in the likeness of an autistic person in the time before autism was diagnosable. Lennie is a character that everyone in some way is able to relate to no matter what disability they have.

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

Word Count: 1,006

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.

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 Paper/Project Write-Up

            There is this restrictive ideology that those who are disabled, whether physically and/or mentally, are incapable of obtaining an ideal future for themselves. This mentality often robs the disabled community of many opportunities for them to follow and succeed in their aspirations. However, it does not completely prevent the many different communities of those with disabilities from achieving their dreams. For this assignment, I focused on the members of the autistic community. My goal was to create digital art posters depicting people on the autism spectrum who are leading active and successful lives whose contributions have enriched society. I hope to further convey to those who view these caricatures that the neurodiverse community are capable of so much than the limiting predetermined futures of “pain, isolation, and bitterness” that the neurotypical majority predicts (Kafer 2).

All the steps leading up to the final results were integral to the authenticity and significance of getting this message across. The first part of the process required research of famous autists. I expanded the field to throughout history, countries, and occupations. Finding autistics in the past turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Autism did not become a term until the early 1900s, so while there were many examples of prominent figures who have done extraordinary things in their lifetimes and that were speculated to be on the spectrum, I could not choose them as a focus on any of the posters since there is no way of officially diagnosing them. Even after the 1900s, where diagnosis of autism and access of information about it became more readily available to the public, I also could not pick those who self-diagnosed themselves. Unless they were officially diagnosed by a credible medical professional, I could not consider them for this project as a viable representation of those with autism “leading an engaging and satisfying life” (Kafer 2). After much research, I decided to illustrate Temple Grandin, Satoshi Tajiri, and Greta Thunberg. Once I had decided on who my muses would be, the next step of the process was to examine various photos of them to give me a few ideas for their sketches. I would then draw a few rough sketches that depicted them, and other props related to their respective professions. When I was satisfied with the concepts, I would then create the final sketches to be used as references for the digital drawings. Each of these individuals featured on the posters come from different places around the world and have unique jobs. Temple Grandin is a “professor of animal science” from Boston, Maryland who has reformed the methods conducted at slaughterhouses to make them more humane to the treatment of cattle (UMSL). Satoshi Tajiri, from Tokyo, Japan, transformed his hobby of bug collecting into the beloved world of Pokémon that continues to evolve and bring joy to all ages. Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist from Sweden, confronted the world leaders at the United Nations about climate change and the dire need for action against it.

            The significance of the final results of this project is that it removes autism from the “medical framework” that disability is often boxed into with this idea that whatever the impairment is must be cured or a “problem” that has “to be eradicated” (Kafer 9). Instead, the posters highlight the autists’ achievements within the frameworks of politics and social involvement. These posters are my counter-argument to those who are neurotypical and think that people on the autism spectrum have nothing but these “grim imagined futures” of being “abandon[ed]” by friends and family, “drug addiction,” and “suicide” (Kafer 1-2). People with autism are more than capable of making a lasting positive impact in society as well as leading their best lives.

Works Cited

Kafer. “Imagined Futures.” pp. 1–24.

Temple Grandin,