I’m quickly getting to the point in the capstone paper in which I will have no choice but to go read Autism Speaks’s website. And a bunch of other dehumanizing shit about how autistic people can’t talk (or can’t talk meaningfully) so therefore we don’t really exist and non-autistic people need to do all our talking for us.
I am not looking forward to this. I am assembling Team Me and queueing up a bunch of palliative reading, including Jim Sinclair (a nonverbal autistic writer who works as a counselor and writes with boundless empathy and compassion for the position I find myself in, probably because he (a) is also there and (b) is trained as a counselor) and Amy Sequenzia (another nonverbal autistic writer, whose “don’t get sad, get even” approach produces some of the most witty, straightforward, and incisive takedowns of Autism Speaks’s bullshit that I have ever read). But it’s still going to be tough as fuck.
Melanie Yergeau’s seminal paper on autism and rhetorical being, “Clinically Significant Disturbances,” is half academic paper, half hyper-anxious ethnography. I don’t say “hyper-anxious” to disparage it. On the contrary, her palpable anxiety is necessary for Audiences Not Already in a Position to Know to understand what’s at stake when she argues that talk about autism tends to assume that autistic people are fundamentally arhetorical – incapable of understanding audience, impervious to communicative or persuasive attempts, beings without potential or choice or will. Not human.
I get that anxiety. I know what it feels like to be told I’m not a person, that I cannot participate as a being, that I don’t exist, that there is no “I” where I think an “I” exists and that my very belief that “I” exists is itself a solipsistic delusion – that “I” needs to shut up and be a good doormat in order to be permitted its continued survival as an organism (never mind a human, ’cause that’s not gonna happen). That’s the anxiety I have to face this weekend, because I am out of other work to do on this paper.
Team Me, please help.