Correct citation: Werner E, Dawson G. Validation of the phenomenon of autistic regression using home videotapes. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Aug;62(8):889-95.
This piece investigates "typical autism essays" and their rhetorical commonplaces, their largely neurotypical discourse conventions. In the field of rhetoric and composition, circular metaphors in discourse community theory resemble popular representations of autism as a low-functioning/high-functioning binary. Each field-specific conversation attempts to define groups of people (student writers, autistics) as though there are hard and fast boundaries to one's identity. I posit that typical autism essays obscure issues of power as well as their neurotypically-defined genre conventions, effectively denying autistic self-advocates a place in the conversations that concern them.
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The typical autism essay guesses. A lot. Lately, a well-meaning former professor has been forwarding me columns and comments about autism spectrum disorders that have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. One common CHE motif is the "I think my colleague and/or student has ASD" commentary: professors, as with Jurecic, have taken on the role of diagnostician, guessing that someone is autistic because he's a jerk, or because he sends a lot of emails, or because he doesn't like to change the copier toner since it breaks his routine, or because he quite literally lives in his office in lieu of an apartment (Brottman; "Eccentric Academics"). (And to think — all this time I've believed that the DSM IV was the diagnostic authority on ASD.) The Inside Higher Ed piece "My Semester With an Asperger Syndrome Student" also follows a guesswork motif, similar to the CHE advice columns and Jurecic's diagnosis, and it recounts a postulated aspie's behavior week by week. Like those who seek to remove autism diagnoses from the so-called aspies and HF auties, these professors and employers and colleagues use the autism label as a label of power, however unconsciously and well-intentioned. So enwrapped in autism discourse are they that they name and claim (or refuse) autism for others — something, anything, to legitimize their agendas or their pedagogy or their suffering or their copiers.