Teaching disability studies

Yay, a post! I miss writing in this blog. Hello, blog.

I figure that a good post-hiatus post might involve what I’ve been up to lately that is non-dissertation — that is, teaching. This past quarter, I taught an undergraduate section of Intro to Disability Studies, the second time I’ve taught this course. And in the fall I’m teaching a special topics in literature course called Authoring Autism. I kind of figure that folks who read my blog will have a lot to say about the autism class in particular.

My course poster for Authoring Autism. The top portion reads, "What do these authors have in common?" Beneath the text are photos of Emily Dickinson, George Orwell, and William Butler Yeats. The text beneath the images reads, "Retrodiagnosis. Some PhD thinks they might have been autistic."

Above is an image of my course flyer — I’ve been posting these across campus. I decided on going the “famous people who might have been autistic” route not because I like to retrodiagnose dead people (I loathe doing that, actually), but because 1) retrodiagnosis is one among many topics I’d like my students to critically engage this fall, and 2) I was hoping to attract students, especially from the humanities, to my class. Class enrollment is up to 18 people, which is pretty good for a special topics course. < /explanation>

I’ve drafted a syllabus for the course, which you can find here in PDF format. I’d like to emphasize that it’s a rough draft, and I’m already making changes in the assignments, schedule, and readings (i.e., I’m adding in materials from the neurodiversity special issue of DSQ, giving students more memoirs to choose from, figuring out potential guest speakers, etc.). I’ve also included my course description behind the cut — at root, this is a course that considers how autism and autistic people are represented across media.

I am, however, open to suggestions. Ohio State terms run 10 weeks in length, so we’re limited with our time. But I’d very much like to find out what others in the blogosphere would like to see in a class like this.

Continue reading Teaching disability studies

Library-ing on New Year’s Eve

I have to admit something that is perhaps a rather shameful thing for a self-professed bibliophile to admit: I don’t like libraries. Or, perhaps I should phrase that as I dislike going to the library. It’s been a lifelong process — getting me to go to libraries (and stay in them longer than five minutes). Though certainly not to the same extent as, say, frat parties, libraries involve wrangling with a bunch of social norms. And I’ve never been one for social wrangling.

Perhaps the one thing I like most about Ohio State is that I’ve rarely had to physically stay in a library while here. I’ve been able to search for and reserve books online. I simply dart into the science and engineering library, grab the book I’ve digitally reserved, and dart out. Very little interpersonal interaction involved.

Libraries, at least at the educational institutions I’ve attended, have always involved lots of people and lots of distractions. And though reading rooms tend to be quieter than cafes or street corners, the silences are overwhelmed with noise — pages turning, clocks ticking, coughs languishing, air circulating — and the visual stillness is overwhelmed with eyes and other unreadable body parts.

Nonverbals abound in libraries. Nonverbals and I don’t always get along.

Upon learning that 1) the library was open today and 2) hardly anyone was there, I ventured out. I managed to stay for nearly three hours, probably a record of some sort for me. I went there to work on my dissertation prospectus, which is ending up a multimedia project. Instead of sifting through book-like things, I had aimed to record photos, video, and ambient noises. Eventually, I located a suitably lonely table, turned around, and found myself parked in front of several rows of the Journal of Mental Deficiency Research. (Which was right near Autism, the journal.)

I defaced some scholarly journals with post-it notes.

Journal of Mental Deficiency Research [with a post-it that says "pathology (to the max)]
Journal of Mental Deficiency Research [with a post-it that says “pathology (to the max)]

Pink notecard stuck into the stacks reads ENTRY INTO THE DOMAIN OF SYMBOLS
In one of the ‘enlightening’ (gag) Autism articles, an author mused about an autistic child’s ‘entry into the domain of symbols’ (aka non-echolalic speech). I went notecard-happy on several cognitive studies/psychology periodicals. DX that, symbol arbiters.
A bandaid sits against a book titled AUTISM.
This collection was in dire need of some pathologically ineffectual charity. And I had no shortage of bandaids.
A notecard bearing the words TRUE LANGUAGE sits in a recycling bin
Recycling that tired idea of there being one “true language.” Because goodness knows that what autistic kids/adults have isn’t language, isn’t even symbolic.
The words TRY HARDER painted on a stair
Try harder: Advice for researchers everywhere, myself included.

Protesting Autism Speaks

A delayed post on my end, but I have my candidacy exams as an excuse. (I’ve completed the written portion, and I move onto the oral this Thursday, yikes.)

On October 11, I helped to lead an ASAN protest against the Autism Speaks walk at Ohio State’s campus. As I now have the benefit of being three weeks removed from the protest — as well as reading/hearing/seeing reports of other ASAN-led protests across the country — I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’d certainly never organized a protest before — and I’d only attended my first protest this past June, which was a disability rights protest against Ohio’s proposal to cut funding for community supports (and Ohio’s proposal to increase funding for nursing homes, ack). In June, I took notes about chanting and marching, and the chorus of Our homes, not nursing homes! is still present in my brain. (We were loud. And we were quickly hoarse.)

I suppose, on some level, I feel perpetually frustrated here at Ohio State. Our protest didn’t receive media coverage, which was a disappointment — though, to be honest, I’m not the sort of person who likes to be noticed, per se. (I’m not media material. I’m quiet-and-behind-the-scenes material.) But I also suppose the good news is that, really, Columbus’s Walk Now for Autism hardly received any media coverage itself. There was a quick spot on NBC4 (which was to be expected, given that one of their anchors has an autistic son and the station itself co-sponsored the walk), as well as a photo slideshow on The Dispatch website (the Columbus newspaper). Though my search for pro-Autism Speaks media coverage wasn’t entirely exhaustive, I doubt there was any other coverage (at least any other coverage of note). I taped all the news shows that evening, and no one else mentioned the walk. NBC4 seemed to monopolize it.

But back to the frustration: On campus, Autism Speaks seems to be everywhere. And it’s partly a matter of manpower and resources — they’ve got more than we do. By far. And our university president keeps uncritically singing their praises (to the point where we’ve drafted a petition and plan on standing on a street corner and asking passersby for signatures). I tire of seeing their flyers daily — flyers that variously portray autism as an epidemic, a puzzle, a burden on taxpayers, a fate worse than a combination of fatal situations. And I grow even angrier when I see flyers that read Got questions about autism? We’ve got answers!

Dear god. My colleagues, students, and professors might go to these people for answers?

I also love (not) how some of their past campus fundraisers have included things like Mary Kay parties, sorority cookouts at midnight, or shop-a-thons. Their events sound so autistic-unfriendly that, if it weren’t so egregious, I’d find it utterly hilarious.

I’ll end this post with photos. Several of these photos have circulated the blogosphere by now, so I’ll try and post those that weren’t featured (that I know of) in other blogs. The protest was very successful: nineteen people braved the throngs of “puzzled” walkers. We endured angry honks, middle fingers, haughty walking mothers, and entitled white men yelling, “You’re a bunch of f—ing idiots!” But we also had productive conversations with parents, and we were even thanked by autistic people who had been dragged to the walk.

This is me holding a sign reading Autism Speaks does not speak for me
This is me holding a sign reading “Autism Speaks does not speak for me”
Tim Jensen holds an orange sign that reads “Nothing about us without us”; Chris Lindemann holds flyers; Kate Comer holds a sign that reads “Diverse NOT Diseased”; and Jonathan Buehl holds a yellow sign that reads “Nothing about us without us”
Jonathan Buehl; Brenda Brueggemann with a sign that reads “Disability Rights”; me with a sign that reads “I can speak 4 myself”; Jason Smith with a sign that reads “First class autistic, second class citizen”; Justin Rooney with a sign that reads “Nothing about us without us”