My thesis explored how autistics use writing to dismantle stereotypes and reclaim authority over their narratives. Autistic stereotypes of emotionless loners rob autistics of the rhetorical agency to be accepted authorities about autism and autistic experiences. These stereotypes are inaccurate, borne out of observing autistics in real time, where challenges with sociocultural norms make them appear un- or anti-social in most interpersonal interactions. When writing, however, divorced from in-person social challenges, autistics are eloquent and articulate about their experiences, demonstrating that autistics can use rhetoric the same way non-autistics do. Most important, their writings suggest that our assumptions about what constitutes rhetorical authority are ill-suited to a time when digital communication makes up a more significant share of our interpersonal interactions.
I am autistic and learned most of what I know about my autism from other autistics through their writings. I wanted to bring these writings to a broader audience and expose non-autistics to real autistic lived experiences.
My professors were wonderful people who were deeply engaged not just in student learning, but in their personal and professional growth, as well.
In February 2020, I was published in the Washington Post for a piece entitled "You Don't Look Autistic" - The reality of high-functioning autism." This piece went viral and is still being discovered anew by more and more people.
Dr. Lourdes Fernandez went above and beyond, being understanding about my autism and invested in my education. She also shepherded me through the thesis process. I'm not sure I could have written my thesis without her!
Don't be afraid to engage with your fellow students in class discussions, even if you don't agree! I learned the most from people who challenged me. It's worth it to do the reading (or at least some of it) and come to class ready to talk about it.
I plan to continue my autism advocacy through writing articles for peer-reviewed journals and the lay press.