Today, my professor showed us a lot of materials that can be used to teach autistic kids. One of these materials was the book “All Cats have Aspergers.” I remember I saw the book when I was student teaching at an elementary school. At that time, I chuckled at the title and thought, “It’s true.”
But now, it’s different. I no longer chuckle and think, “It’s true,” I cringe and think, “Seriously, again?” What am I referring to with the again? Melanie Yergeau presented on this idea at the 2015 Computers and Writing Conference: many of the rhetorical moves that psychological theories and studies on autism have done since its inception as a disorder have been to either 1) equate autistic people with robots or 2) equate autistic people with animals.
The title of this book makes me cringe because it is another example where autistic people, specifically the (now non-existent according to the DSM-V) sub-population of autistics known as aspergians, are equated with an animal (Wow, that middle is long). If all cats have aspergers, then anyone who has aspergers shares traits with a cat. Yet again, it’s a dehumanizing enthymeme specifically aimed at autistic people. I’m really starting to get sick of these dehumanizing enthymemes because they show up in a crapload of places.
Not only that, but this next part is just as problematic for me: it participates in the erasure of autistic women. The asperger child is only referred in the entire book with the gender pronoun, “He.” Now, I get it, most diagnoses of autism are in males, but really? To write this with a masculine pronoun makes it for a male audience. Not only that, but many parents, teachers, peers, and other people read this and may think that autism doesn’t happen in females.
I would like to talk more about that, but I’m tired so…yeah