THIS IS IT! My introduction to my Thesis Proposal (For now)

As of right now, this is my proposal introduction and I think I am quite pleased with it.  Tomorrow, I am going to work out how I could possibly see my thesis working plot-wise (Because my thesis advisor really wants me to look at my thesis as a story).


The subject of my thesis is how autism advocacy organizations influence the representation, narrative, agency, and identity of autism, and consequently autistic people.

Looking at two autistic advocacy organizations Autism Speaks and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), the language they use seems to influence how the mainstream culture views autism. Language that portrays autism as positive, or even neutral, (i.e. has autism, autism is a gift, etc.) may construct a terministic screen for the audience that directs the audience to view autism as a positive or neutral thing.  Conversely, language that portrays autism as negative (i.e. suffering, afflicted, affected by, etc.) directs the audience to view autism as a negative thing.  Further analysis of Autism Speaks reveals that they represent autism by telling a narrative that leads to the identity of autism being a monster that hijacks autistic people’s ability rendering them useless and in need of other people advocating for them. This process effectively robs autistic people of their agency.  However, ASAN turns this on its head by starting with identity as defined by actually autistic people which challenges Autism Speaks’ attempt to portray the autistic as useless.

Drawing from disability studies and the rhetorical perspectives on semiotics, terministic screens, and the rhetoric of science, my culminating project is built to answer one primary question.  First, what gives Autism Speaks the authority to tell the story of the autistic?

Accordingly, in this proposal, I explain the initial motivation behind my research; analyze findings from a preliminary study of an op-ed piece on Autism Speaks website and the subsequent response to it; provide a rationale and overview of the full study; and describe the larger societal implications and significance of this project.

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