Thesis Proposal: Part VI – Abstract 4

Here’s the next abstract I wrote.  249 words!  The focus of this abstract was to incorporate Black Boxes into the mix.  It also incorporates something that was really powerful at the time (and is still for me now, but it’s not even mentioned really in my proposal, but I think it will in my thesis): ableistic/faulty/fucked-up science leads to ableistic/faulty/fucked-up advocacy.


Yergeau and Heilker state that “every public discourse on autism is begging for rhetorical analysis.”  As the self-described “world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization,” Autism Speaks (AS) is a prime candidate for such a rhetorical analysis.  A preliminary study of AS reveals what they really advocate for: the eradication of autism.  Two questions arise from this finding: (1) how does AS  have the authority to pursue this objective, and (2) who does AS really advocate for?  

To answer these questions, we must trace AS back to its ideological roots.  Using Burke’s Terministic Screens, we can show that AS is the output of autism; autism is the output of Theory of Mind; Theory of Mind is the output of Otherness; and Otherness is the output of a different way of being in the world. Ableistic science, or the pathologization of the Other, is the terministic screen that determines the output in each of these cases and also answers question 1.

This answer combined with what AS’ objective is leads us to the following conclusion: ableistic science leads to ableistic advocacy (AS).  This leads to AS advocating for the parents of autistic children rather than autistic people themselves.  They do this by subjugating the autistic into silence which they then use as further warrant for their pursuit of the eradication of autism.

But autistic self-advocacy organizations are working to depathologize their Otherness by reclaiming what Heilker and Yergeau call “a different way of being in the world through language.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: