Thesis Proposal: Part VII – Proposal 3 from Abstract 4

From abstract 4, I finally realized that what I was writing could be separated into the paragraphs he was asking me to write.  So, here is proposal attempt 3 that was written using the abstract.

However, it was only the introduction.  I didn’t want to move on until the introduction was written.


The subject of my thesis is that the assumption that ableistic science is true leads to ableistic 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 is a prime candidate for such a rhetorical analysis.  A preliminary study of Autism Speaks reveals what they really advocate for: the eradication of autism.  By using Latour’s concept of the Black-Box combined with Burke’s Terministic Screens, I will trace Autism Speaks back to its ideological roots.  I will show that Autism Speaks is the output of Theory of Mind; Theory of Mind is the output of Autism; Autism is the output of Otherness; and Otherness is the output of a different way of being in the world. The terministic screen used to create the output is ableistic science, or the pathologization of the Other.

This leads us to the following conclusion: ableistic science leads to ableistic advocacy (AS).  This leads to Autism Speaks 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 and embracing what Heilker and Yergeau call “a different way of being in the world through language.”

Drawing from disability studies and the rhetorical perspectives on semiotics, terministic screens, and the rhetoric of science, my culminating project is built to answer two primary questions.  First, how does Autism Speaks have the authority to pursue the eradication of autism?  Second, who does Autism Speaks really advocate for?

Accordingly, in this proposal, I explain the initial motivation behind my research; present a methodology that unites 1) Latour’s Black-Box Theory and Burke’s Terministic Screens and 2) disability studies with rhetoric of science, and apply these new frameworks to the genesis of Autism Speaks and Theory of Mind research respectively; analyze findings from a preliminary study of the Autism Speaks website; provide a rationale and overview of the full study; and describe the larger societal implications and significance of this project.




First methodology – Latour’s Black-Box and Burke’s Terministic Screen


Second Methodology – Disability Studies and Rhetoric of Science


Preliminary Study


Rationale & Overview (How to expand on what I’ve done so far)


Societal Implications and Significance of this project


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