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ERIC Number: EJ926239
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-May
Pages: 13
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 17
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0994
Autism and Rhetoric
Heilker, Paul; Yergeau, Melanie
College English, v73 n5 p485-497 May 2011
Autism is a profoundly rhetorical phenomenon. And all--parents, educators, caregivers, policymakers, the public, and autistic people themselves--would be significantly empowered to understand and respond to it as such. In the continuing absence of stable scientific or medical knowledge about autism, one needs to shine a bright and insistent light on how brazenly rhetorical any utterance, especially any highly visible utterance, about autism really is--and, equally important, on how rhetorical any silence about neurotypicality really is. There is an enormous amount of work to be done on this front for anyone interested in rhetoric, public discourse, or medical rhetoric. In this article, the authors contend that autism itself is a rhetoric, a way of being in the world through language, a rhetoric one may not have encountered or recognized frequently in the past nor value highly in academic contexts. If autism is a rhetoric, then people are beholden to respond to it with cultural sensitivity, ethical care, and pedagogical complexity. And if autism is a rhetoric and autistics are minority rhetors, English faculty already possess all the tools and experience they will need to do exactly that. By understanding the verbal and nonverbal manifestations of autism as a rhetorical imperative--a perspective that involves applying Krista Ratcliffe's concept of rhetorical listening--scholars can do much to dissolve the idea of otherness that appears in discussions of this topic.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A