New Disability Studies Quarterly Advances Our Understanding of Neurodiversity



A special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly entitled: "Autism and the Concept of Neurodiversity" just went live. It can be accessed at:

One useful way to think of Neurodiversity is to imagine that people with profound communication disabilities are as rich in talent as any other arbitrary slice of the population—you may take any pie wedge of socio-economic, ethnic, gendered, or vocational aspirants and find unassailable and often previously undiscovered brilliance; the story is familiar, Chekovian, Dickensian…

Narratives of discovered intelligence have been cherished by writers and readers since Mesopotamia. Yet even scholars and writers who think engagingly about disability have been in some instances slow to recognize that many people with autism (for example) are indeed exceptional and that by turns their ways forward are often blocked by acculturated misconceptions about their respective intellectual gifts. 

In recent years several important books have helped change these misconceptions, books like A Mind Apart by Susanne Antonetta; Making Autism a Gift by Robert Evert Cimera; and Reasonable People by Ralph James Savarese. And there are many more.

The latest issue of Disability Studies Quarterly, the official journal of the Society for Disability Studies or SDS brings together literary and scholarly advocates from the neurodiversity movement in what is surely a groundbreaking collection of papers, and personal essays—many of the pieces are in richly hybrid forms that reflect the varied complexities and yes, potentialities of neuro-atypical mentation.  

As a poet and memoirist with a disability I am particularly admiring of Ari Ne’eman’s essay:  “The Future (and the Past) of Autism Advocacy, Or Why the ASA’s Magazine, The Advocate, Wouldn’t Publish This Piece”.  But there are many riches here including: “Up in the Clouds and Down in the Valley: My Richness and Yours” by Amanda Baggs; “More Than a Thing to Ignore: An Interview with Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay” by Ralph James Savarese (who co-edited the issue with Emily Thornton Savarese); “Science Fictions: Figuring Autism as Threat and Mystery in Medico-Therapeutic Literature” by Bill Rocque; “Rethinking Autism: Implications of Sensory and Movement Differences” by Anne M. Donnellan, David A. Hill, and Martha R. Leary.

But there is more, so much more. Take a look at: “Neurodiversity, Quality of Life, and Autistic Adults: Shifting Research and Professional Focuses onto Real-Life Challenges” by Scott Michael Robinson and the remarkable poetry of Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay.

It will still remain a challenge for certain academic circles to admit that our neo-Victorian views of language and language processing are worn out.

This issue of DSQ takes a long stride for our collective intellectual enterprise.





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