English, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 7-27-2012


Olivas, Bernice . "What I Mean when I Say Autism: Re-thinking the Roles of Language and Literacy in Autism Discourse ." MA thesis, University of Nebraska, 2012.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirement For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Robert Brooke. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Bernice Maisy Olivas


Literacy studies are deeply intertwined with issues of identity. Olivas explores the ways that public discourses of autism have constructed an autism “Identity kit,” as defined by James Paul Gee, which harms autistic students and communities more than it helps. This is particularly true for adult autistics. Considering the growing presence of the autistic learner in the composition classroom, it is important to understand how public discourse influences classroom dynamics. Drawing heavily on her own experience as the mother of autistic sons and on Melanie Yergeau’s “Circle Wars: Reshaping the Typical Autism Essay,” Olivas explores how her children have been affected by public discourse and how her own identity as both a member of the autistic community and a teacher of composition has shaped her views on that discourse.

Advisor: Robert Brooke