In his essay “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence,” Robert McRuer (2002) wrote, “If anything, the emphasis on identities that are constituted through repetitive performances is even more central to compulsory able-bodiedness—think, after all, how many institutions in our culture are showcases for able-bodied performance” (93). Immediately after reading this quote, I perseverate on the word repetition**—because that is how I learn; that is how I’ve been authored to believe that I learn; that is how I am authored into passing.
Supposedly, autistics learn by rote and repetition; they quickly pick up on patterns and are also keen to notice small, detailed differences between situations. This second part—the small, detailed differences between situations—can prove “problematic” in that autistics aren’t always able to view “similar” situations as being “similar,” because they pick up on minute variations. As a result, they aren’t always able to apply old knowledge to new situations—and this can result in scary things happening in f2f situations (as well as writing situations). This detail-seeking behavior has been authored, ritualistically, into rhetorics of deficit rather than strength.
At the 2008 Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs Conference, Temple Grandin, an autistic professor and author, called for teachers to focus on the positives of autistic students rather than the negatives. Grandin continually emphasized that “eccentric” is OK, that not everyone should be “plain vanilla,” that autism is variable, that no one on the spectrum is of a cookie-cutter mold. The only way to help insure success of those on the spectrum, she argued, is to drill social skills into them at a very early age and in very specific ways.
Lather, rinse, repeat.