Art and Disability: The Social and Political Struggles by Alice J. Wexler (auth.)

By Alice J. Wexler (auth.)

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What did Elly want enough to meet any conditions for getting it? Not a cookie, not a toy, not a ride in the car . . When a creature is without desires the outside world has no lever by which to tempt it into motion” (p. 45). Researchers describe autistic mind blindness as seeing with the retina without registering meaning. Under normal circumstances, our brain works in cooperation with our eyes to give shape to the world. We know that most of what we see is processed through the visual cortex, which means that what we see is a memory of what we have seen before, or our brain’s interpretation.

The Parks invented songs for every situation: riding in a car, going for a walk, and by four years old, she was connecting songs with images. For the song “Ring around a Rosy” Jessy found a picture of children in a ring, a garland of f lowers, and an unadorned circle. The song became a symbol for “circle” and all the ideas associated with it. Soon the song, “Happy Birthday” equaled cake, and “Rockaby Baby” translated into rocking motion. She sang not for pleasure or musicality, but for the function it served.

P. 18) To be a neural being is to categorize; without this ability we cannot survive. Categories help us to make social judgments about people, often instantaneously based on prior experience in other contexts. Thus, social conventions arise from our biological ability to categorize and generalize experience. How do we account for individuals whose neural wiring diverges in such a way that prohibits categorization? I find to be true Sacks’s belief that the uniqueness of the human spirit deserves biographies rather than case studies.

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