“The Right to an Education”, Article Typed by Non-Verbal Autistic Piano Student with Dyspraxia



Article typed by Nicolas Joncour, Piano Student

[First appeared in ZOOM Autism Through Many Lenses magazine, Issue 9, p. 20]

A decent life in France is practically impossible for an autistic student, especially if you are nonverbal like me. In special schools there is no real education, and the psychiatric hospital remains the norm. As my mother encounters more and more difficulties to enroll me in a normal school, the only solution to an equal opportunity is maybe to leave France. I want to go to university to study the Holocaust as people with disabilities are still destined to horrific fates.

My hope is to study history and the Holocaust, a subject that has intrigued me for almost six years. Specifically, Operation T4, which is the eradication of the people with disabilities by the Nazis. Perhaps the Holocaust interests me because I feel the discrimination in relation to my disability. The eyes of others are like deportation camps without return for me.

Without my mother I would likely be in a psychiatric hospital. The right to education definitely remains the domain of utopia. The more I grow, the more I realize I do not have my place in society. I have to fight to deserve to dream. My disability, autism and dyspraxia, makes me look like a mentally-challenged person. People talk to me as if I am a small child, and they watch my gestures as if I am a monster.

The reality is that all their looks are like the slam of a cattle wagon door. My connections towards the victims of Operation T4 are very strong, and my reality joins their fatal destiny. I have faith that helps me, and God gives me so much love that I do not feel alone. I think I have the right to denounce my condition and my social discrimination as long as I would suffer of it. The right to a dignified life is my fight, and I recently joined the ENIL Youth Network to create change. Nonverbal autistic people demand recognition of their right to a real education.

My life would be rather simple if people would consider me as a person rather than a thing to eradicate. I want my intelligence to be recognized without having to meet the low expectations of people who doubt me. The peculiarity of my disability is that I understand very well what kind of people I have to deal with. The inability to defend myself makes me vulnerable to all attacks. Not being able to express oneself orally is a very hard way to live.

People do not consider my written prose without doubt. Not even my relatives who do not understand autism. To be recognized, mentalities must change, and the way we move, having no eye contact and no speech, shouldn’t exclude us from living a fulfilled life. For this to happen, we need the right to education, an education which mustn’t be negotiable and should be accessible to all.

Nicolas Joncour is a 16-year-old nonverbal autis­tic student who types. He lives in France and is homeschooled and in mainstream school for a few hours per week.

Follow him on Facebook and visit his blog.

Tabloid Sensationalism as Barrier to Autism Acceptance

Tabloid Sensationalism as Barrier to Autism Acceptance

Tabloid Sensationalism as Barrier to Autism Acceptance

There are two primary ways that the autistic community is able to attract the attention of the public. Most preferred is the inspiration porn videos and articles that sensationalize a task only because the person doing it is disabled. The second is the sensationalism of accomplished autistic people who appear in the media as public figures in positions of power.

A general feature of the autism diagnosis is a discomfort with adapting to unpredictable social expectations associated with the spotlight. Thus the opportunity to be a public representative of the autistic community produces a circumstance laden with difficulty. The advocate in the public spotlight becomes consumed with simply navigating the unscripted interaction at hand. In that predicament, the advocate is in no place to speak on behalf of all autistic people.

The movement towards autism acceptance is painfully slow, very unlike the significant attitude shifts and changes effected by transgender advocacy. Both movements are fraught with controversy and outright shaming; significant harm stems from a societal discomfort with the concept of neurological and physiological differences. In the case of the transgender movement, when the cultural conversation is fixated on the bodies that trans people have, it causes the challenges that trans people face to go unaddressed. Like trans people, autistic public figures rarely get to share the complexity of their authentic life experience. In the public eye, the fixation on the behaviors that make them different, takes center stage.

An ordinary autistic person’s difficulty with navigating the grocery store or the classroom is not regarded as newsworthy and is thus silenced by the focus on an overarching pathology. Topics that are not inspiration porny enough are sidelined because the protagonists fails to magnify their atypicalities and make them the sole focus their message.  The public interest in intriguing differences augments the deviance which directly contributes to how the difference becomes highly vilified in the media.

Transgender activist Laverne Cox has said, “by focusing on bodies, we don’t focus on the lived realities of that oppression and discrimination.” Societal objectification contributes to further disempowerment of some already-vulnerable groups in society. In any population, lack of acceptance leads to sadness, isolation, devastation, and pennilessness. This mistreatment creates a learned helplessness, and the despondent person become consumed with getting through their day rather than burdening themselves with public advocacy.  

When the unaccepted differences take center stage, the focus shifts away from the collective harms imposed by society onto a given group. After all, the only disabling condition is the human one. We need to embrace a more relevant neurodiversity-friendly and fully inclusive, non-spoken paradigm for demonstrating autistic pride.  This will involve paying attention to different forms of media that make heard the voices of autistic people who would not otherwise be comfortable with the demands of public-figure sensationalism.