Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



Charting Autistic Voices began as a quest in my university library. I wanted to know when and where autism originated as a diagnosis, and how it came to name other people and myself as autistic.

I came away with questions, the main one: how do autistic voices write back; reclaim autism and embody it? And how is this at odds with our silence when autism is named in a clinical sense?

What I found is that we inhabit a space in texts that is expansive, visual, and rich, especially when we write out of silence and gesture; when we push back from the margins.

I looked for ways to understand how autistic voices inhabit text, gravitating toward poetry, where silence and gesture wield power through imagery and polyvocality. I looked for where silence and movement were at odds with normative spaces.

I wrote from a space as an autistic voice of color, and sought to find other spaces in texts those other autistic voices of color inhabited. I examined the intersections of marginalized identities, including race, queerness, and disability, to parse the expansiveness of autism and reclaiming autism from the rest.

I found the first autistic voices in Leo Kanner’s original article introducing autism into psychiatry in the 1940s, and put these voices in conversation with the wider, contemporary space of disability poetics; the figurings of racialized autistic bodies occupying history (Avonte Oquendo, Thomas Wiggins, Kamala and Amala) in contemporary poetry and journalistic texts; other autistic poets writing from an autobiographical perspective; poet-parents gazing at autism from a distance; and my own.

Charting Autistic Voices imagines an autism poetics pushing back against erasure to reclaim and inhabit the body, silence, loss, and remap the seeming un-placeability of autistic voices in texts.

I explore silence as a form of communication, language employed by and around autistic speakers often rooted in imagery to chart new, alternate landscapes not confined to the periphery. I illuminate space where autistic voices exist and interact with and disrupt a normative space formed by the medicalized discourse encasing autism as a diagnostic label and intersecting oppressions inherent to neocolonial landscapes.

Level of Honors

summa cum laude




Melissa Range

Available for download on Monday, June 14, 2027