Eggshells

[Image description: a found poem, black text on a white background, made by blanking out pieces of words into text. Accessible transcript link here.]

I made this poem from a transcript of an Autism Speaks video called I Am Autism. It was known for its strange fear-mongering tone, which made autism out to be a disease comparable to cancer or pediatric AIDS, and its focus on the point of view of parents of autistic children rather than actual autistic people. There are a lot of real issues I tried to touch on, from the under-diagnosing of autistic women which denies them resources, to the culture of normalizing ignoring the actual wants and needs of autistic children. But I also wanted to change the fear-mongering and self-righteous tone of the original to something else. My intent was to make this sort of pretty/haunting/disorienting effect.

This poem can be read without any background knowledge, but maybe the most important is that autistic people sometimes used to be thought of as changelings, or fairy children swapped in for stolen human children. This has been reclaimed a lot by autistic adults, including me (hello, if you haven’t figured out I’m on the autism spectrum, that is also pretty important background knowledge). In folklore, cooking in eggshells is said to confuse changelings enough to speak and reveal themselves, so that’s what the title is a reference to.

I didn’t originally mean for this poem to sound vaguely threatening, but I think I wanted to blend real experiences of being forgotten and not having resources with the more ominous “I” statements. I think the point of that was that there is power in I statements. “I live/I hover/I know/I speak”, in asserting existence and taking up space. The repetition of “We are” is also important, because community ties and organizing are vital to efforts to combat ableism. I do think the ominous tone is warranted (the intended effect was something like walking through a forest where you are unwelcome, and trampling over something more important) because the original transcript’s promise to eradicate autism and treat it as a disease rather than listen to actual autistic people gets turned around. You can make videos like this but you literally forgetting us and figuratively forgetting yourself. Why are you here? Why are you in our space? Why are you speaking for us?

Happy Autism Acceptance month.

Original transcript.
Factsheet.
Accessible (screenreader) version.

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