Stitches (Part 2)

Life ‘with’ autism becomes life, death, almost living, mostly dead.
Why must I always cherish symptoms and meaning?

Autism advocacy that narrates autism as some ‘thing’ that is ‘in’ and not ‘of’ some people functions to shape life as having autism as (one of) its condition(s).

As autism is made (and kept) separate from life itself, and as living people’s bodies are split into vital and nonvital parts, life ‘with’ (the condition of) autism becomes life along a vital spectrum […] that inaugurates new, possible categories of life (and death): ‘almost living’ as well as ‘mostly dead’; […] a necessary precognition for acts of violence that are normalized as necessary.

Anne McGuire

Ways in which diagnosis is useful […] It extends the reach of genocide and saves lives.

Eli Clare

Symptoms only take us so far.

My hands create and transform space as much as they occupy it. […] Sometimes I am the only person who knows what my hands are meaning. Sometimes even I don’t know what my hands mean – but why must I always cherish or privilege meaning?

Melanie Yergeau


Stitches (Part 1)

Mental disability always leaves something behind.
And, in leaving something behind, mental disability takes over.

A diagnosis does not add information. Rather, it removes information.

A diagnosis reveals a hidden entity.

The entity turns into a named actor, and the diagnosed symptoms dissolve into signs of its presence.

Out of context; Monika Dos Santos, Jean-François Pelletier, John Mirowski, Catherine E. Ross

Stories often make neurodivergent people without stories. In those stories, neurodivergence is residual.

When I invoke the term residual, I mean to suggest that mental disability always leaves something behind. And, in leaving something behind, mental disability takes over.

When one is schizophrenic, for example, she does things without meaning to: schizophrenia causes the person to act. She does things not because she did them but because the schizophrenia made her. The schizophrenic person doesn’t do anything, or whatever she does is because of the schizophrenia.

Whatever is mental disability – whether schizophrenia, autism, depression, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and bipolar is mental disability – mental disability means doing things without meaning to. Mental disability decides things more than mentally disabled people.

Stories about neurodivergent people are often stories of being without stories. We are made to believe that who we are is not really someone because disability forever stops us from really being someone.

Based on writings by Melanie Yergeau



[…] health is frequently presented as an absence of symptoms. No more soaring mania, no more blood, no more voices  […] So many of us would rather soar and crash like Icarus than crawl the face of the earth like insects. What we crave is the wildness and the depth without the agony and destruction.

Out of context, Sarah K Reece


… I still do hate meltdowns. […] Meltdowns are hard, messy, frightening.

I still want to avoid having meltdowns. […] But I vow to honor and respect my meltdowns.

Meltdowns teach me what is too much for me and what my body can handle. […] Meltdowns teach me how to take care of myself.

Max Sparrow


part of living well as a person with a disability is accepting the body and the brain that you have, and working with it rather than against it.

Because you can’t live in an imaginary body; you can’t live in an abstraction. You have to live your own life, as you actually are. […] You can’t willpower yourself into being someone else.

part of living well as a person with a disability is accepting the body and the brain that you have […]

Even if the therapy helped you. Even if you gained new […] abilities. Even if you learned things from it you wouldn’t have learned without it. […]

You have to live your own life, as you actually are. And sometimes that involves medical treatment, sometimes it involves equipment, sometimes it involved therapy – but always, it involves reality.

Ruti Regan




In Yergeau’s text, the autistic or neuroqueer subject is also perpetually out of sync – developing at a supposedly delayed rate; moving through the world in inscrutable ways; exhibiting a sociality that does not satisfy non-autistics; potentially being already out of time for redemption.

Crucially, being out of step with the idealized tempo situates autistic individuals under the surveillance of parents, physicians, employers, policymakers, and educators, who conceive of autistic bodies as perpetually requiring intervention by allistic others.

Yergeau writes that “regardless of degree, low-functioning and high-functioning bodies are effectually nonfunctioning bodies,” such that “no autistic person is ever high functioning enough, much like no autistic person is ever low-functioning enough.”

Heather Thomas


Functioning means “how well you do”. It is not an answer, it is a line of questions. How well you do what? How well you do when? How well you do in which circumstances, in which environments, with which people? Who decides what well means? Who decides which doing matters and which doesn’t? How do you measure well? Who do you measure against? Why are you measuring at all?

Why do you need to know?

Functioning is not a word. It’s not a sentence. It’s not even a paragraph. Functioning requires a lifetime of context, it requires testing and experimenting, it requires caveats and exceptions and constant amending. Functioning is not something you can capture in a single phrase.