Terministic Screens and the Realities they Create

13 Sep



My name is Alexandria Spicer-McQueen and I am a senior graduating in December 2011, studying English at the University of Michigan. My plan for my future when I graduate is to become a journalist for Essence Magazine. I enjoy all forms of art with a deep passion because it’s not just about your craft, but the passion others put into their craft as well. There’s something about watching someone do art that makes me think, “Wow, can you feel that emotion? That is what I live for.” Also, I plan on publishing my book of poetry and continuing to write what I feel because I am art.


Think about Broderick’s essay in the context of Burke. In what ways do her “watershed rhetorical moments” function as terministic screens? That is, what sorts of realities are created by the language of science, the language of parenting, the language of recovery, and so forth? What do these representations of autism allow us to see, and what do these representations prevent us from seeing?


When it comes to relating these two articles, the answer is almost in the question itself. Boderick’s “watershed rhetorical moments” function as a terministic screen. For example Lovaa’s use of the word “recovery.” This acts as a terministic screen because he and what actually exist in terms of recovery by society already define it. “The operational definition of best outcome in the Lovaas (1987) study was defined as participants achieving “normal-range IQ scores and successful first grade performance in public schools” (p. 3) and in society we know or was lead/brought up to believe there’s requirements for being “normal.” Therefore this word “recovery” acts as a terministic screen for “normalcy.”

The realities it creates is for the parents. Parents with children on the autism spectrum desire for their child to have a normal life and more than likely experience the things that having a normal life can give them; to enjoy different discoveries and so forth. Scientific language creates realities in the form of giving parents hope for “recovery” for their child. People are very interested in science when it proves there is a possibility or direct relation to the lives of people. So when science puts out that there may be a chance your autistic child can began to live a normal life with some practice, parents may and will jump to the opportunity.

I believe that these representations of autism can create a sense of hope as well as a false sense of hope. “Recovery” to any parent for their child can be a great opportunity because like stated earlier it gives their child a chance at having and understanding so many things in life and with almost half (47%) of Lovaa’s treatment group were on the “best outcome” ranking. Though treatment can be a positive experience what about the false hope it can bring? When I think of this false hope I think about the children that the treatment does not “cure.” The emotions that the parents may have once it does not work, the sadness and pain that they will experience for their child because of this failed attempt. Parents may even blame themselves for failure of treatment. It can prove upsetting.

“Even if any given terminology is a reflection of reality, by its very nature as a terminology it must be a selection of reality; and to this extent, it must also function as a deflection of reality.” (Burke 45)



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