Author Archives: kiesselt

About kiesselt

Junior at Grand Valley State University Student-Athlete

Kiessel, Analysis: Curious Incident

As I read through the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, I noticed that there were a lot of common stereotypes that we have already discussed, such as the extreme intelligence, the superior memory, as well as the emotional detachment. Relating it back to the past two readings, there is this common theme of mechanical imagery. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Bromden was seeing mechanical gears because he was schizophrenic. In Martian Time Lapse, there were the teachers that were computerized and kind of took over for human practices of traditional teaching. The mechanical references are scattered throughout The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time but can especially noticed when Christopher says, “the mind is just a complicated machine” (116). He goes on to describe the process of the mind works and it is very detached from emotion and mechanical. However, this emotional detachment that is very prevalent throughout the entirety of the book is contrasted with Christopher’s love of animals, specifically dogs, but rats too.

The first scene opens up and Christopher holds the dead dog, Wellington. I don’t think many of us would see a dead dog and our first instinct would be to pick it up and hold it. Furthermore, Toby is taken care of very well by Christopher. Christopher makes it a priority that he is fed, watered, and played with. When Christopher leaves to go to London, first he tries to find him a good home and when that doesn’t work he does not even hesitate to take Toby with him. Then there is Sandy that is the forgive-me-present from Christopher’s dad, Ed. I think it is clear that while themes of detachment are extremely blatant, that the converse of emotions and feelings are demonstrated with dogs because it is a type of companionship and love that does not require human touch or loud noise. Furthermore, at autism & pets there is some information that bolsters the argument that pets (not just dogs) can benefit those with ASD but specific and careful consideration should be taken when deciding whether or not pets should be brought into the family. Some kids with ASD, “may not react well (to dogs) if the child is frequently agitated, or sensitives to noise may have great difficulty with an active dog or one that tends to bark.” It is also relevant that benefits of pets are not limited to dogs; this idea is demonstrated by the novel because Christopher owns Toby and loves him.

I think it is important that generalizations do not occur that every person with ASD can cope with emotional detachment via pets/animals. Just like neurotypicals, different people will have their preferences and coping methods and while pets can be very beneficial, they are not always the right solution  for every case.


Kiessel, Analysis 5

One of our questions to think about throughout the course is, “what role does the mental institution play in fictional representations of madness?”. I found this question to be extremely relevant to this week’s reading because of Bromden’s theory of “The Combine” and also the ward itself, especially the Big Nurse.

I typed into google, “current state of mental institutions” and found a great article that discusses not only the past horrors of mental institutions but the evolution of them and their role in the 21st Century, specifically State Hospitals. Interestingly, around the time the book was written and published, JFK made one last piece of legislation called the “Community Mental Health Act of 1963” where he expresses that “‘all but a small portion’ of those residing in large mental health institutions could be served in the community” (Fisher, et al.) The article then goes on to discuss the population of patients admitted to the State Hospitals and the types of characteristics associated with them, which are: “people with past criminal justice involvement, a growing “forensic” population, sexually dangerous persons, and, finally, what has been termed a “difficult-to-discharge” population” (Fisher, et al.). For clarification, the article gives descriptions of each characteristic type. A “forensic” population means someone who was deemed by the courts to be not competent to stand trial and was therefore sent to an institution.

The reason I found this interesting was relating it back the the novel. I think there are elements of all of these characteristics in the story. First, McMurphy fits the first two characteristic types: he has been prosecuted multiple times and continues to reoffend and is a known sex offender (even though he claims that the young girl came on to him). His sexual deviance has been conveyed throughout multiple points in the story including his prosecution and his admittance of having first been sexually active at 10-years-old with an 8 or 9-year-old. Lastly, I think the article’s mention of the patient who is “difficult-to-discharge” is fascinating when you link it to Bromden’s terms of “acute” and “chronic.” Chronic being the institutions form of patients who are “difficult-to-discharge.”

The question is whether these patients are actually acute or chronic because of their illness or because of the perpetuation by the institution. I think in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest it can be argued that the institution appears to be extremely corrupt and harmful and actually does perpetuate misery. For example,seemingly, McMurphy was not a chronic patient until the Big Nurse (potentially metaphorical of the power of institutions) wanted to control him and made him act out and rebel, which then ultimately forced him to become a chronic because of his lobotomy procedure. Furthermore, the “Combine” perpetuating Bromden’s invisibility and silence/deafness. In this novel, it is apparent that institutions are regarded as more harmful than benevolent.

If you want to check out more of the article, here is the link: institution link.


Works Cited

Fisher, William, et al. “The Changing Role of the State Psychiatric Hospital.” Health Affairs.      28.3 (2009). Web. 30 Oct. 2016.


Kiessel, Analysis 3: Intersectionality and Autism

After reading the Silberman chapters that consisted of the history of Eugenics and the theories behind autism, I was fascinated specifically by the “refrigerator mother” theory. My first thought was in regards to how sexist and discriminatory toward successful women this theory actually is. Kanner states, “there are very few really warmhearted fathers and mothers” (p 183). While Kanner did not solely blame the mother for not being nurturing and warm enough, many believers of this theory did take a sexist approach. Secondly, it was extremely classist. The upper-middle and upper class mothers were being blamed for, essentially, being too busy working and not being fully dedicated to their most pertinent role of caring for her developing fetus/child. However, my view started to change after thinking about this theory. I do agree that it is abhorrent that mothers and fathers were to blame due to a lack of concern for their offspring, I think it is more concerning that only one group of people were studied and acknowledged: white children with successful parents. Whole groups of people were being erased and not even thought of. Genders, races, and classes were being overlooked, with researchers only attempting to aid those members of society who were in power: rich, white males.

I stumbled across a youtube video that talked about a black mother identifying her son with symptoms of autism. However, when she took her son to a doctor he classified her son as being “emotionally disturbed.” The mother claims that this misdiagnosis is guided in part because her son was not viewed as a savant. Her family was therefore assumed to be uneducated and unintelligent. Because of the aforementioned factors, the intersectionality of some people (socioeconomic (dis)advantages mixed with race (dis)advantages and all other classification tools) have reinforced the deep stereotypes of people with autism.

I also came across a blog on wordpress, which discusses intersectionality and the lack of coverage of those that do not fit the status quo of the disorder. I think we can clearly see the stereotypes of savant abilities, emotionally withdrawn behaviors, criminality, gender, race, and class in the examples we have looked at. Not only in older texts such as Sherlock Holmes (white male, savant-like abilities), if one does believe that Holmes is on the spectrum, or Bartleby (while he may not be upperclass or obtain savant abilities, he does obtain other characteristics of popular stereotypes), but in newer texts and shows as well. For example, the show Parenthood demonstrates a child on the spectrum, Max, whose family is upper-middle class and white.

I find it interesting that while science has progressed the understanding of the disorder, the stereotypes have largely remained stagnant, as well as societies blatant disregard of intersectionality. Today, these stereotypes are being reinforced in mainstream literature, television, and media. These popular views and divisiveness only aid in the idea of neurotypicality versus neurodivergence and that a “standard” does, in fact, exist. It creates a barrier that will never be crossed unless society does not start accounting for all people that could be coping with the disorder.

Works Cited

Dachel, Anne. “‘A Medical Nightmare’- Refrigerator Mothers.” Age of Austism. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.       mothers.html

“Autism and Race.” Web blog post. Aspergers and Me. Web. 9 Oct.       2016.

Kiessel, Analysis 2: Sherlock Holmes

I am embarrassed to say that this was the first time being introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Obviously, I have seen the movies and know the characters and that it was centered around mystery. I had no preconceptions going into this week’s readings because I have had no previous involvement with Conan Doyle’s work.

I certainly understand that Sherlock’s character can be interpreted and characterized as having autistic qualities. These qualities are especially blatant in the first few pages of the reading when Watson is first hearing of Sherlock and his mannerisms.

I found a New York Times article on Sherlock Holmes, which provides some definitions and characteristics that could potentially link Holmes with that of a person with autism. One characteristic is “obsessive focus” or the knowledge of odd subjects (Sanders). This is demonstrated in Doyle’s work when Watson is hearing of Mr. Holmes, “His studies are very desultory and eccentric, but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way knowledge which would astonish his professors ” (6). Furthermore, Holmes is referred to as a “walking calendar of crime” because of his profuse knowledge of the subject (7). However, when Watson questions Holmes of the simple relevant theory of the Earth orbiting the sun rathe than vice versa, Holmes justifies is lack of knowledge on the fact that the brain only holds so much information. I think this is demonstrative of Holmes’s knowledge in limited areas. While he certainly is smart, he has a vast knowledge in particular fields that no one else would find relevant or worthwhile to know as well as Holmes.

The other relevant issues in the article are that of “mind blindness” and “mood swings”. Mind blindness is when someone is oblivious or unaware of what others are thinking or feeling (Sanders). Holmes demonstrates this characteristic by being described as, “..a man that is not easy to draw out though he can be communicative enough when the fancy seizes him” (6). Another description is that he is “…a little too approaches to cold-bloodedness” (6). Moreover, his mood swings are made clear by Holmes himself expressing that he gets extremely down in the dumps where he does not talk for days (7).

While the aforementioned characteristics resemble that of characters we have previously seen in other pieces such as Rain Man and Bartleby, it is apparent that Holmes has mild symptoms compared to the others. He demonstrates lack of social aptitude while also being able to be fully communicative when he wants to be. He has regular routines and extensive, and limited, knowledge in certain areas but applies them extremely well to his field and refers to his abilities as simply being a “method”. Interestingly enough, the article by Sanders points out that one acclaimed editor of the Holmes stories (Leslie Klinger) favors, “‘bipolar disorder, pointing to the detectives swings between hyperactivity and lassitude'” (Sanders). She claims that his “grandiosity” and “extravagant behavior” are results from a possible familial inheritance. She then goes on to state that his mood swings are because of the disorder and his low periods are due to extreme depression (Sanders). She also acknowledges that his swings are often work related and that his cocaine use was when he was depressed and not when he was hyperactive (Sanders).

It is interesting to think of Holmes and apply both theories: autism versus bipolar. I feel as though there is evidence and claims to be made on both sides.


Works Cited

Sanders, Lisa. “Hidden Clues.” The New York Times. 4 Dec.     2009,, Accessed 25 Sept. 2016.

Kiessel, Analysis One

After this week’s readings I was acutely aware of society’s early view of those struggling with Autism. After watching “Rain Man” in class and then reading Chapter 9 of Silberman’s text, there was a blatant misunderstanding of people with autism versus those with schizophrenia and other psychological diseases. Moreover, most people classified those with autism as simply being dumb or lacking cognitive function. Silberman’s Chapter 9 really opened my eyes as to how people with autism were and still are treated. Bill was completely dehumanized by others, even his own mother who was afraid of the stigma that would be brought upon her family.

Once autism was starting to be recognized, much thanks to “Rain Man”, in Chapter 10 Silberman discusses the evolution of the diagnostic procedures. Among his information on diagnostic procedures he includes a piece of legislature called “IDEA”. This sparked my curiosity as to what has been currently developing in legislation with the spiked rates of diagnoses and awareness compared to the pre-“Rain Man” era. Upon my findings I believe that legislation, while there is a lot more work to do, is slowly heading in the right direction.

Michigan was the 30th state to enact Autism Insurance Reform on April 18th, 2012. This then allowed for the Autism Coverage Reimbursement Act, which was enacted to help cover high costs that insurers would be forced to pay (Autism Speaks).

Another feat was accomplished when in 2014 a student with autism was granted the use of a service dog in school. The case went to the Department of Justice after 6 months of the student’s mother complying with requests of extensive paperwork and was still denied because the school believed in the original use of a service dog to be exclusive with those with physical impairments such as blindness, etc. The DOJ found the school’s ruling to be in direct violation with Americans with Disabilities Act (Student With Autism Gains Legal Win To Use Service Dog).

And then in 2015, Obama signed the ABLE Act, which, “allows for tax-free savings accounts to help individuals and families cover lifetime disability expenses” (NY Times Highlights ABLE Act for Disability Savings). Meanwhile in Michigan, a 5.5 million dollar surplus from an Autism Fund allowed some funding to go to universities to, “train health workers to diagnose and treat individuals diagnosed with autism” (Michigan Redirects $5.5 Million Surplus From Untapped Autism Fund). This bill also allows for some money to be directed to provide resources for families dealing with autism.

I believe these legislative events to be a reflection of the growing rate of Americans who are concerned and aware of autism.



Michigan Redirects $5.5 Million Surplus From Untapped Autism Fund. Autism Votes, Autism      Speaks Inc., Jan. 06, 2015,  , Sep. 11, 2016.

NY Times Highlights ABLE Act for Disability Savings. Autism Speaks Inc., Jan. 30, 2015, , Sep. 11, 2016.

Student With Autism Gains Legal Win To Use Service Dog. Autism Votes, Autism Speaks Inc., June 26,2014, , Sep. 11, 2016.