My autistic sons struggle with language. What they hear enters the skull and is butter-churned to a partly-made comprehension. What they communicate is clumped together by chance and necessity. So, particularly for the less verbal boy, adolescence is an age of daily and daunting demands on a limited vocabulary. He has adopted new expletives (“bitsch” and “funk”) and he has new things to name. He recently identified the acne on his face as an “alien rash”. His erections (clothed) are simply “tight”, but in the shower he has a “penisaur”. For a teenager who can not tell you his address or even his age, these namings are purchased with the labor others might give to their best sentence, to their most clever conceit. When these geniuses are finished with their master pieces, they hope their “creativity” wins them an audience. “Creative” is a word my autistic son may never use. His “penisaur” doesn’t give a “funk” about your “creativity”. I don’t either.

What is “creativity”, anyway? A creative person, it seems, as commonly named, pursues interests of little immediate or apparent value. Visual artists are creative. Musicians, perhaps. Comedians, I guess so. Sculptors, certainly. Poets, yes. A whole host of others are “creative” in that they walk at odds with prevailing social norms. Some people dress themselves in oddities to communicate their aspirations to “creativity”. And so, a young writer might shy away from the habits of ordinary existence in hopes that the genius of the writing would likewise become obnoxious. If the costume of “creativity” ever works, it is surely by coincidence.

Most “creative” people might be better described as “arrogant”. These folk are (at least sometimes) self-persuaded that their inventive contrariness is worth of exploration and display. These writers must share their thoughts because they know themselves to be deserving of an audience. Arrogance and narcissism are not guarantors of good writing. I am arrogant enough, obviously, but my contorted prose (here) testifies to the abilities of another (hardly enviable) talent.

My autistic sons are not poets, I am not autistic, and we are not “creative”. What I write, however, is born of disability. I wield words like brooms for crutches. In the process of writing, I find a word that will do the job … the best word (given the circumstances and limitations) I can find will have to do the job, the work of communicating. Often, I fail. This reaching for the make-shift crutch is not “creative”. This is difference. This is disability and compensation, not genius. Here is where the words come in. That’s all.


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