Jessica Benham

Jessica is a doctoral student in Communication and a master’s student in Bioethics at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a master’s degree in communication studies from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her primary research interests lie in investigating the rhetorical and ethical constructions of disability in society. Her thesis, Proud to be Autistic: Metaphorical Construction and Salience of Cultural and Personal Identity in #StopCombatingMe, presents research on Autistic self-advocacy through a neurodiversity perspective.

A firm believer in the value of Autistic culture, Jessica is also an advocate for Autistic rights, interested in creating sensory friendly spaces in educational settings, increasing access to IEPs for Autistic children in public schools, helping parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals better understand Autistic people, and reducing barriers to employment for Autistic adults. Heavily involved in Pittsburgh disability advocacy, Jess is the Director of Public Policy at the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, serves on the board of Autism Connection of PA, and works in an advisory capacity with a number of disability organizations in the Pittsburgh area and nationally.  She was recognized in 2016 as an Autistic Scholars Fellow by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. 

Education & Training

  • BA, Political Science, Bethel University
  • BA, Communication, Bethel University
  • MA, Communication Studies, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Representative Publications

Benham, J. L. (2016). Xavier as Marvel’s super-crip: Reframing disabled masculinity in the X-Men films. In C. Bucciferro (Ed.) The X-Men films: A cultural analysis. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Benham, J. L. (Spring 2016). Limited time: Meeting judge expectations and pedagogical standards in Rhetorical Criticism. National Forensics Journal.
Benham, J. L. & Kizer, J. S. (Fall 2016). Aut-ors of our experience: Interrogating intersections of Autistic academic identity. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 5(3), 77-113.