The Strange Case of Anna Stubblefield and other Tales of Communication Advocacy and its Discontents

Devva and Susan welcome you to this new resource prompted by the Stubblefield trial. It’s in its infancy and will grow only with your help. We need you to help us identify resources and to add your thoughts to the blogs. This is meant to be a place where we can share an open dialogue about the issues raised when two people get caught up in a maelstrom as Anna and DJ are.

There is not enough information for any of us to know the real truth of what happened. DJ has no voice, nor any current access to any other mode of communication with us, so it will only be the words of others who speak for/about him. This website will not act as another trial. No one, no idea, nor any activity is on trial here, but all are open to critical scrutiny.

There are issues to discuss, no matter what you think of the trial’s verdict. How can a person who is significantly disabled be given a fair opportunity to represent their views when they cannot speak? Can a person have a guardian and be self-determined? Can it ever be consensual for two people with extreme differences in privilege to have sex? What does it say about our society when someone finds it unimaginable that a person not considered disabled could be in love with a person who is considered very disabled? Is there such a thing as disability justice? Have we got the concept of intelligence all wrong?

What do you think? Chime in! You can comment on any of the topical threads. You will find instructions under the “Mission” topic.

Devva Kasnitz, PhD


Assessment of Intelligence:


This case upsets me on so many levels, and triggers so many hot spots, it is hard to know where to begin. But I think what upsets me most is the continual portrayal of DJ as being like an 18 month old.  This is the same argument used in AshleyX to validate her parent’s desire to stunt her growth as their ‘Pillow Angel.’  You live for 35 years and no matter how deprived of a stimulating environment you have been, you are no longer like an 18 month old. You have life experiences that inform you in ways you may not be able to communicate effectively, but are no less life changing.

When I read that DJ was never taught any method of communication, my stomach revolts. Whether or not you believe that DJ successfully used FC, he did from accounts by many respond to his environment in meaningful ways. He could have learned to blink his eyes or point to respond to simple questions. His mother reports he scoots around on his butt at home. He has no wheelchair and cannot walk unaided. So is this an 18 month old or is this an adult with no effective means to stand up and ambulate or move through space?

This is a very tired notion to quantity people’s intelligence by a chronological age that is dependent upon  society’s norm of being able to read and write and speak by a certain age.

I met DJ. I cannot say for sure a lot of things about him, but I can say I met an adult man and not an 18 month old child. I met a man who appeared to me to fit into the rythym of an adult conversation on his own accord with the assistance of FC.  When we can see DJ as an adult man, it changes everything.  ~Susan