What's this about Autism Speaks? I've haven't heard what's been going on. What are they doing that's bad?
According to goldenheartedrose:
(TW: Ableism) Autism Speaks is the most well-known autism charity. They have the most media coverage and are endorsed by many celebrities, but this certainly does not make them a good organization.
- Autism Speaks does not have a single autistic member on their board.
Autism Speaks only spends 3% of their budget on “family services”.
Much of Autism Speaks’ money goes toward research, and much of that research centers on finding a way to eliminate autism, and thus, autistics (which will likely be done through a prenatal test, in the same way that the Down’s Syndrome test is conducted).
Autism Speaks produces advertisements, small films, etc. about what a burden autistic people are to society.
Autism Speaks was responsible for “Autism Every Day”, which featured a member of their board talking about contemplating murder-suicide of her daughter in front of her daughter. This has now be removed from Autism Speaks’ Youtube channel.
Autism Speaks is responsible for the atrocity known as “I am Autism”, a short film produced by the Academy Award Winning Alfonso Cuaron, who also directed the 3rd Harry Potter movie (yes, really) and features an ominous voice saying things like “I am autism…I know where you live…I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined…I will make sure your marriage fails.”
In short, Autism Speaks is part of the problem; they create a stigma that makes it far more difficult for actual autistic people like myself to be heard, to have our opinions matter, and to fall anywhere outside of the “autistic angel” and “screaming, violent, rocking in the corner autistic” stereotypes. In addition, for them, as well as many other organizations (and the media), autism is considered to be a child’s disorder/disability, and you will often hear people say “where are all the adult autistics?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that in the past 5 years or so. The answer to that is simple! We’re right here in front of you. We may have been misdiagnosed as children with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and the like when the diagnoses of autism, PDD-NOS and Asperger’s weren’t as precise (or even existent) as they are now. We may not have been diagnosed at all and simply treated as though our difficulties are our own doing. We vary in where we fall on the spectrum,though functioning labels are gross and you shouldn’t use them.
For further reading, here are a few resources about Autism Speaks:
ASAN’s flyer regarding Autism Speaks (this is easily printable and is good for distributing information quickly).
Here are a few other terrible things that Autism Speaks has done recently.
This woman’s job offer was rescinded after she asked Autism Speaks for accommodations in caring for her autistic son. They refused, and she made necessary accommodations for childcare, but they withdrew her offer anyways.
Autism Speaks shared the news of Google removing hate speech regarding autistics from Google’s autofill feature, completely erasing any mention of autistic people’s flashblogs having anything to do with the change. It was only after a member of the autism community (and not a parent, but an autistic person themselves) spoke with a reporter about the flashblog and a statement was released to the media that Google decided to make this change.
Autism Speaks highlighted AAC use, while erasing those those who actually use AAC devices to communicate. The focus was on the caretakers, not on the autistic people themselves. (The attached link has a link to a rebuttal by a nonspeaking autistic person, Amy Sequenzia).
Autism Speaks has violated copyright and has profited off an autistic advocate’s writing for three years.
There are a number of corporate partners — big businesses (for the most part) who align themselves with Autism Speaks. This can take many different forms, but in general, you should consider that a purchase to any of these companies may benefit Autism Speaks. The list is as follows (thank you,austryzor
ATA Martial Arts
Dover International Speedway
Sprouts Farmers Markets
Stadium NEST Fragrances
Stella & Dot
Several people have contacted me with requests for what organizations actuallydo help autistic people. There are a few, in fact, that actually focus on autistic people, and not just autistic children. The final two are actually general disability organizations, and not specific to autism.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is pretty much the best choice.
I know that a few of you have asked, “what now? What do I do now?” The first thing you can do is educate people. Share this link with them. Sign petitions, like the few listed below. Educate people about autism and autistic people. You’ll find links on my page to do just that. Feel free to tweet the companies listed above and explain to them why you don’t support Autism Speaks and you don’t think they should, either. And finally, get involved on the local level, if you can. Find out if there’s a local organization that provides support for autistic people, and if not? If you know an autistic person, listen to what they have to say. Offer help if they want it, and if they don’t, back off.
Autism Speaks related petitions:
- Terminate Affiliation with Autism Speaks at UMD
- Revoke Autism Speaks’ status as a charitable organization
- Corporate Sponsors of Autism Speaks
Edited 3/6/13 to add — someone on my Wordpress blog posted a link to this GIGANTIC resource, bigger than mine here (obviously).
Edited 3/24/14 to remove Panera Bread as a corporate sponsor. They have rescinded their support of Autism Speaks.
Edited 4/1/14 to remove Autistic Network International, who has repeatedly ignored the concerns of various members of the autistic community and has actively harmed one autistic person in particular (Neurodivergent K/sherlocksflataffect on tumblr).