Not a writing question but I was wondering what your opinions on the organization Autism Speaks were.
Ah, thank you for offering us an opportunity to share something very important to us. For those who aren’t aware, there is an organization in the US called “Autism Speaks” which claims to be a charity working to help autistic people. They are not a charity. They are a hate group.
Autism Speaks is not run with the help of any autistic people. It’s run by allistic people who think of autism as a horrible disease that needs to be eradicated. They run propaganda ads talking about autism like a plague which is destroying lives. They compare it to cancer. One of their propaganda videos famously shows a member of their board talking about contemplating killing her autistic child - while the child is in the room listening to her. Their goal is to “cure” autism - to wipe it off the face of the planet. They don’t see autistic people as people, but as tragic burdens to those around them. They want to take care of all the poor moms and dads whose lives were so tragically ruined when they found out their child was autistic. And they support organizations that torture autistic people and call it “therapy”, like the Judge Rotenberg Center.
This is not a charity. They think of us as broken, inhuman monsters who should be expunged from society. They are not helping us - they’re trying to exterminate us.
Their propaganda is a big part of why there is so much misinformation out there about autism and autistic people. The average person is likely to believe their claims that autism is a horrible disease, that the best way to help the people who have it is to cure them and make them “normal”. Especially the parents of autistic children might like the idea of “fixing” their kid.
News flash: We’re not sick. Autism is not a disease. At worst, it can be considered a disorder or disability, depending on your definition of such, but the vast majority of autistic people are perfectly happy being who we are. Our biggest hurdle isn’t some terrible defect in ourselves - it’s the negative attitudes and lack of understanding in those around us, and the expectation that our primary goal in life should be to act less like ourselves and more like the “normal” people who make up the majority (pro tip: there’s really no such thing as normal). Autism cannot be cured, because it’s not an illness. Our brains are hardwired differently than others, and that is a fundamental part of who we are. If you asked me if I would like a cure, I would look at you the same way as if you asked me if I would like to remove the color from my pizza, because it makes the same amount of logical sense.
Imagine if someone asked you if you would like to stop being (insert your nationality here). Like, just completely remove it from yourself. What would that even mean? Removing all your memories and experiences from that country? Erasing your native language and replacing it with another one? How would that even work? That’s the kind of thing that’s being proposed here.
What autistic people need is awareness, education, and sometimes assistance, depending on our individual needs. We dream of a world where seeing a person rocking back and forth gently and not making much eye contact isn’t met with indignation, disgust, or pity, and where our strengths are valued (and we have many!).
It should be noted that recently, Autism Speaks has changed their official platform slightly, supposedly focusing less on a “cure”, but I’m afraid I don’t buy it for a second. Anyone whose goal includes a “cure” at all is not advocating for our rights, and even if they did have a different mission now, the damage is long since done. Many of us may struggle, and many of us may wish there were certain problems we could do away with, but a “cure” is not possible and our goal should not be to eliminate autistic people from the world, especially given how much we contribute to society. Very few autistic people would actually desire a “cure”, even if one were possible.
So what does this have to do with writing? If you’re writing an autistic character who gets help from a charitable organization, do NOT make it Autism Speaks. That’s not what they do. If your character has any interactions with Autism Speaks, it will be more along the lines of being told they are broken and must be fixed, having the people in their lives treat them as less than human (or as deformed or defective) because they have believed the propaganda, being told they have no right to speak for themselves, and possibly suffering abuse and even torture at the hands of those who think they are “helping”.
There are plenty of good charitable organizations to help autistic people with what we actually need. If you want your character to support an organization in your story (or support the organization yourself by giving them positive exposure in your story), try one of these (and a little Google-fu can help you find a local one for you if you don’t live in the US or UK - search terms like “autism advocacy” and make sure it’s run by actual autistic people). We strongly recommend contacting them, letting them know what you’re writing, and asking how you can include them in your story and represent their work accurately: