April is Autism Acceptance Month, but please don’t #LightItUpBlue. #LightItUpBlue is a campaign started by Autism Speaks, a pseudo-advocacy-borderline-hate-group organization. Here are 5 reasons why Autism Speaks doesn’t deserve your support.
- Autistic people hate Autism Speaks
This reason alone should be enough. Autistic people do not support Autism Speaks. The vast majority of autistic individuals and many parents of autistic children feel that Autism Speaks does not represent the experiences or opinions of actual autistic people. Any organization that does not co-operate the people it claims to help is not worth your time or money.
- Autism Speaks promotes stigma against autism
Autism Speaks vilifies and infantilizes autistic people. It portrays them as a burden, as helpless and incapables of independence. Autism Speaks claims to raise awareness, but they only spread fear and stereotypes.
Take the TV advertisement I Am Autism, for example. The 4-minute ad is filmed like a low-grade horror movie, complete with darkened edges and a malicious voiceover. But Autism Speaks doesn’t go for subtlety when promoting fear and prejudice against autistic people—no, the ad goes on to make shockingly regressive statements.
The following is an actual quote from the video: “I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined. And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain. . . I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness.”
To compare autism to AUDS or cancer is so appalling, I don’t know where to begin. Autistic people can lead happy, healthy lives. Autistic adults can be successful, both financially and socially. Autistic children will thrive in the right environments, just like any other child. To compare autism to diseases that have killed millions is a false equivalence beyond words.
I work faster than pediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness
–Autism Speaks Ad
- Autism Speaks ignores autistic voices
My first question when I saw this ad was, “How could something this abysmal make it past the several layers of review required to be approved?” The answer: Autistic people weren’t a part of the process.
In 2015, Autism Speaks appointed its first autistic board members. Out of the 25 board members, only two members actually have any form of autism. And let’s not forget, Autism Speaks only did this after immense criticism. Autism Speaks is targeted towards parents and relatives of those with autism, which is reflected in their systematic exclusion of autistic adults from leadership roles. Almost every board member is a parent of an autistic child or representing a corporation. Perhaps a more accurate name would be Autistic-Parents-Speak-for-Their-Kids.
- Autism Speaks Doesn’t Support Families
Only 4% of Autism Speak’s budget goes to supporting families. 39% goes to awareness (fear-mongering). On Charity Navigator, a site which rates charities and helps people understand where their donations are going, Autism Speaks received an overall rating of two stars and a financial rating of one star.
How Autism Speaks spends its money shows where its priorities are. And in this case, Autism Speaks’ imbalanced budget proves that it is more focused on promoting itself than actually helping autistic people.
- Autism Speaks wants a cure for autism
Autism Speaks was founded to find a cure for autism. In their own words, they call autism an epidemic and compare it to AIDS, cancer, and diabetes. But on the whole, autistic people don’t want to be fixed. Studies have shown that a large majority of autistic individuals feel “neutral to positive” about their autism. This can be difficult for allistics (non-autistic individuals) to understand, but autism is a part of our personality and daily reality. Sometimes it makes our lives harder, but it also brings joy and diversity.
Autism Speaks spent years disparaging this neuro-diversity, and they have only removed the word “cure” from their mission statement in the last year. They have made a minimal effort to change but it’s too little, too late. Autism Speaks has spent over a decade essentially advocating the elimination of autistic people. That can’t be erased with a few simple words.
Autistic blogger Kaylene sums it up, saying “Frankly, as an autistic person, I can’t believe an organization that claims to represent me honestly wishes I were never born.”
Image Credit: Aspitude!