5 Reasons I Will Never Donate to Autism $peaks

5 Reasons I Will Never Donate to Autism $peaks

And neither should you.

TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of ableism & ableist language, mention of filicide

Now, before I delve into this topic I want to first clarify and acknowledge some key facts about myself, and my controversial position in just writing this piece. The first being that I myself am not an autistic individual, I am a neurotypical, female, college student. I also want to highlight that much of what I am about to say has already been articulated, a lot better, by autistic writers themselves, and I will provide links to some of their pages to close.

The only reason I have any experience, or knowledge, about autism is because my oldest brother Nabeel is a non-verbal autistic person himself, and I had the privilege of growing up with him. But this still gives me no right to speak for him, or any member of the autistic community. In my opinion, the world has heard enough of the martyr sibling/family member/caregiver stories that often serve only to focus on the neurotypical experience.

I want to acknowledge that, although progress has been made in aiding non-verbal autistic people to communicate with neurotypical people, I'm aware that there are still many autistic people who do not have the opportunity to express themselves in a way that we, as neurotypical people can comprehend. I know that there may be members of the autistic community that disagree with this piece and its sentiments, and those feelings are valid and should be respected.

I do not write this piece to educate autistic people, as that would be insulting. It is intended to open the eyes of fellow neurotypical people, that are currently or may someday, carelessly throw money towards funding for a deplorable organization. So without further adieu, let's start the list about why I will never donate to Autism Speaks.

Reason #1: I do not support eugenics.

You're probably thinking: well, duh. Who would? But let's look at the definition of eugenics. It is defined as "the study or practice of trying to improve the human race by encouraging the breeding of those with desired characteristics (positive eugenics) or by discouraging the breeding of those whose characteristics are deemed undesirable (negative eugenics)".1

Now, from the very beginning, Autism Speaks (AS) has been clear about their mission to find a "cure" for autism. Even though science has identified autism's strong genetic basis, the specific gene interactions or mutations that could be the cause remain unclear. Because of this, most of AS's research and funds go towards studying the causation of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the intent to prevent the disorder within the population.

As stated in a blog post by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), to put it plainly "prevention means research into selective abortion of fetuses with markers for autism. Not only does this not help autistics of any age, it encourages the idea that it’s better to not exist than to RISK being disabled (and in particular, autistic)."

AS has not been shy about this angle either, through their push for mandatory "early intervention" programs, minuscule allocation of funds toward services for actual autistic people, and their emphasis on early genetic testing in infants for markers they believe are tied to ASD. I am very pro-choice, but I do have a problem with an organization openly encouraging the termination of intended pregnancies, solely based on whether a child may be born with what they consider to be an "undesirable neurotype".

1.Collins Dictionary of Medicine. (2004, 2005)

Reason #2: I do not support hate groups.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a hate group's "primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization”. Sounds about right.

So how dare I insinuate that such a well-known charitable organization like Autism Speaks could ever be classified as a hate group? Well, if this reason shocks you, you most likely have not spent much time listening to many autistic self-advocates or advocacy groups.

Because if you simply google 'is autism speaks a hate group', the first articles to pop up come from organizations like the Autism Women's Network (AWN) or the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). Both of which, are wonderful, autistic-run advocacy networks created to provide platforms that amplify autistic voices, improve quality of life by their own standards, and protect the rights of the autistic community.

Another thing they have in common? They are both part of a long list of autistic and disability rights groups who have publicly denounced Autism Speaks as a hate group and as endangering, instead of bettering, the lives of many autistics.

Reason #3: Autism is NOT an 'epidemic'.

This year I was fortunate enough to make it on the roster for one of UVA's new civic engagement courses called The Science and Lived Experience of Autism. We recently read a 2005 research paper titled, Three Reasons Not to Believe in an Autism Epidemic. The quote I found stood out to me most was, “epidemics solicit causes; false epidemics solicit false causes” (Gernsbacher, 58). It read as such a loud and clear warning. I believe it speaks directly to the fear mongering rhetoric that ostracizes autistic people, by labeling a difference in neurotype as an epidemic.

You might be thinking, 'well that's your opinion'. But no actually, it's a fact. By definition, an epidemic is a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease. No matter how much Autism Speaks may want you to believe that autism is an epidemic, it is not. You cannot catch autism. But you know what you can catch? Measles. Which brings me to....

Reason #4: I do not trust those who spread harmful pseudoscience.

Autism Speaks has a very long and public history of endorsing the anti-vaccination movement because they claimed vaccines 'caused' autism. This resulted in the resignation and even termination of many, prior AS Senior Leaders.

This becomes more troubling when considering they supported this information after overruling their own scientific leadership staff. The spread of this pseudoscience has only resulted in the reappearance and increase in actual infectious diseases, such as measles, and not autism.

AS has also long supported the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts, which in just 2014 was still undergoing federal investigation for using painful electric shock against its students. This method is not only cruel, it has been deemed torture by the United Nations.

Yet, despite the investigation and after issuing a public 'call for an end' to electric shock abuse, Autism Speaks then continued to allow the JRC to recruit new families at their fundraising walks. (ASAN 2014 Joint Letter to the Sponsors of Autism Speaks)

Reason #5: Those donated funds don't go where they should.

This reason needs little explanation. According to Autism Speaks' public 2013 audit of finances, only 4% of the millions donated went towards the most important aspect of their program: family services. Which has earned them the nickname among critics, Autism $peaks. Oh, and that gray area of everything else includes things like company legal fees, catering, travel, meals, lodging and transportation, bank processing fees, etc. It's all public record and can be viewed at https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/d... .

TRIGGER WARNING----disturbing content, mentions of filicide, murder, & abuse



All in all, I hope these reasons have highlighted the importance of truly looking into organizations, past a superficial 'non-profit' title. Many damning facts were left out because they are cruel, traumatizing and dehumanizing practices that were supported by Autism Speaks under the guise of 'treatments'. I do not wish to recount them and cause further pain for any autistic individual that may be reading this now.

But I will say this, Autism Speaks has a repulsive background in sympathizing with and justifying the acts of murderers and abusers of innocent autistic children. I am outraged at the high levels of filicide against autistics and the disgusting way the media silences these stories, as well as the way Autism Speaks has painted these murderers as the victims of a 'burdensome life'. My brother's life is not a burden, and neither is the life of any other autistic person.




I understand that autism is a spectrum condition, and that autistic people suffer in varying degrees. This is not to diminish those struggles, I believe anything we can do to accommodate and provide access for autistic people is essential. I just believe that it is we, as a society, that must shift its focus from "curing" a community that has asked to be accepted and not made "aware" of.

It is now time we ask how, where, and in what areas we can help our autistic peers. There are deep, deep roots in ableism surrounding the way we talk about and approach autism in today’s society and it's about time we admitted to these ugly faults. If we treated or talked in such ways about any other minority, I could see the headlines.

I myself, as a Black person, wouldn't want White people telling me what issues and needs my community faces. As a woman, I feel similarly about men. Yet as neurotypicals, we constantly project our expectations and opinions of what we define as "quality of life" or "high and low functioning" on to autistic people. Well, I think it's about time we shut up and listen.

Wanna get started? Below are some topics you can begin delving into for yourselves. And don't forget to check out these awesome autistic-run networks/blogs:
Master Post on Autism Speaks- https://thecaffeinatedautistic.wordpress.com/new-a...
ASAN - http://autisticadvocacy.org/
AWN- http://autismwomensnetwork.org/
The Establishment - http://www.theestablishment.co/?s=autism
Sympathizing with abusers/murderers-http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/06/23/why-are-we-sympathetic-to-the-murderers-of-disabled-children/
Electric Shock therapy: http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/08/03/why-hasnt-electric-shock-treatment-for-autistic-people-been-banned-yet/
Acceptance vs Awareness Month- http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/04/18/how-autism-awareness-goes-wrong/
Why there is no such thing as high or low functioning -http://autismwomensnetwork.org/whats-the-differenc...
ABA therapy & a new approach to autism-http://www.salon.com/2015/08/16/we_have_autism_all...
College housing and accommodations for autistic students- http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/09/15/why-are-autistic-students-being-pushed-out-of-college-housing/

Additional Topics & General Campaigns:
-Aspergers being absorbed into Autism
-The different presentations of autism (ie. "Girl/Boy")
- #RedInstead

Cover Image Credit: Autism Women's Network

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.

Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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It's 2019, And I Can Confirm One Size Does Not Fit All, At All

I'll take feeling good over meeting your standards. Thank you.


We live in a society where being yourself and expressing who you truly are is something that is becoming more and more accepted and is actually trendy. Left and right, people are coming forward and declaring who they are and want to be in life and there is a crowd of people there to cheer them on.

There is also always that small percent sitting in the corner, ready to throw derogatory comments and taint the self-love, respect, and acceptance that's flowing.

Every single time this happens, the internet breaks and feuds form in the comment sections. How many times does this fight have to be had before people just mind their own business? How someone looks is frankly none of your concern. Whether you think the person is too fat, too skinny, too girly, too rough, too whatever, it's none of your business.

I'm a firm believer that one should focus on their own life instead of living to tear others down. You should be more concerned with feeling good in your own body than wasting your energy trying to make people ashamed of theirs. It's not your place to comment on someone's appearance.

We should work on building up confidence and feeling good in our skin. Exercising, working on your mental health, and surrounding yourself with good energy will improve your life exponentially. DO NOT do this to achieve an aesthetic or try to look like an Instagram model. Only do it to feel good about yourself internally. What you look like on the outside should only matter to you.

I would be lying if I said I didn't fall victim to countless beautiful women who post their swimsuit photos looking like they stepped out of Vogue magazine. I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle with my own body image and have to remind myself daily that it's okay to not fit their mold. I won't lie to you. We live in a world that feels the need to comment on every inch of our skin rather than focus on more important issues. Shut off the noise and ignore the words that are given in hate. You have better things to do than focus on their negativity.

Make your own mold.

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