You’ve seen the blue puzzle pieces, no doubt. Some well (or not well)- intentioned soccer mom who wants to feel as though she’s made a difference slaps a puzzle-piece bumper sticker on her car. Supporting A$ (we’ll get back to the dollar sign in the initialism in a second) has become as much about virtue-signaling as about an earnest desire for a cure for autism. Many people, especially those without any disabilities, may move through life seeing, but not really understanding, the somewhat-infamous puzzle piece logo. Now that we’re almost halfway through April, Autism Awareness Month, I’d like to make you aware of just how terrible Autism Speaks– A$– is.
Let’s start with the dollar sign. Although the issues with the organization are far greater than a simple case of “money hungry ‘nonprofit’ actually makes a big profit,” I’d be amiss not to address the money concern. A$ pays some of its executives more than $400,000 a year. Meanwhile, it spends a mere 4% of its funds on “family services” (which ostensibly directly help autistic people and their families). The majority of its funds are funneled toward media and toward research, both of which are highly problematic and dangerous for autistic people.
Now, you may be unimpressed with the information I’ve already provided– after all, A$ is by no means unique in its unfair, unethical allocation of funds. But its two primary expenses, media and research, are not innocent.
You may know A$ from such videos as “I am Autism” or “Autism Everyday”. I’m not going to link those two horrible videos, but if you really want to watch them, I’m sure you know how to use Google. These videos harp again and again on the ways that autistic children ruin their families’ lives, that autism “steals” children from their loved ones, and suggests that a child is better dead than autistic. Indeed, the latter video features a former A$ Board Member speaking about her desire to commit a murder-suicide by driving herself and her daughter into the ocean. She says this with her autistic daughter in the room.
A$ has also supported the Judge Rotenberg Center. This “treatment” facility was known for its abuse, neglect, and torture of its disabled inmates. It was only after the center was exposed for its human rights abuses that A$ backpedaled and issued a statement against them.
Now, let’s think about research. On its face, you may view such scientific efforts as inherently good– but “research” on genetic causes for autism can all-too-easily lead to eugenics. A$’s end goal, as is shown through this research, is not to help make it better to live in the world with autism. Their end goal is to eradicate autism. They view autism as a “disease” that children must “recover” from. They do not want autism to exist– and by extension, do not want any autistic people to exist. Whether this will be accomplished through selective elimination of autistic embryos, or forced “treatments” to already-born autistic people, remains to be seen.
There are even more problems with Autism Speaks that I have not mentioned in this article. Here is a well-sourced, detailed list for those interested.
A$ refuses to consider autistic people as nuanced and complex individuals with strengths, weaknesses, and lives worth living. This is false, and it is shameful and horrifying for the leading autism-related organization to be spouting such dangerous lies. As an antidote, I have supplied you with facts and statistics, and I will leave you with some hopeful information, and some ways you can actually support the autistic community.
First of all, there are good parents, loved ones, and friends to autistic people out there– and you should be like them. As one mother to an autistic child says:
As a mother of a child with autism, I wouldn’t change a hair on his head. His autism does not define him, but it definitely plays a role in who he is. I would never take that away, and I would never, ever, wish that he hadn’t been born because of his autism.
An increasingly vocal number of autistic people assert that autism is simply another unique, valuable asset to their holistic selves. Autism is not a disease that needs to be cured, but a unique way of seeing the world to be celebrated. These are the wonderful folks behind these organizations– which, if you’re looking for a place to donate this April, are great options.
Autistic people are speaking up about A$– please start listening.