What's the first organization that comes to mind when it comes to autism awareness? If you thought about Autism Speaks, then you are correct. Unfortunately. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright when one of their grandsons was diagnosed with the disorder. The organization has since become a powerhouse when it comes to research and awareness of the disorder. But is Autism Speaks really the organization that you should put your trust in? Here are five reasons you shouldn't support the organization.
1. Misuse of funds
In 2016, 3.2 million dollars was spent on family service grants, awards, and research out of their 95 million dollar total. For an organization that says that they care about families of autistic children, they sure do have their priorities straight! What about the rest of their budget? It's spent on legal fees, media, software, and other things that don't really help the cause. If you say that you would want to help autistic people, then put the money where your mouth is!
2. People who are actually autistic says that it doesn't speak for them
There are myriad videos of autistic individuals ranting about how the organization misrepresents them and that they don't actually care about what they go through, and rightfully so. While the hashtag #AutismSpeaks10 was trending on Facebook and Twitter, angry autistic individuals flooded the hashtag saying that the organization doesn't speak for them. If the people you allegedly serve are putting you on blast, then you need to reevaluate your morals.
3. The search to end autism
The majority of the organization's funding goes toward "research." So that means improving therapies and equipment that helps individuals with autism, right? Wrong! The "research" is going toward a "cure" for the disorder. What's that cure? A prenatal test that's similar to detecting Down Syndrome, thus leading to mothers not having autistic children. Ah, the sweet smell of eugenics.
4. They don't have an autistic individual on their board
An organization that's based on serving autistic individuals will probably have an autistic individual on their board, right? Not really. John Elder Robinson, an author and autism advocate who has autism, was apart of the Autism Speaks board but resigned due to the organization's disrespect for people like him. While Autism Speaks has added autistic members to their board, they still have a lot of work to do!
5. Fearmongering tactics
Remember when I said that 3.2 million out of their 95 million budget goes toward family service grants, awards, and research? Well, 42 million dollar goes toward their media. What type of media, you ask? Media like "I Am Autism" where they compare the disorder to AIDS and cancer and "Autism Everyday" where a mother contemplated suicide with her autistic daughter. Yup, that's a good way to promote your cause!
I know what you're thinking. If Autism Speaks is so awful, how do I support autistic individuals? Organizations like Autistic Self-Advocacy Network is a nonprofit organization that's actually run by people who are on the spectrum that seek to empower autistic people across the world. Do your part and actually help the people you care about!