The Problem(s) With 'Autism Speaks'

The Problem(s) With 'Autism Speaks'

As much as I would like to believe that this organization means well, I have to face the facts.

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Just about everyone has heard of Autism Speaks, a supposed "autism advocacy organization." Their familiar blue puzzle piece icon is often recalled by many. Just by looking at the name, you can tell it's a fantastic company with a great mission. Or is it?

I never really knew that much about Autism Speaks until I read an article one of my Facebook friends had shared. I was alarmed to see all the ways that they don't practice what they preach. OK, so yes, they do donate to the families of those with autism. However, the amount donated is less than two to four percent. A whopping 40-plus percent of the budget goes to advertising.

Another issue that really sparked my attention was the type of people they employ. A while back, Autism Speaks was run by a board that contained exactly zero individuals with autism or disability. They recently received a lot of criticism for this. One man, John Elder Robinson, who has autism, joined the board but quickly resigned because he discovered that the board had no respect for those with autism.

Another big red flag I discovered was the way they use that big profit to advertise autism: they don't really promote awareness, they promote fear. One mom labeled their marketing techniques as "disgusting," and I couldn't agree more. One commercial titled "I Am Autism" explains it all. It shows like a horror movie including lines like "I know where you live," and "If you're happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails," and "You are scared, and you should be." There are also many other commercials and clips by Autism Speaks that solidify this opinion. One that really ices the cake is one where a mother states "she contemplated driving off a bridge with her child with autism, but only didn't because she also had a neurotypical child." Sickening.

As much as I love to support those with disorders such as autism, I will never support Autism Speaks. Their mission is definitely not one I could get behind. They are looking for a cure, which is not what the world needs. We need to better the lives of those who have autism instead of trying to "fix" them. Autistic individuals are still human beings, so @AutismSpeaks, please stop treating and advertising them like anything less.

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I'll Always Light It Up Blue In April

April is World Autism Month, and we should all be lighting it up blue to raise awareness.

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April is a very important month for my sorority and I, as our national philanthropy is Autism Speaks. As well as it is very important for many others worldwide. This month is World Autism Month. A month dedicated to raising awareness and understanding about those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as acceptance. There are more affected by this than you know. First, what is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a very broad range of conditions. Challenges with social skills, speech, repetitive behaviors, and nonverbal communication. Just in the United States, one in 59 children are affected. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, with one in 37 boys being diagnosed. Compared to one in 154 girls being diagnosed. It can be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Often times it is accompanied by some medical issues, gastrointestinal disorders, sleep or seizure disorders, and mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and attention disorders. Since it is a spectrum disorder, there is a raise of ability and strengths between each individual affected.

Some can live independently. While others may face challenges. They may require little to a significant amount of support. Typically by age two to three is when indicators appear. It can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, however. Medical expenses for those affected by Autism Spectrum disorder is about 4.1 to 6.2 times greater than those not affected. On average, Autism Spectrum Disorder costs about $60,000 a year. Mothers typically tend to be the child who is affected advocate and case manager. They work on average 56 hours less a week than those with no medical limitations.

There are many events held throughout the year to fundraise, and raise awareness. One of Autisms Speaks biggest events is The Walk. Held throughout the year at different locations, it's easy to find one near you to get involved with. Autism Speaks holds many other events throughout the year, and it would be worth your time to check their site to see anything coming up to attend. They fund research about Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as services that provide educational and social programs and experiences. They also fund some to those affected by natural disasters or life events.

Alpha Xi Delta, a National Panhellenic Chapter, is partnered with Autism Speaks as well. And the chapters throughout the nation do different events throughout the academic year to raise money for Autism Speaks. You can see them, and the rest of the Autism Spectrum Disorder community raising awareness daily. Throughout April, keep your eyes open for different Light It Up Blue events in your community. Have your coworkers, or class, or even just your family wear blue. But don't limit yourself to this month, get involved throughout the year. For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can check out Autism Speaks website!

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