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.