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Autism Speaks (known in the UK as Autistica) is a vile and highly controversial autism advocacy organization founded by Bob and Suzanne Wright after their grandson was diagnosed with the disorder. The organization has garnered huge criticism for their vilification and dehumanisation of the autistic, their treatment of autism as a curable disease and their past flirtation with anti-vaxxers. They operate on the principles of age-old anti-modernists. Essentially, they fail to believe mental conditions are not natural.
Actual autistic people generally despise them. One described Autism Speaks as "a charity for neurotypical people who have been afflicted with the horror of having autistic people in their lives." California State University, Northridge professor of philosophy Jacob Hale, who has Asperger's syndrome, has described Autism Speaks as "incredibly condescending and parentalistic."
In 2016 it elected two autistic board members, Valerie Paradiz and Stephen Mark Shore, and its horrible co-founder Suzanne Wright died, so perhaps things will improve. its mission statement was revised to "increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder" rather than seeking a cure.
The "I Am Autism" video
In 2009, Autism Speaks released a sinister and inflammatory video which personified autism as some sort of living demon-figure that can ruin marriages, embarrass family members and spread like cancer. The video, directed by much-respected film-maker Alfonso Cuarón, displays numerous home videos of children in a way reminiscent of how serial killer Francis Dolarhyde chooses his victims in Red Dragon. The video drew ire from autistic people and their families for its portrayal of the condition as one where the person who has it is totally incapable of rational thought or taking care of themselves. The video seems to equate divorce and public embarrassment with having an autistic child.
Autism Speaks used to hold the view that immunizing children put them at risk of autism and committed a great deal of funding to prove it. They since revised their stance and now urge parents to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases.
Rhetoric and other vileness
Autism Speaks sponsored the short film Autism Every Day, in which a staff member says in the presence of her daughter, that when faced with the prospect of inadequate school, she contemplated driving her car off a bridge with her child inside. The producers, not done being assholes, said these feelings were not unusual. The staff member in question, Alison Singer, has since distanced herself from these comments, left Autism Speaks, and founded an organization promoting actual scientific research.
In addition, Autism Speaks allowed the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center to be a exhibitor at their resource fair at their Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. Anyone with any form of ethics can see why this would be highly objectionable, as the center is infamous for its abuses, particularly the use of electric shock devices as negative incentive for behaviour modification in children (which was even controversial when Ole Ivar Lovaas first experimented with using it on autistic people).
The "charitable" organization
Autism Speaks is heavily into the charity as business model, on a level comparable to Susan G. Komen For The Cure.
In 2010 Autism Speaks dedicated 44% of its funding for research and a cure, despite the extreme unlikelihood of "curing" different brain development. In the same year, only 4% of their budget went towards actually helping families struggling with autism. The organization also funds research for a pre-natal test, which would allow prospective mothers to see if their fetus is susceptible to autism.
Autism Speaks and Neurodiversity
In 2010, WrongPlanet started to accept money from Autism Speaks for its Autism Talk TV series, despite claiming that "Asperger's is not a disease". Mitchell criticized both parties as mutually working against their stated goals. Interestingly enough, Autism Speaks also gave Laurent Mottron, a neurodiversity researcher, half a million dollars.
What to do about Autism Speaks
Approach organisations fooled into working with Autism Speaks and suggest they work with Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) - motto "Nothing About Us Without Us" - instead.
- Autism Speaks
- Criticisms of Autism Speaks
- It's Bridget's Word: This Is Autism: An essay by an autistic person on exactly why she is not fond of Autism Speaks representation.
- Autism Speaks: Why you should not support them/stop supporting them — a 49-page essay on why Autism Speaks is bad, with full citations
- I’m Autistic, And Believe Me, It’s A Lot Better Than Measles
- Zide, Jeffrey. "Autism Speaks does not represent the voices of autistic people." The Sundial. Cal State Northridge. April 23, 2012.
- Autism Speaks welcomes three new board members
- Why Autism Speaks Doesn't Speak For Me, Forbes
- I Am Autism, YouTube
- “Autism Speaks”- but Should Everyone Listen?
- Vaccines and Autism, Autism Speaks
- Speaking Out About “Autism Every Day”
- Why I am Against Autism Speaks (and you should be, too)
- Before you donate to Autism Speaks, Consider the facts, Autistic Advocacy