This year, Autism Speaks set out a wonderful new hashtag to celebrate their tenth anniversary in bringing to light the struggles and available resources for autistics and their families. #AutismSpeaks10
I love it for what the hashtag actually did. So many people stepped up on social media and declaimed Autism Speaks for creating a pathology for autism and a stigma to go with it. The worldwide autistic community hijacked the hashtag and showed what autism can really mean. I especially liked this response.
Consider this commercial by Autism Speaks. If this isn’t a form of fear-mongering, I don’t know what is.
This commercial is only eight years old, yet the ideology behind it is stuck in the Dark Ages.
I am not autistic myself, but I’ve met families who have autistic children. I’ve met adults who are autistic, but refuse to get a diagnosis because they don’t want to be labelled and treated like they’re incompetent. That alone should make us consider how we’ve been looking at this. Many in the #ActuallyAutistic community have their arms open to people who have self-diagnosed, and help inspire adaptation, rather than falsely attempting to cure it.
So, why am I so harsh on Autism Speaks?
They really don’t know what they’re talking about. They go on about needing to cure autism, when that isn’t really necessary. Think of people’s brains as computers. Many of us run on Windows, and many of us run Mac. We can run almost all of the same programs and accomplish the same tasks in relatively the same way. Then we find someone who runs Ubuntu or Knoppix and we think everything’s ground to a halt because they can’t connect an ipod or run the same programs as easily as everyone else. First impulse is to keep drilling the same programs or to try and make them more like Windows or Mac, but that won’t work. (Here’s a more in-depth metaphor)
As of yet, I haven’t seen anyone on a campaign to cure Ubuntu.
Instead, people adapt.
Not only does Autism Speaks have a critical misunderstanding of what autism is, but they’ve been profiting off it. While they do spend quite a bit on research on finding a cure, they spend more on catering for events than they do on actually improving lives and having resources available. And no one in the ranks of Autism Speaks actually is autistic. They’re all spectators making million dollar decisions about a group they aren’t a part of. (There was one person who used to work for them, but he couldn’t agree to their beliefs and what they spread as the truth.)
Autism Speaks pushes the mentality that getting a vaccine can cause autism or that there are certain foods that can cure autism.
Autism isn’t a disease, but a part of the great neurodiverse spectrum of characteristics of people on this planet.
If you’re interested in supporting useful resources and a better understanding, check out the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.