Does Autism Speaks want to eradicate people with autism?

 This is the first in a 3 part series about two prominent groups in the Autism community - Autism Speaks and the Autism Self Advocacy Network.

The question posed in the headline of this post seems like a preposterous thing to suggest. How could any popular, celebrity endorsed non-profit group be focused on ridding the world of any kind of person? Yet, there is an affiliation of adults with autism who are strongly opposed to Autism Speaks and everything they think it stands for. So what IS Autism Speaks?

From visiting the home page I can see that Autism Speaks has a four part mission.
  • Science - Autism Speaks is dedicated to facilitating global research into the causes, treatments, prevention and an eventual cure for autism. 
  • Awareness -  Autism Speaks is dedicated to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society. 
  • Advocacy - coordinating activist efforts in support of federal and state legislative initiatives.
  • Family Services - Autism Speaks is dedicated to providing information and resources to improve the outcome of children, adolescents, and adults affected by autism

As far as I can tell, Autism Speaks is an organization seeking to help families improve the quality of life for their children with autism as they become adults, work for them by helping introduce and/or pass favorable federal and state laws, raise public awareness about autism, and research possible causes, effective treatments, and maybe one day - a cure.

Nothing I have seen on the Autism Speaks website seems to be pointing at anything controversial or otherwise offensive to adults currently living with autism. Whether on the high or low functioning end of the spectrum. I was pointed toward a video called "I am Autism" by director Alfonso Cuaron and Billy Mann that was created for a United Nations event. This is supposedly the "smoking gun" and what has members of the Autism Self Advocacy Network upset. Have a look below and in the next post of this series, we'll get to the bottom of all of this and hopefully clear this all up once and for all.

What do you think of this video? Do you find it inspiring or offensive? And if so, why?

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1 comment:

gwenhwyfaer said...

As an autistic person, my problem is with Autism Speaks is this: they're your organisation, you who have children or siblings or friends who are autistic, not mine; as such, they are egregiously misnamed, which would be OK if they weren't so obviously intentionally misnamed to present themselves as "the authentic voice of autism" and crowd those of us with real, authentic voices of our own out of the public discussion. Which is... well, imagine that you found that an organisation called Judaism Speaks was created and staffed by Iranians, and work backwards from there.