Autism awareness or autism acceptance?


Every April, Autism Speaks celebrates World Autism Month. It begins on April 2 with Autism Awareness Day.

Autism Speaks is the most known charity organization for Autism Spectrum Disorder — you may recall the blue puzzle piece, which has recently become multicolored to recognize the ‘spectrum’ of autism. They sponsor research and awareness events for autism.

AS preaches for kindness, understanding, and acceptance — three things that they’ve unequivocally failed at. 

Instead, AS spreads misinformation, fosters fear in parents, and searches for autism’s “cure.” 

Most importantly, the group doesn’t actually listen to members of the autistic community. 

Autism Speaks’ leadership is not staffed by anyone with ASD, and this is not a mistake. Many mainstream advocates for autism awareness speak as someone who’s “affected by” autism. They don’t have the disorder themselves, and they’re doing far more harm than good. They are speaking over autistic people, who are more than willing to educate on their experiences.

Autism Speaks is not interested in awareness. It is interested in eugenics. 

And it is widely viewed as a hate group by members of the autistic community.

Their money (well, the money that isn’t lining the CEO’s pockets, anyway,) is invested in science —science of causes, prevention, treatments – and a cure. They go so far as to call autism a “global health crisis.”

Let me make something very clear: Autism is a neurotype, not a debilitating disease. Autistic people do not need to be ‘fixed.’ Straying from the norm isn’t the death sentence our society thinks it is.

Applied Behavior Analysis is the standard and longest-running therapy for autistic children, and most autistic adults consider it cruel and traumatizing. 

It is framed as the only choice for parents who have just received an autism diagnosis for their child. That ABA is the only thing that can ‘save’ their child. The goal of ABA is to make the child as ‘normal’ as possible. Ivar Lovaas, a founder of ABA, said that autistic children aren’t even people — you must build a person from scratch. ABA involves physical and emotional abuse, including hitting, yelling at, and even electrically shocking young children to dissuade ‘bad’ autistic behaviors. 

Parents and “experts” will swear up and down that it works. But multiple studies have since been done that disprove its effectiveness. 

You know what it is effective at? Traumatizing children who are already scared and struggling.

AS has also partnered with and promoted the Judge Rotenberg Center, which ‘treats’ people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. This ‘treatment’ includes electric shocks, starvation, sleep deprivation, physical assault – and solitary confinement. 

The electric shocks consist of strapping the patient to the table, placing electrodes on all four limbs, and a staff member pressing buttons to send electric shocks through the person’s skin. The shocks last five to 10 seconds at a time, and a shocking session lasts anywhere from minutes to hours.

Sounds like a few human rights violations, doesn’t it?

The JRC is located in Massachusetts, and while the FDA has ruled that electric shocks are illegal, the center hasn’t been shut down. 

And ABA, while proven to be ineffectual and criticized heavily by the community, is still staunchly defended. 

Autism Speaks will go to incredible lengths to villainize autism. But it’s not something people have. It’s a part of who they are. Autism can’t be cured because you can’t separate it from the person. This is why they’ve resorted to torture to break people down. They don’t want to find a cure; they want to erase an entire neurotype from humanity.

This isn’t discussed much at all outside of the adult autistic community, so this information likely comes as a shock to many. You may be wondering what to do from here. 

Autism Speaks has a phrase called “Light it up Blue” to show support for Autism during the month of April. But members of the autistic community ask that they show solidarity with the community by using “Red Instead.” The community also asks that people use identity-first language (autistic person) instead of person-first (person with autism,) which is the opposite of what autism “advocates” say. The puzzle piece, which is also used by AS, is associated with there being a “missing piece” with autism. This is a harmful idea and generally not used by the community for this reason. Instead, they use a rainbow infinity symbol. 

Autistic people are just that: people. It is not a disease. It is not a burden. We need to be uplifting autistic voices, and we need to listen to what they have to say. 

– Josie Gawrys

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