Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Autism Speaks Doesn't Speak For Me

Autism Speaks, founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, sometimes seems to have taken over the entire conversation about autism in this country, what with their blue puzzle pieces littered all
over the landscape, coming to symbolize, wrongly, autism itself. Yet in spite of their ostensible role as a voice for autism, they’ve got a poor track record of showing respect for autistic people. One example is their intensely offensive “I am autism” video from 2009, promising a threatening, ominous autism that “ knows where you live” and “works faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined.” Oh, and guaranteeing also that autism will make your marriage fail. It doesn’t.

But that little fact and any number of others didn’t get in the way of Suzanne Wright when she settled in to pen her organization’s recent “call to action” on autism, this time switching pronouns to assert repeatedly in boldface, “ This is autism.” She claims that the country has failed autism families, “let them split up.” According to Ms. Wright, families who have autistic children are “not living.” Except that, almost in the same breath, evidently we are living.

She compares the “3 million children” in the United States with autism–of whom one is presumably my son–to a crisis on the level of 3 million children suddenly going missing or 3 million children waking up all on the same day, gravely ill. We would, she says, call out all of the military to resolve this problem, it is so dire, so why do we not do that for autism? It’s not the first time someone has compared autism to having a child stolen from them or to a dire disease. From what I hear from people who have, in fact, actually lost a child to a disease, there is no comparison.

Read the whole story at

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