The Controversy of Autism Speaks | Teen Ink

The Controversy of Autism Speaks

November 23, 2012
By Erinwolf1997 PLATINUM, San Carlos, California
Erinwolf1997 PLATINUM, San Carlos, California
37 articles 4 photos 4 comments

It’s expected that every charity does nothing but good for whatever cause they promote. However, some, even large and well-known ones, don’t do all they are expected to, and it will definitely be better to consider giving your money to a different one. Autism Speaks is the largest and the most widely recognized autism charity in the world. To the ordinary person, it seems like a great charity to contribute to. It was started by the grandparents of an autistic child. It has partnerships with companies like TJ Maxx, Build-a-Bear-Workshop, and Home Depot. In 2010, Autism Speaks raised over six million dollars through their partners alone. It may be surprising to hear that many people find this charity offensive or wrong. Some even seem to hate it with passion. Why? Autism Speaks seems to trigger hatred especially among the autistic community. They firstly are appalled by the fact that Autism Speaks tries to “speak for autism.” Their advertisements and information are fear-based and focused on the negative impact autism has on families emotionally and financially. They spends loads of funding on researching possible treatments and cures, and spend a minimal amount on what they call “Family Services.” They are also self-centered and threaten nearly anyone who stands up against them, even the individuals they are trying to fight for. These are the reasons I’m led to think that Autism Speaks is a negative and possibly harmful charity.

Autism Speaks has been criticised and disliked by autistics because it claims to “speak for” autism. They advocate for them and their rights, without necessarily getting their consent to do so. Many people find this offensive because many autistics are capable of speech, and they want to speak for themselves. Also, Autism Speaks has never had an autistic person on their board, they have only been parents and relatives of autistic children. Many find it extremely hard to believe that than can “speak for” autism, if they aren’t actually autistic themselves. This is necessary for a good autism charity, and many other smaller, and lesser-known charities have autistic board members, and cause less controversy.

Another huge issue people have with Autism Speaks is that they view all autism-spectrum-disorders as diseases. On their website they even stated that it is an “urgent global health crisis.” They compare the funding that autism gets to that of diseases like cancer and AIDS, comparing them as if they are similar, when in reality, these get lots of money for a reason. This is because they are usually fatal if left untreated, unlike autism, which is virtually harmless. They are also spending lots of their money on trying to develop a prenatal test to detect autism. They seem to not care about the people they are trying to help, they should use more of their money on family services, like grants and financial support, and less on this almost science-fiction-like goal.

Autism Speaks has also made questionable advertisements and documentaries supporting their cause. They seem to focus on a theme of negatively portraying autism, almost demonizing it. Their short documentary, “Autism Every Day” focuses on the lives of parents with autism. Nearly everything about it is negative, the mothers going on a tangent on how difficult it is for them, compared to parents of neurotypical children. They complain about the costs of autism and how it is tearing apart their relationships with their family, friends, and other children apart. The part that has sparked hate among nearly everyone is that a mother of an autistic girl talks about how she would occasionally think about driving her and her daughter off a bridge. Her only reason she didn’t, she said, was that she had another daughter. This is bad enough, but what makes it worse is that she said it with her daughter sitting right next to her, as if she believed that her daughter wasn’t capable of understanding her. These videos scare people into giving them money, their website is full of messages that make the visitor fearful that their child may have autism. Although this may be an efficient way of advertising, it is a poor way to make people actually like your charity. If Autism Speaks showcased some of the positive effects of autism, even just a tiny bit, they’d get better respect from the rest of the world.

Another thing that is key for getting along well in the world, whether you’re a major charity, or just a person, is to try, at least, to take your criticism well. Recently, Autism Speaks attempted to sue a 14-year old autistic girl, just because she had made a site parodying the charity. Their only reason for doing this was because the site might confuse people. This is just extremely immature for a major charity to do this. Maybe, if they put people on their board that acted more like adults, they’d look better to the rest of the world.

These are some of the main reasons that Autism Speaks is a bad autism charity. There are many more that do good, such as Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which supports neurodiversity and autistics speaking for themselves. Unfortunately, Autism Speaks is the biggest and self-proclaimed best autism charity out there. Their controversial beliefs and practices may fool most of the general public, but in my opinion it is a very bad charity to be involved in.

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This article has 4 comments.

on May. 23 2016 at 12:36 pm
BuddingRose GOLD, Irwin, Pennsylvania
10 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A person's a person, no matter how small." -Dr.Suess

I went to an event with a theater company for my dance class, and of course, Autism Speaks was there. My parents still give money to them despite the facts listed above, of course I refused to buy any of their products. I can tell you that Autism is nothing like cancer, but it isn't easy to live with either. If Autism Speaks knew about the Eugenics movement and the consequences of that movement, they would maybe change their ways. Anyhow, great article, but with some spelling errors.

archimom said...
on Aug. 17 2015 at 3:38 pm
It seems this happens with some organizations because I've stopped giving to Susan B. Komen when you look into the amount of money that is raised based on the volunteer level to try to do good but then the amount of money that actually goes into the foundation to figure out the cure or assist families in need. We're all challenged with certain health issues as we age or know someone that has a condition like OCD, autism, Downs syndrome, etc. which shows up from minor to major. But these foundations shouldn't make this a way to become rich by taking million dollar salaries when the success stems from the grassroot efforts to make a difference.

annnnna said...
on Mar. 23 2015 at 2:43 pm
I totally agree with you. However, I found a problem with the article. Autism is NOT harmless. Its EXTREMELY difficult to live with.

on May. 18 2013 at 4:05 pm
Anansesem BRONZE, Cave Spring, Georgia
1 article 0 photos 40 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Will our life not be a tunnel between two vague clarities? Or will it not be a clarity between two dark triangles?" ~Pablo Neruda

For a while I was wondering why I didn't associate with Autism Speaks, and now have helped me figure it out. These people forget that "Autism" and "Asperger's" does not describe one type of disorder (for lack of a better word), but many. Their attitude helps along the belief that all Austistic cannot function without extensive assistance. I stopped reading the books written for us long ago, because I was tired of being talked down to. Perhaps they didn't do so purposely, but it was still there on every page. As a teen with Asperger's Syndrome I truly resent the idea that we cannot THINK without assistance either. And then they treat it like a miracle when we choose to share our thought with the people who treat us like invalids. It makes my blood boil, but I can't hate people who are still trying to understand. Granted, I'm not Neurotypical. I grapple with things that others don't. But sometimes I wish I could be left alone. They tell me I have poor self-esteem, and sometimes that's true, but as I told one counselor, it's hard for me to believe the people who tell me I can succeed when I have therapists, school officials, doctors, etc. following me around making sure I don't trip over the next hurdle. The people of Autism Speaks aren't complete liars--there are cases like they describe. But we are not diseased, and we are not miserable. Hey, is there a thread for Austistics, Aspies and their family members? Let's start one if there isn't.