Happy April Dear Readers!
This is a month that many advocates struggle with. Why would neurodiverse people struggle during Autism Awareness month, you might ask?
We are all lighting it up blue and supporting autism awareness month, isn’t that in line with your advocacy?
We are all committed to solving the puzzling problem of autism, isn’t that in line with your advocacy?
No, Dear Readers, no.
Let me direct you to my very first blog post ever. Why The Need for Resources Other Than Autism Speaks for a full account and linked articles about why the autistic community strongly asserts that “Autism Speaks does not speak for me!”
- Autistic people do not like the resource. Shouldn’t the people that receive benefits/help from a non-profit FEEL that they ARE receiving said benefits?
- Autism Speaks does not allocate it’s funds to directly help autistic individuals. Their funds go to employee compensation, with many employees making over six figures. The bulk of the rest of their funds goes towards research. That sounds good; however, much of their research focuses on causes and cures for autism; not ways to help people, which can be problematic.
- Autism Speaks seeks a cure for autism. At first, it might seem appropriate to find a cure; but, this perspective is ultimately rooted in both ableism and the assumption that you can cure a brain of its natural structure and function. This pursuit neither embraces nor acknowledges the entirety of the experience of autism. In addition, it suggests that the experience of autism is inherently bad, which many autistic individuals do not find is the case.
- Autism Speaks does not have autistic individuals on staff. They do not talk to autistic adults, often discounting those who have tried to speak to them. Usually, an advocacy organization’s purpose is to serve the population it represents and to ensure that this main goal is, in fact, executed.
- There are other resources that you can turn to that balance the needs of autistic individuals and their families and which do research to discover and implement effective methods to help autistic individuals and non-autistic individuals connect. See my resources page for current links on this sort of help.
- Autism Speaks produces advertisements, small films, etc., about what a burden autistic people are to society. Autism Speaks was responsible for the short film, Autism Every Day, which features a member of their board talking about contemplating murder-suicide of her daughter in front of her daughter. This has now be removed from Autism Speaks’ YouTube channel. Autism Speaks is responsible for the atrocity known as I am Autism, a short film directed and voiced by Alfonso Cuarón, the same person who directed The Prisoner of Azkaban (yes, really) and features him ominously saying things like “I am autism…I know where you live…I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined…I will make sure your marriage fails.”
Many autistic people don’t feel like the color blue is an accurate depiction for them. The color blue represents the idea that the disorder disproportionately affects more boys than girls while current research states that this is a misconception. For more information on that may I direct you to my post Autism is Often Overlooked in Women for my first discussion on the topic of gender bias in autism diagnosis.
Many autistic people don’t feel like the puzzle piece is an accurate depiction for them either. The puzzle piece is representative of different things depending on who you ask. Some people use it to symbolize how autistic people are a mystery that they need to solve. To us, that looks a little bit like this:
For some, the puzzle piece represents their belief that autistic people are incomplete, needing to be put together or assembled. This comes from a quote from Dr. Ivas Lovaas, the father of both Applied Behavior Analysis and Gay Conversion Therapies:
Debra Muzikar really voices this topic well in her post The Autism Puzzle Piece a Symbol of What please, please take the time to read her piece
There are many symbols that are out there now that autistic advocates prefer and they are beginning to settle into some standards, but the puzzle piece and the color blue are fading out.
Many of my mentors use the infinity symbol:
So, please, this April if you care about Autistic People
Try Red Instead
Light it up Gold if you prefer:
Or combine them, like Louis Brunel, with Crimson and Gold:
But please, Dear Readers, we do not need more people aware of autism. We need more people to accept autistic people. We need more people to seek out the voices of actually autistic people, to listen to actually autistic researchers, to hear the voices of actually autistic children, the voices of the actually autistic parents and/or Neurotypical parents who are not “martyr” or “warrior” parents. We need to hear the voices of those who grew up, but not out of, autism.
Dear neurotypical autism advocates, we see you. We know you want to fight to help us; but, we do not see that the problem we face is autism itself, or us. We fight against harmful misinformation, concurrent health problems, ableism, barriers to education or job opportunities, injustice, and inequality. We all want to be accepted, healthy, and happy humans. Diversity is beautiful.