I am on the autism spectrum. It’s part of my identity. It shapes the way I interact with people on a day-to-day basis, and I’m proud to say it’s a part of who I am. Autism affects different people in different ways, and to varying degrees, but it tends to involve impaired communication and repetitive behaviors.
As of 2014, one in every 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism — and that’s probably less than the number who actually have it, considering that autism tends to be underdiagnosed in girls. With so many people living with autism spectrum disorder, it was inevitable that a number of organizations would spring up around the goal of helping people “on the spectrum,” such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Autism Network International. Unfortunately one the most prominent of these organizations, Autism Speaks, is prejudiced against the very people it claims to help.
According to Autism Speaks, the way my mind works (which is notably different from that of a non-autistic person’s, whom we might call “neurotypical”) needs to be cured, and this is the main concern of their organization. Only 3 percent of the Autism Speaks budget goes toward funding services, such as family grants, occupational therapy and assistive communication technology. Which, if handled correctly, might actually help autistic children and their parents. Instead, the bulk of the organization’s funds go toward bureaucracy, propaganda and their search for a “cure.”
The organization once released a video entitled “Autism Every Day,” in which a member of the organization talks about how she wants to drive herself and her autistic child off a bridge, and the only thing that kept her from doing so was the fact she also had a neurotypical child. She said this while her autistic child was playing behind her. For some reason we are expected to sympathize with her situation.
When we are not burdens ruining our parents’ lives, Autism Speaks frames autistic people as diseased and incapable of self-determination. People who are to be pitied and used as props in their search for a “cure.” Calling for a cure for autism is as insulting as calling for a cure for homosexuality — and the treatments they endorse resemble those same “reeducation” methods. Autism Speaks has promoted the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, an organization that has used electroshock therapy on autistic children as negative reinforcement to compel them to behave in a more neurotypical way.