Content warning : Autism Speaks, filicide, propaganda, brief mention of rape and death threats
I realized not too long ago that it’s been four years since I wrote my first post about Autism Speaks. I have two major ones that exist, both of them available under the “pages” tool on my blog here. Feel free to read them if you have the time or the stomach to do so. It’s a lot, and though there’s quite a bit that needs to be updated (notably that there are now two autistic board members), most of the points still stand.
Those posts are rich in information, most of it fairly dry and straightforward. The point of those posts was to have something to go to when someone asked me “but why don’t you like Autism Speaks?”. The first ever post I made on the subject was on my tumblr blog four years ago, and it was in response to someone asking me exactly that question. After a week of the same question repeatedly (after the first ask had been buried under other posts), I decided to make it a post.
The research on that was harrowing. It was a lot to take in, it was difficult to read. I was committed to making it as detailed as possible and I tried my best to not impose too many biased and outlandish statements within it. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but the me of four years ago was far more intense about these sorts of things than the me of today.
And then I edited that post. And I edited it again. And I realized that I was adding so much to the post that I may as well make a second one. So the updated Autism Speaks post came into existence just two years ago.
I don’t think I have ever really talked about the impact of those posts on me, what it feels like to not only have them floating around the internet, but to have been linked in articles in major news outlets. Nor have I talked about the way that Autism Speaks makes me feel.
So this is what I’m doing now. This isn’t edited for clarity. It isn’t particularly newsworthy or perfectly constructed. But this is me.
I feel heartbroken. Every time I hear the words “epidemic” or “tragedy” or the words “until all the pieces fit” along with the imagery of a puzzle piece being forced into the wrong shape, it breaks my heart. It makes me think of all the times when well-meaning family and friends tried to make me be something I’m not. Less autistic, more neurotypical. Maybe even sometimes more straight (though that’s a different story in itself).
Every time a parent whose clothing is covered by puzzle pieces or autism “awareness” slogans tells me I don’t count because I can speak, even while I’m stuttering and turning red and unable to continue and they think they’ve won the fight…my heart breaks.
Every time an autistic activist receives a hateful comment, a rape or a death threat, it makes me want to scream.
Every time I read about places like the Judge Rotenberg Center, or posts about people who have been subject to 40+ hours of ABA therapy a week since they were two years old (or younger!), it makes me want to scream .
Every time I see Autism Speaks release yet another pile of steaming bullshit, whether it’s in the form of a celebrity benefit or those damn gold bunnies, or some ridiculous computer simulation of a person who avoid eye contact (as if that’s the absolute worst ever), I get angry.
I am a highly empathetic person. I know that word empathy is thrown around and used improperly and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it means when you’re an autistic who has a lot of empathy. But I do, and I’m affected not just emotionally but physically by other people’s pain, and it hurts. Every time one of us hurts, I hurt.
And then I see the result of all this propaganda that Autism Speaks puts out, the flat out denial of our humanity. The fact that every time one of us is killed by our caretakers, that the number one comment will be about services, services, services. That it doesn’t matter that we are people deserving of love and respect and life . We are problems to be solved, and that can only happen through services. So many excuses, and yet so many of these parents had access to services, were filthy fucking rich, and they still killed their kids.
I know this – that the only time Autism Speaks has directly commented on a parent killing their autistic kid was the attempted murder of Issy Stapleton, and how Autism Speaks called it “an unfortunate incident” and refused to directly comment on Kelli Stapleton and how she tried to kill her autistic daughter. Is it because she was an autism mom blogger and well known in that community? I think so. I can’t prove that, but I have a pretty good instinct about it.
I am heartbroken about it all. I see every single parent that tries to explain these things to me as if I don’t know, as if I just don’t understand. See, because even though I am one of them (a parent of autistic kids), I’m not really one of them. I’m “other”. I know many people like me (autistic parent of autistic kids), but the “autism parents” like to think that we don’t exist.
I do understand. I understand the fears. I understand the frustration, especially if you’re a single parent. But I don’t understand how a person disrespects their child, takes away their autonomy again and again and again, refuses to explain to them that they’re even autistic, and makes them feel so very broken. I don’t understand parents who, instead of accepting their child’s neurology as who they are, spends time and money on Autism Speaks’ walks to “find a cure”. I don’t understand parents who go there with their children (both actual children and their adult offspring), who speak as though their kids aren’t even there or capable of understanding, and who talk over Autistic advocates who try to explain the problems with Autism Speaks.
I get it. It’s the first resource that doctors offer upon a diagnosis being confirmed. I get that. I know that I’m much more informed and open-minded than a lot of people. But when I read Autism Speaks’ “The First 100 days”, I felt sick to my stomach. These people were describing my child? How dare they! How dare they describe her with such foul words? How dare they dehumanize her?
Respect your kids. Respect yourself. And Boycott Autism Speaks.