Autism Speaks (aka: AS, A$, Speaks, or Autism $peaks) has been celebrating its tenth birthday. The well–branded giant’s been busy with the kind of activities it’s become known for. Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright traveled their usual circuit, giving a few interviews on morning television. For the celebration, the group also created a hashtag event on Twitter. The hashtag was largely taken over by activists who oppose Autism Speaks.
This isn’t the first time activists have voiced concerns about Autism Speaks, and for all the perceived love of underdogs in our culture, they’re often ignored. Yet, for over a decade, and in spite of campaigns that promote research to prevent and cure them, autistics (and allies) have stood their ground. They’ve knocked on the doors of legislators, organized protests, created their own awareness campaigns, and formed their own organizations.
I know about these protests, organizations, and efforts because I’ve been active with them for about half the years Speaks has been dispensing its well–packaged fear campaigns. I learned about autistic–led efforts, and got involved thanks to some CAN volunteers. They told me about their work, as well as the efforts of other organizations dedicated to a more healthy, responsible approach to autism awareness, support, and advocacy. These people are champions because they’ve helped educate me, and others, about the importance of autistic advancement. They explained how advancement has been more of a struggle than it should be, and what can be done about it. Even though autistics are struggling to be heard amidst propaganda that depicts them as voiceless, I remain confident. I’m confident that change is coming because I’ve gotten to know a lot of dedicated activists. As long as I’ve been a part of these efforts, I’m still amazed by the disciplined leadership, and persistence of everyone in this movement. Autistic people and allies know how to unite. Everyone’s working towards a bigger goal, and it’s great to see this kind of action. DJ, an activist who said he’s had plenty of disagreements with some of his comrades in the past, said everyone knows there isn’t time to worry about disagreements when people’s rights are on the line. “We know the main goal is more important than ourselves,” he said. Continue reading