April 4, 2014

I do not accept Autism Speaks

Since April is Autism Acceptance Month, I’d like to share a few items about myself, about the Autistic community—and about the community’s trouble with Autism Speaks, the largest autism-related nonprofit organization.

Autism Speaks has an image to maintain as the voice of autism, so they don’t want anyone talking about autism without giving them a piece of the action. It’s no use to them if a bunch of upstart autistics reject their “Autism Awareness” PR campaign and counter it with a grassroots Autism Acceptance movement. So Autism Speaks is trying to hijack the idea with their own “Autism Acceptance” page, right on their website.


I’m not linking to their page. I won’t give them the traffic or the search relevance.

As of this writing, that page is the number one Google result for autism acceptance. But there are other websites with far more relevant information (e.g., the Autism Acceptance page itself), so it doesn’t make sense that it should come up as the most relevant result in a search—and it wasn’t #1 a few days ago—so I suspect Autism Speaks has been working with SEO professionals, artificially jacking up the Google ranking. They’ve certainly got the money to spend on that kind of publicity-jiggering.

The page itself contains 10 links to other pages within the Autism Speaks website. It begins:

We know that autism acceptance is something many in the autism community are also advocating for. Here are a list of links from our website that discuss issues related to autism acceptance.

Note: That’s “the autism community,” not the Autistic community. Autism Speaks refuses to recognize an Autistic community.

Autism Speaks, at its core, refuses to recognize autistic people. Their website never uses the word “autistic.” Never! It literally is not in their vocabulary. (If you can find it in any of their materials, let me know.) On the entire “Autism Acceptance” page, here are all the phrases that refer to autistic people:

Mother with Two Sons on the Autism Spectrum
one of her sons, Rubin, who is on the autism spectrum
her son Max who has autism
Youth with Autism
young adults with autism
individuals affected by autism
individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
children with autism
students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
children with autism…children with autism [twice in same paragraph]

The unwavering message of Autism Speaks is that there is no such thing as an autistic person—that there are only normal children who have been diseased with autism. They reject the fact that autism is an integral part of autistic people’s existence, that autistic people are autistic.

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