Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Us

Written by Meg Evans, ASAN-SW Ohio

Autism Speaks and the organizations that merged into it, including the National Alliance for Autism Research, have provided many grants to fund genetic studies and other autism-related research. In 2005, grant recipient Dr. Joseph Buxbaum predicted a prenatal test within 10 years.[1] Autism Speaks' co-founder Suzanne Wright made the organization's eugenic aims equally plain, to "eradicate autism for the sake of future generations."[2] There is a page on Autism Speaks' website supporting the efforts of James Watson and others "to identify autism susceptibility genes."[3] Watson resigned in disgrace from his position as the Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory after making grossly racist remarks,[4] and he has long advocated genetically enhancing children and eugenically exterminating people with cognitive disabilities, which he characterizes as "curing stupidity."[5]

Autism Speaks created a video in 2006 entitled Autism Every Day, which the producer admitted was staged to show negative images.[6] In one horrific scene, a mother described her thoughts of murdering her autistic daughter while the child was actually in the room.[7] Soon afterward, two board members of Autism Speaks said in a magazine interview that they sometimes hoped their autistic son would drown in their backyard pond.[8] Television ads by Autism Speaks have compared the odds of a child being autistic to the odds of a child being struck by lightning, [9] or killed in a car wreck, implying none too subtly that a child might as well be dead as autistic.

Two prominent figures at Autism Speaks, communications executive Alison Tepper Singer [10] and scientific advisor Dr. Eric London,[11] resigned in 2009 because they objected to the organization's complicity in perpetuating the groundless urban legend about vaccines and autism, which has led to reduced vaccination rates and tragic deaths of young children from vaccine-preventable diseases.[12] Dr. London warned bluntly in his resignation letter that "[i]f Autism Speaks' misguided stance continues, there will be more deaths…"[13]

Although Autism Speaks claims to speak for autistic people, it does not have—and never has had—even one autistic person on its board of directors or in its leadership. This is far out of line with the mainstream of the disability community, where individuals with disabilities work side by side with family members, professionals, and others to achieve quality of life and equality of opportunity. Autism Speaks' exclusionary attitude toward people with disabilities is clearly shown in a recent video entitled Neighbors,[14] which suggests that autistic children will have no friends unless they are taught to suppress their autistic mannerisms by means of behavioral therapy. The underlying message is that people with disabilities cannot be accepted as they are.

[1] MSNBC, Feb. 23, 2005;
[2] Parade Magazine, Jan. 27, 2008;
[5] Sun-Herald, March 2, 2003;
[6] WireTap Magazine, July 11, 2006;
[8] Town & Country Magazine, August 2006;
[10] Newsweek, Jan. 19, 2009;
[11] Science, July 10, 2009;
[12] Discover Magazine, June 2009;

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Next Meeting: Thursday, August 13 @ 5:45pm

Our next meeting will be held this Thursday, August 13, at 5:45pm at Barnes & Noble (1598 N. High St.). We will meet in the coffee shop area on the first floor. OSU students, faculty, staff, and community members are welcome to attend!

Our agenda includes (but is not limited to) the following items: discussing a September event in Fremont, OH; discussing a letter-writing campaign about President Gee and the Autism Speaks walk; and brainstorming ideas for an event that involves handing out ASAN flyers in a pedestrian-heavy area.