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Fri Oct 9, 2015, 02:51 PM


Fix the charity that wants to ‘fix’ autism (xpost from GD)


Autism Speaks is the mega-charity of the autism world. Founded in 2005, it has an annual budget of $60 million, is known for its ubiquitous awareness walks and has a handsome array of celebrity backers. In some quarters of the disability rights movement, however, it has long been reviled for silencing and shaming autistic people.

The organization is criticized for the lack of autistic people on its board of directors and among its senior leadership. Its advertising materials also present autism in the worst possible light. One video portrays autism as a terrifying stalker, saying, “I am autism … I know where you live.” Critics claim it spends hardly any money on actually helping autistic people and that it supports abusive therapies. Worst, its mission calls for a possible cure for autism, which for many autistic people is tantamount to a call for genocide.

Autism Speaks disputes all these characterizations, but well defended by its giant piles of money, the mega-charity is usually able to ignore its critics. However, when best-selling author Steve Silberman recently published a high-profile op-ed in the Los Angeles Times criticizing the group, Autism Speaks responded with a call for unity. Could its willingness to engage suggest that it is on its way to becoming a less divisive member of the disability rights movement?...

Autism Speaks’ raison d’être requires believing that there’s an autism epidemic in need of a cure. Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright started the charity after their grandson was diagnosed with autism. Bob Wright was the chairman of NBC Universal, and the couple used their media contacts and money to propel the charity into the nonprofit stratosphere. Today, they continue to promote the idea that autism rates reflect a terrifying crisis. In its “call for unity,” Liz Feld, the charity’s president, wrote, “Since 2005, the prevalence of autism has doubled.”

If anyone's gonna fix me, it's gonna be Coldplay, dammit!

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