Thursday, April 14, 2016

Autism Awareness Month


This comes way later than I'd wanted it to, but April is, among other things, Autism Awareness Month. You may have heard about wearing blue or stuff from Autism Speaks, but there's something everyone needs to know about this particular charity.

What most allistic (non-autistic) people aren't aware of is the conflict between those who want to find a "cure" for autism and those who think that autistic people are just different from the majority and don't need to be cured anymore than LGBTQAIP+ people need to be cured. The problem with Autism Speaks is how much it focuses on what a tragedy it is that autistic people exist. It talks a lot about parents and caretakers of autistic kids and how hard their lives are rather than focusing on how badly the world treats autistic people. The organization speaks over autistic people instead of uplifting their voices. It uses stereotypes and fear tactics to raise money, and only a tiny majority of its budget (4%) goes toward actually helping existing autistic people. Most of the budget goes to looking for a cure.

Some would call this eugenics.

The fact is that people on the autism spectrum need our society to stop catering purely to allistic people. People on the spectrum can function just fine if they get the accommodations and considerations they need, just like we allistic people get. The only reason autistic people might want to be cured is that we allistic people treat them so badly. We're the problem, they're not. And it would be real simple for us to make simple changes like giving up our weird Western obsession with eye contact (which is considered rude in many other cultures). But somehow we'd rather spend millions every year on figuring out how to stop autistic people from existing anymore. It's fucked up.

Here's a list of shitty things about Autism Speaks written by the president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a much better charity for people on the spectrum.

This is a really serious problem. Autistic people are routinely dehumanized by our society. Parents who murder their autistic kids get actual sympathy from people because apparently these kids are so difficult to deal with that who wouldn't want to murder them?

Case in point:

Police Shoot Unarmed Man and his 6-Year-Old Autistic Son in the Head Multiple Times Killing Son

Jeremy David Mardis is the youngest deadly police brutality victim this year. He was hit by five bullets when officers opened fire upon his dad's car. Autistic children are disproportionately affected by police brutality the way black children are. Because they don't act exactly as police think they should. In this case, Jeremy was a completely innocent bystander, but autistic kids have been directly threatened and shot by police many times in the past.

I highly recommend all my fellow allistic people celebrate this month by doing real research into autism and reading works by actual autistic people about Autism Speaks, autistic rights, and what they really need from those of us with allistic privilege. Autistic people are human and don't need to be wiped out for our convenience.

And avoid wearing blue. Wear red instead.

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