Letter to the Editor: To The Campus Community From An Autistic Student: Stop Supporting Autism Speaks

Courtesy of Autism Speaks Website

Jim Defrancesco, Guest Writer

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As many of you know, April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month. Unfortunately, it’s also a frustrating time of the year for me as someone with autism because it’s the month I see many people and groups, including RSOs on this campus, make the mistake of promoting and donating to Autism Speaks. I want to be clear: Autism Speaks does far more harm than good for people with autism. They very publicly use aggressive and dehumanizing rhetoric to portray autism as a malignant, destructive force and frame parents of autistic children as tragic heroes, essentially telling autistic people, many of them already suffering from anxiety, depression, and/or low self-esteem, that they are the reason for all their families’ problems. They also speak about us without involving us. Only two people with autism have ever sat on their Board of Directors, and one of them resigned because the rest of the board wouldn’t listen to his input. How can you claim to advocate for a group while actively ignoring what they have to say? When you donate to Autism Speaks, you’re donating to an organization that portrays autism, a developmental and neurological condition, as a disease, and paints people like myself as a burden to society who shouldn’t exist. You’re donating to an organization that only allocates 1.6% of its budget to services for people with autism and featured the Judge Rotenberg Center, who use aversive torture techniques on people with disabilities and where at least 6 people have died, as a resource for families. Every April, we see an organization that demonizes and silences us claim they represent us. If you want to help people with autism, boycott Autism Speaks and donate to organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, who do great things for both children and adults with autism.