All right, friends. As many of you lovely people may be aware, April is Autism Awareness Month. This is a fact that gives me tremendous headaches and makes me almost regret that my birthday is near. I know that for many of you, autism is a part of your daily reality, and that the quality of life of an autistic family member is a constant issue. I know that some of you, like me, are autistic. I know that many of you (all, I would hope,) make daily efforts to be a better kind of person than you were yesterday. For many of you, this means educating yourselves on the reality and needs of those with developmental disabilities like autism.
All of this is to say that I genuinely believe your hearts are in the right place. I am not here to pick a fight with anyone.
That having been said, this April, before you go around propounding “autism awareness” or voicing your support for the “charity” Autism Speaks, I beg of you. Please. Please. Go to Google. Take the time to listen to the voices of the autistics who have gone to the trouble of sharing their thoughts on these subjects. Listen to the reasons why we consider the organization to be harmful to us. Be aware of just where your money is going and what it’s being used for. Understand why “awareness” is not the same as “acceptance,” and why we could do with less of one and all of the other.
Ultimately, the way you choose to offer support, or not, to those autistics in your life is your choice. But before you make that choice, I would ask that you educate yourself. Make your choices knowingly. Understand why we all might not be as grateful as you’d like for your chosen method of support.
And be aware that I just might have to unfollow you before the end of the month, in the interest of self-preservation, if I see “light it up blue” or that Autism Speaks Build-a-Bear too many times on your feed. Also be aware that if you choose to come into the comments on this post and argue with me about AS and how I’m being ignorant and hateful and surely it’s better for people to give to an imperfect organization than to do nothing, I will not engage you and will most likely delete your comment. Know that I’ve had this conversation many times already, and I do not owe anyone a repeat performance of the anxiety and panic it inevitably induces.
I do still recommend going to the effort of doing your own research if you’re going to say this issue is one that matters to you, but here are a couple of links.
One autistic woman’s detailed explanation (with more links) of the problem with Autism Speaks, and why it is harmful to autistics: http://goldenheartedrose.tumblr.com/
An alternative to Autism Awareness Month, run by actually autistic people: http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/