Tag Archives: first presidential debate

The Latest From Autism Speaks

This is the email I received this morning.  It’s from Autism Speaks.   Please read and let’s discuss…


Dear Ariane ,

We had a significant presence at the first Presidential Debate at Denver University last week. We are going to have an even bigger presence at the next two debates to show the candidates how big the autism community is!

We need your help to make the autism community, and all of our issues, a squeaky wheel in this election season. For the next debate, we don’t want just a mention of autism.

We want the candidates to discuss a plan for leadership on increased funding for dedicated autism research and appropriate health insurance coverage for all Americans with autism.”

In the first statement Autism Speaks writes, “… we want our 1 in 88 in the debates.”  When they say “we” am I one of the “we”?  “We are going to have an even bigger presence at the next two debates…”  We are?

“Our” is a curious word to use when speaking of a group of people, many of whom can speak for themselves and those who cannot “speak” are capable of communicating, through typing or other means of communication, their thoughts and ideas.  “Our” is a pronoun implying ownership or at the very least lends a sense of unity and inclusiveness as in “our politicians,” “our neighbors,” “our friends”.   What Autism Speaks is really saying  is “our Autistics.”  I don’t think the people I know, whether Autistic or not, would take kindly to that wording, but “our 1 in 88” somehow gets a pass?

“We want our 1 in 88 in the debates!”  Really?  Is Autism Speaks suggesting Autistic people should be up on a stage or at a town hall debating the presidential candidates?  It’s an interesting and compelling idea and one I whole-heartedly embrace, except I don’t believe this is what they mean.  “Behind every person with Autism is an army of support.”  I don’t think most of the people I know who are Autistic feel they have an “army of support.”  In fact most of the people I know who are Autistic feel they have very little, if any support.  But I’d really like those who are Autistic to weigh in here and say for themselves whether they feel they have an “army of support.”  Armies are usually employed to fight or fend off an enemy.  Who is the enemy and who makes up this army?  Am I part of the ‘army’ that is supposedly supporting my daughter?   Maybe me and Richard?  An army of two?  Where is the army of support that’s standing behind each and every “person with autism”?

Autism Speaks is much, much more than an organization attempting to raise awareness or one that insists they speak for Autistic people while doing nothing of the kind.  They are running a campaign, not a campaign that raises money to help those with Autism, but a campaign that promotes fear and generates terror.  Anyone who  has spent any time in the advertising business knows, fear causes people to open their check books faster than any other single emotion.  Autism Speaks does a brilliant job using language to convey other, more subtle meanings.

Autism Speaks is interested in having autism addressed by politicians, a worthy and important suggestion that ALL of us can agree on.  Except Autism Speaks is NOT a leader in showing the world how to INCLUDE Autistic people in the building and formation of their various programs.  Autism Speaks uses the words, “Autism Speaks it’s time to listen.”  But who is it they are suggesting we listen to?  Not Autistics.  They have positioned themselves as an organization which represents Autism.  They have self-appointed themselves as the “voice” of autistic people despite the vehement protests by so many who are Autistic.

Can you imagine an organization that suggested they spoke for the American people and yet were made up of people of some other nationality.  An organization which only had one or perhaps two Americans on their board, advisory committee or occupying more than one or two seats of the upper echelons of their organization?  Imagine for a moment how you would feel if an organization called themselves: “Americans Speak it’s time to listen”, yet those who were talking weren’t American and when you tried to say something you were routinely ignored.  Imagine how you would feel if this organization continued to insist they spoke for you and yet when you heard them speak you didn’t recognize yourself or any of those you knew.  Just imagine.

To Mitt Romney and Barack Obama:  please inform yourselves about autism by listening to those who are AUTISTIC.  That’s the discussion I’m interested in listening to, the one that includes autistic people and not those organizations that say they do and yet do not.