Tag Archives: Judge Rotenberg Center

What’s Wrong With Autism Speaks?

When my daughter was diagnosed, we heard about Autism Speaks.  Their message supported everything else we were reading and hearing about autism, so I didn’t spend much time thinking about what they were saying or who they were involved with or even what they were doing with all the money they received.  In fact, we gave money to them during those early years.  When friends and family asked who they should donate money to, I encouraged them to give to Autism Speaks.

“Autism Speaks has a long and continued pattern of exclusion of Autistic voices from its work on autism. As an organization without a single Autistic person on its board of directors, Autism Speaks is the last group our nation’s leaders should be entrusting with the creation of a “national plan to address autism”. ~ ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network)

“No reasonable person would dare suggest that an organization comprised entirely of men represents women’s interests or that an organization led entirely by white people represents the interests of people of color, yet the same standard evidently does not apply to disability organizations despite the existence of many cross-disability and autism-specific organizations led by actually disabled people.” ~ Lydia Brown,  Autistic Hoya

I didn’t know.

“Only 4% of Autism Speaks’ budget goes towards the “Family Service” grants that are the organization’s means of funding services.” ~ ASAN, Before you Donate to Autism Speaks..

“Their slogan is “Autism Speaks to Washington.” It is neither “autism” nor Autistics who are doing the speaking, though.” ~ Paula Durbin-Westby

I didn’t know.

Autism Speaks has aligned themselves with the Judge Rotenberg Center, (read Autistic Hoya’s:  An Unholy Alliance) a center that uses electric shock as an “aversive”.   The Judge Rotenberg Center continues to accept “students” despite this video footage showing a young man being tortured.

For more about the Judge Rotenberg Center read Autistic Hoya’s post with dozens of links ‘here‘.

Bob and Suzanne Wright, whose grandson is Autistic created Autism Speaks in 2005.  Since then Autism Speaks has become one of the most influential autism organizations in the world.  What Autism Speaks does and says is often the first thing parents and people reading about autism hear.

“If three million children in America one day went missing – what would we as a country do?

If three million children in America one morning fell gravely ill – what would we as a country do?

We would call out the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. We’d call up every member of the National Guard. We’d use every piece of equipment ever made.

We’d leave no stone unturned.

Yet we’ve for the most part lost touch with three million American children, and as a nation we’ve done nothing.”  ~ Suzanne Wright’s  A Call to Action

The problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it is not a “call to action” it is a call to terror.   Terror that our children are “missing,” or have been “stolen,” or that if we are not careful any of our children will be “taken away” from us.  It furthers the misconception about autism and likens it to a predator, a kidnapper who will steal our children from our loving arms.

This is not awareness, this is propaganda.

Autism Speaks is responsible for a number of public service announcements which show screaming children and their exhausted parents who talk to the camera about how hard it is to have an autistic child while those same children are present.  I might have been one of those parents not so long ago.  In fact I allowed a camera crew to come to our home several years ago and film us.  The short film showed us sitting on our couch talking about our daughter as she sat beside me, (not realizing my daughter understood everything that I said, this is yet another of my many regrets) intercut with clips, I provided them with, of my daughter in full melt down.  I have since asked that our interview and all clips of my daughter be removed and I am grateful they respected my wishes.   The parents in the Autism Speaks videos are not so fortunate.

So many of us have supported organizations we thought were working toward positive change.  We believed they were helping us, our children and Autistic people.  We thought they had our children’s best interests in mind.  We believed they were doing good, only to find we were wrong.

I didn’t know.  Now I do.

Related Articles by Autistic people speaking out about Autism Speaks:

John Elder Robison – I Resign My Roles at Autism Speaks
Wikipedia – Talk: Autism Speaks/Controversy links
Golden Hearted Rose – So, What’s the Problem with Autism Speaks?
The Caffeinated Autistic – Why I am Against Autism Speaks
Evil Autie – This is Autism Speaks
One Quarter Mama: Why I don’t like Autism Speaks
Initiative Action

At What Point Do Our Actions Constitute Torture?

The New York Times published an OpEd piece yesterday by Bill Lichtenstein about the use of restraints and seclusion rooms for children with special needs in schools.  Please read by clicking ‘here‘.   Bill Lichtenstein writes, “According to national Department of Education data, most of the nearly 40,000 students who were restrained or isolated in seclusion rooms during the 2009-10 school year had learning, behavioral, physical or developmental needs, even though students with those issues represented just 12 percent of the student population.”

When we speak of a group of people as less than, when we view them through the lens of deficiency, we begin paving the way for the kind of abuse shown in this footage at the Judge Rotenberg Center.

The Judge Rotenberg Center is still operating despite lawsuits, protests and outrage.  The Judge Rotenberg Center, the systematic use of restraints and seclusion rooms in our schools as described in the NYTimes OpEd piece are but a few examples of what happens when we allow ourselves to think of people as “low functioning,” “severely Autistic” or any of the other words so readily used when speaking of Autism .  Those words make incorrect assumptions about a person’s intellect, capabilities and cognition.

When organizations like Autism Speaks and others like them fan the flames of fear by using words like epidemic, devastating, and use war terminology regarding Autism and Autistic people we are creating a toxic environment for those who are Autistic, an environment our children, who will one day grow up to become adults, will inherit.  There is a connection to the current words being used when talking about Autism and the abuse of Autistics.

All of us, each one of us must ask ourselves – if you were unable to speak in a language that those who had power over you understood, if you were spoken of as “broken,” “deficient,” “low functioning” and people treated you as though you were incapable of understanding because you could not make yourself understood, even though you continuously tried, if you were then punished, scolded, yelled at, drugged, restrained, shocked, put into a dark room because you expressed your frustration in the only way you knew how – by acting out, by becoming violent, by self harming –  what would you do?  How would YOU feel?  At what point do our actions constitute torture?

Countless articles have been written about the abuse of disabled children and yet the abuse continues.  Mother Jones published an article  about the Judge Rotenberg Center in 2007, recently updated entitled School of Shock.  

“The Rotenberg Center is the only facility in the country that disciplines students by shocking them, a form of punishment not inflicted on serial killers or child molesters or any of the 2.2 million inmates now incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons.”

The words we use, the organizations we support, the way we speak to and about our Autistic children, as well as Autistic people, matters.  I have done so many things wrong in raising my daughter, I cannot fit it all into a single post.  I have so many regrets, I could fill several pages with the things I tried all in the name of “helping her.”  Emma could not tell me how she felt about the various treatments and remedies I tried and I never thought to ask.  I’ve written about all of this before, the DAN doctors, the specialists, the pediatricians, the stem cell treatments.  If I sit and contemplate what I’ve done to my daughter with the best of intentions, I can barely move.  I feel devastated.  I know I didn’t mean to hurt her.  I know I didn’t mean to harm her.  I know.  I did it because I thought that as her mother it was the right thing to do.  Now I know differently.  Now I know what I did was wrong.  And the only thing I can do moving forward is write about it honestly.  Talk about it.  I can make sure I do things differently now.  I can make sure I talk about these things openly, honestly, not because I am intent on beating myself up, nothing good comes of that, but because maybe, just maybe others may learn from my mistakes.

What we do, how we behave, what we say and how we say it matters.  This is the ripple effect.

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