The White House paid lip service to autism on April 2 by participating in Autism Speaks’ “Light It Up Blue” event to commemorate Autism Awareness Day. While this may seem like a step forward, it is actually a giant regression from the progress America was making regarding autism.
Autism Speaks is the most well-known organization regarding autism, and it is endorsed by many celebrities. However, this does not make it a good organization.
For many years, Autism Speaks’ main goal has been to find a cure for autism, which is of grave concern to many autistic people such as myself.
Due to our different way of thinking, many autistics have made extremely valuable contributions to the world. Satoshi Tajiri, who is confirmed to have Asperger’s Syndrome, used his obsessive interests in video games and the collection of different species of bugs to create what eventually became the Pokémon franchise. Eliminating autism could lead to the eradication of a very important section of the population.
Additionally, Autism Speaks focuses on the caretakers of autistics and does nothing to help those who actually have it.
It created the documentary “Autism Every Day,” which featured a mother talking about how she contemplated murdering her autistic daughter and killing herself. This was all said in front of her daughter.
It also created the short film “I Am Autism,” which says how autism will wreck parents’ lives and rip their marriages apart.
Autism Speaks also has no autistic members on its board. It did at one point, when notable autism advocate John Elder Robison was on the board, but he resigned because the board did not take his suggestions into account.
He told the organization about how autistic people do not like being told they are defective and need to be eliminated, and he offered many suggestions on how to help autistics. His comments fell on deaf ears, however, as public statements released by the organization while he was on the board continued to treat autistic people as broken objects.
However, Autism Speaks may have begun to turn a corner last October when it changed its mission statement to drop the word “cure.” Although many autistics found it to be too little, too late, at least it was a step in the right direction.
We also have been seeing autism being portrayed in a more positive light in the media. “Sesame Street” introduced an autistic character, and the blue Power Ranger was confirmed to be autistic as well. Both of these characters are showing the unique attributes that those with autism possess.
This is certainly promising for the future of people with autism. But the progress being made looks to be coming to a screeching halt.
Donald Trump proclaimed that the administration would encourage “innovation that will lead to new treatments and cures for autism.” This drags us back to the pits of ignorance and completely disregards what many autistics actually want.
Instead of lighting up a house to support a misguided organization, they should work on providing access to health care and employment.
Trump and his political associates are showing that that they support the view that autistic people should not exist, and this dangerously regressive viewpoint makes me extremely worried about the future of the autistic population.