Editorial: The editorial board stands against Autism Speaks

The Editorial Board

In solidarity with April’s Autism Awareness Month, special needs foundations, especially on the autism spectrum, hold various events. Autism Speaks is no exception. Autism Speaks is one of the most well-funded organizations for autism awareness. Despite their prominence, Autism Speaks often misallocates their funds and disregards the needs of the group they are supposed to represent.

Autism Speaks raises millions every year, but only gives half to aid families with autistic children. The remainder is almost equally distributed between salaries for the board members and other employees, some in the six figures, and research to discover the currently missing connection between the direct causes of autism and genes, symbolized by a blue puzzle piece.

Improper appointment of funds is disappointingly common for charitable organizations. While many individuals work hard to support their foundation, at the heart of philanthropy is sacrifice. After all, one cannot expect others to make compromises in their finances to support their charity if they aren’t willing to make cuts in their own. At best, the excessive distribution of donations to employees is an exercise in egotism, and at worst, it is a deception of supporters.

Until October of last year, Autism Speaks was dedicated to “curing” autism, not helping the families impacted. Sure, “was” is past tense, but their rhetoric has made a lasting impact. When the White House went blue in solidarity of those with autism, President Trump made a poorly-received comment referencing a cure. This is why their past continues to cause trouble, despite their backpedaling. While autism is a lifelong disorder that can cause numerous challenges for the person and their loved ones, the mistake we must correct is assuming that those with autism are broken.  Just because something is difficult does not mean that it should be brushed aside as wholly negative. Those with special needs often face the world with pride, rather than any sort of shame, and rightfully so. Therefore, Autism Speaks’ riddled past of antagonizing autism continues to do harm.

Autism Speaks’ approach to this issue is insensitive; their focus on finding a cure and not on the needs of the autistic community is also revealed in the fact that there are only two members of the Autism Speaks board who are on the autism spectrum– out of 31. Ironically, autism is not speaking. Granted, understanding the intricacies of living with any disability is difficult, but many organizations begin by ensuring that as many people with the disability are a part of the process as possible.

Most importantly, many people on the autism spectrum have expressed dissatisfaction with the work of Autism Speaks, claiming that it does not support their interests and is more concerned with public appearance. The opinion of those being represented and aided matters the most.

To those who still want to contribute to the cause, donate to the Autism Research Institute, the Asperger-Autism Network or the Organization for Autism research. Autism Speaks is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and to truly assist those with autism, the best course of action is to ensure they don’t get a cent of your money.