Autism Speaks doesn’t deserve your donation

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You would think that an organization called Autism Speaks would be dedicated to sharing the stories of people with autism, that it would try to improve educational resources for people with autism and help others understand the need to treat autistic individuals with dignity and respect, even in instances where communication is difficult.

Instead, Autism Speaks seems determined to become the blue to the Susan G. Komen Memorial Foundation’s pink. Last year, the Susan G. Komen Memorial Foundation partnered with an oil company and announced that they had painted a drill bit pink. How does a charity supposedly dedicated to fighting cancer support the extraction of thousands of barrels of carcinogens?

Simple! They’re not actually interested in fighting cancer. A very small fraction of the money they make goes towards research or care; most is spent on ads to “raise awareness” and running the foundation, which includes expenses such as high salaries for its directors.

According to a fact sheet issued by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a negligible amount of money raised by Autism Speaks goes towards actually benefiting people who have autism. Only 4 percent of the millions of dollars they raise each year has a direct impact on the lives of autistic individuals and their families.

It is worth noting that they put 44 percent of their funds into research, but they are largely focused on finding “cures” for autism or genetic markers that with current genetic therapies would only allow the early termination of an autistic fetus. Their research also includes examining Omega-3 fatty acids as a potential tool in boosting the social skills of autistic children, which sounds more like a fad diet than a legitimate attempt at improving the lives of people with autism.

Numerous organizations have also spoken out against the way that Autism Speaks characterizes individuals with autism, saying it relies too heavily on depicting the people it claims to be helping as pathetic and notable mainly for being a drain on the lives of their family members.

Amy Sequenzia, a blogger at the Autism Women’s Network, who herself has Autism, goes so far as to characterize Autism Speaks as a hate group and runs through the definitions provided by both the FBI and Southern Poverty Law Center to make her argument.

While there are, of course, benefits to be had from researching the causes and mechanisms behind autism, if you are going to give to an organization this Autism Awareness Month, consider donating to an organization that spends more money on improving the lives of people with autism rather than giving them fish oil.