AWN Squares Off with Autism Speaks Over National Autism Plan

On Wednesday, the Autism Women’s Network (AWN) condemned Autism Speaks’, Suzanne Wright, and all entities involved in the publication of “Autism Speaks to Washington- A Call for Action” and its hostile and dishonest portrayal of Autistic people. AWN denounced Autism Speaks, the largest Autism Advocacy Group, for hosting a Summit on Autism in Washington, D.C. this week which excludes the participation of Autistic people while simultaneously endeavoring to secure a national plan on Autism.

AWN is encouraging the Autistic community and allies of Autistic people to make lawmakers aware of the exclusion of Autistic people from events and meetings this week in Washington, D.C. AWN has also organized a Social Media Campaign to bring attention to the damage that Autism Speaks does to the Autism Community by exploiting Autistic people and their families with false and negative characterizations of Autism and its effects on families.

AWN is one of many Autistic rights groups condemning Autism Speaks for its continual exclusion of Autistic people from matters that concern them. “It’s notable,” said Autistic Activist Sharon daVanport, President and cofounder of AWN:

“Autism Speaks does not have a single Autistic person in a leadership position. This is virtually unheard of amongst major disability rights organizations. We are urging lawmakers to adopt the position that a national plan on Autism cannot be discussed without the inclusion of Autistic people. The absence of Autistic participation in decision making is evident in the abhorrent article, “Autism Speaks to Washington- A Call for Action.” 

In reference to Wright’s letter, Non-speaking Autistic Activist Amy Sequenzia said:

“Ms. Wright used harsh and even hateful words to depict Autistics like me, the ones who require around the clock help. To her, we exist to make the lives of our parents miserable. Of course, she ignores the existence of Autistics who do not require the same amount of help, Autistics who raise kids and pay taxes, Autistics that do not fit their picture of autism as tragedy. The Summit Autism Speaks is promoting does not have Autistic voices. We are not welcome in the event and our input is undesirable. Not surprising either.” 

Parents of Autistic children are beginning to distance themselves from Autism Speaks. Beth Ryan, owner of the popular Facebook Page, “Parenting Autistic Children with Love & Acceptance” and mother to an Autistic 7 year old stated:

“I resent the deplorable language that Autism Speaks habitually uses to describe Autism. My Autistic daughter is not a tragedy. She is not a statistic. And she is not ripping our family apart. She is a cherished part of our family unit and part of the glue that holds us together. Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for my family.” 

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