Is Autism Speaks a Hate Group?

I know they are hateful.

I know they don’t like Autistics.

I know they use most of their resources to convince people that the world would be a better place without us, and actually using the money to fund research that can make our extinction possible. Disguised as “research” about babies and siblings, the investments seek to find a genetic marker that will allow parents to terminate an unwanted pregnancy (1)(2)

Other “researches” use the term “treatment” and asserts that who we are is not good enough, that we need “early interventions” to try to look “normal” and be valued.

Many Autistics believe Autism Speaks is a hate group. I am joining them.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a hate group’s “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) definition of a hate group includes “those having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics”. (5)

I will use these two definitions, item by item. What I write is my interpretation of the FBI and SPLC’s definitions, not a legal opinion, since I am not qualified to give legal opinions. Let’s call it common sense.

A hate group promotes animosity against disabled people, and the members of the group don’t share the disability.

Autism Speaks leadership is not Autistic and they run adds that don’t accurately portrays autism. They propagate the rhetoric that autism is tragic, that there is no hope, that life becomes an eternal suffering. (6)

Autism Speaks promotes animosity against Autistic (disabled) people.

A hate group promotes hostility against disabled people, and the members of the group don’t share the disability.

Autism Speaks ignores Autistic voices, does not include us in any decision about efforts that affect our lives (7), and try to discredit the ones among us who are loud and relentless (8), by dismissing and mocking our experience as not valid (9)

Autism Speaks promotes hostility against Autistic (disabled) people (10)

A hate group promotes malice against disabled people, and the members of the group don’t share the disability. (11)

Autisms Speaks reaches out to families by listing the deficits, difficulties and “pain” an Autistic child will experience “forever”; Autism Speaks makes videos that paints autism as the cause of all the troubles in the world; Autism Speaks has no problem in allowing a board member to advertise her macabre wish to murder her Autistic daughter (12), and when a parent actually murders an Autistic child, Autism Speaks “understands” the murderer (blaming lack of services) and demonizes the victim (“he was so difficult to live with”)(13)

Autism Speaks promotes malice against Autistic (disabled) people. 

A hate group includes “those having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people”.

Autism Speaks believes we are broken, that we cause suffering to our families, that we are responsible for the country’s financial crisis (14) Autism Speaks attacks the ones of us who speak up, while never, ever, using positive words in their ads when referring to autism and Autistics (15). When we say we are proud of being who we are, Autism Speaks says this is not possible, that we are not “really” Autistics, since, according to Autism Speaks, autism only manifests itself as screaming, hitting, soiling, having pain and not communicating (12). When we point out that people change, that we have been there, done all those “bad” things, sometimes still do, that everybody communicates and that some things might co-occur with autism, but are not autism, that we can cope much better with difficulties that do exist and are part of autism if we are accepted and embraced, Autism Speaks ignores us and continues with the lies about what autism really is, even if we are the ones who do know what autism is.

“…attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics”.

We are born Autistic, we will die Autistic. Autism Speaks knows that, yet it uses most of its resources in initiatives that go against our interests (16), not investing in initiatives that might help improve our lives as Autistics, and seems to take pleasure in demonizing us. We cannot not be Autistic, but Autism Speaks refuses to acknowledge that the words, attacks and tactics they use are destructive and do not improve our lives.

So, according to my interpretation of the FBI and the SPLC Hate Group definition, Autism Speaks is a hate group.

Why nothing is being done about it?

There are many reasons, in my opinion:

The organization is purposefully parent led, parents are the targets, Autistic voices are excluded. There is a reluctance to believe that a parent would join a group that is so hostile to their children. But they do, and instead of siding with the rights and dignity of Autistic children, they engage in selective information gathering and ignore the consequences, to their children, of their willful ignorance and the spread of hate.

The second reason is partially an explanation for the parent’s behavior: Autism Speaks is very good at marketing. The founder is a media mogul that knows how to use the right words with each targeted audience.

Money and celebrities: our celebrity driven culture treats them as experts on the causes they support. Many celebrities pick a cause to support for tax reasons, for public relations/image reasons, or because they don’t really do research before choosing the charities they want to support.

As for money: money buys almost anything, definitely advertisement and airtime, and certainly legislators.

Autism Speaks is politics smart: the organization approaches conservatives with the “autism is bankrupting the country”, and liberals with the “we need scientific research” (to prevent Autistic birth). Apparently, ignorance and disdain for disabilities is bipartisan.

(The conservative/liberal views are more complex. This was just a generalization)

But the main reason why Autism Speaks gets away with being classified as a hate group, in my opinion, is much simpler:

It is because, despite all the talk, despite the long road of small steps toward progress, disabled people are discriminated against, devalued and dehumanized in ways that would be unacceptable if directed at any other minority.

Being disabled is still seen as something so bad, nobody wants to know about it, let alone side with us.

Autism, in particular, is perceived as a devastating disease, as something so undesirable, Autistics are said to be better off dead.

There is plenty of evidence that parents who murder their Autistic children get the treatment reserved for heroes. The victims are seen as the cause of their own deaths, and the parent as “heroic and selfless”.

Sometimes it takes an almost supernatural tone, the way some family members talk about the Autistics in their lives, as if we are aliens, or somehow possessed. We are not the children “originally” born, we have been “robbed” and now we are “lost” (17)

It does not matter the reasons why Autism Speaks still does not get to be officially classified as a hate group.

It is a fact that Autism Speaks hateful rhetoric creates a culture where Autistics are not welcome.

And it is up to us, Autistic and true allies to keep speaking up.

It is up to parents to decide what future they want for their children – for them to be hated, ignored and dismissed, or to be accepted and embraced, just as they are.

Autism Speaks – and similar organizations – will eventually fail and go down. This is our civil and human rights movement. It will happen.

The sooner this happens, the better for the future generations of Autistics.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, JR said:

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Autism and Autistics are not tragedies.

Autism Speaks’ oppression is a tragedy.

The silence and willful ignorance of some families are tragedies.

Hate is a tragedy.

Allowing a hate group to continue its attacks on a group of people – for their immutable characteristics – is a tragedy.

Writer’s note:

The Autism Speaks website lists the name of their Board Members and a brief biography. None of them identify as Autistics.

The website also has a lot of opinion posts and news that are not the opinion of Autism Speaks. Those show up as news elsewhere and are reposted in the Autism Speaks website. Some of them are pro-neurodiversity, something that Autism Speaks has yet to support.

The leadership at the organization is media savvy and very knowledgeable about marketing. The website is attractive and, at first glance, helpful. But the kind of “help” they offer is not an Autism Speaks exclusive, and it is not original. The information is based on the current paradigm, the one that views autism as something to be fixed. What is found there can be found in many other advocacy organizations websites.

A lot of the hateful language happens during events that may or may not be recorded and/or reported.

The Autism Speaks website lists some valid researches, for example, how to help Autistics transition into adulthood and join the workforce (not an Autism Speaks exclusive either), but if one reads the articles and links, one finds that some of the researches receive little money and are not primarily an Autism Speaks research initiative. Most of the money allocated for research goes into finding a genetic marker and is announced as a way to “improve early intervention and treatment of autism”, while in fundraisers the leadership promotes the research as a way to be able to have a prenatal genetic test (that would lead to selective abortion)

 

  1. http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/top-ten-lists/2011/baby-siblings-risk
  2. http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/initiatives/autism-genome-project
  3. http://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2014/08/04/everyone-wins-when-we-invest-optimal-outcomes-autism
  4. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/data-collection-manual
  5. http://www.splcenter.org/?ref=logo
  6. “This is Autism” transcript here: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2009/09/horrific-autism-speaks-i-am-autism-ad-transcript/
  7. http://www.autismspeaks.org/about-us/board-directors
  8. http://autisticadvocacy.org/2014/06/asan-statement-on-autism-cares-act/
  9. http://www.autistichoya.com/2014/01/mcdougle.html
  10. http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2009/11/23/bob-wright-snubs-autistic-adults-the-same-group-who-live-in-poverty/
  11. https://www.facebook.com/boycottautismspeaksnow/photos/pb.617475298298907.-2207520000.1407800637./727339380645831/?type=3&theater
  12. “Autism Every Day” video: Content warning! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0vCz2KWMM0

https://www.facebook.com/notes/amy-sequenzia/transcript-of-selected-scenes-or-the-infamous-autism-speaks-video-autism-every-d/10152666260923701 (selected scenes transcript)

  1. http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Sunnyvale-mom-kills-autistic-son-self-police-say-3388400.php
  2. http://www.autismspeaks.org/news/news-item/autism-speaks-washington-call-action
  3. Writer’s note: while the website has headlines that refer to “acceptance” and links to guides on how to get supports, Autism Speaks advertisement and fundraisers use the rhetoric of tragedy and burden to raise money. This is another marketing strategy: dress up the site with softness to reach millions, while using fear mongering to raise millions. The organization also uses functioning labels to divide Autistics in two classes – while silencing both. One for speaking too well “for an Autistic person”, the other for being too damaged to speak.
  4. http://www.autistichoya.com/2013/11/an-unholy-alliance-autism-speaks-and.html
  5. “This disorder has taken our children away. 
It’s time to get them back.” Bob and Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks co-founders

 

"We Cannot Stop" by Amy SequenziaAbout the Author, Amy Sequenzia.

 

 

 

56 thoughts on “Is Autism Speaks a Hate Group?”

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful and well researched essay! I happen to agree with you that Autism Speaks is most definitely a hate group. More people need to know and understand this and think critically about the things they say about Autistic lives.

    1. They’re straight up a hate-group, and this article explains why very thoroughly. Worse, they prey on confused parents new to the concept of autism who don’t know better, and think they’re “helping” us. The presence of parents supporting the organization makes it appear “motherly” and “benign,” when in reality, half the people involved likely don’t even know what they’re representing, or what autism actually is, or both.
      When the disability-label is removed, behaviour towards Autistics from organizations like Autism Speaks suddenly become unacceptable, because the excuse of “treatment” is no longer viable.

      Autism Speaks refuses to acknowledge well-known positive facts about autism and Autistics, including the neurodiversity view, which is today supported by science in that “neurodiversity is as important as biodiversity.”
      The group monopolizes on mass media and marketing within Autistic “advocacy”, ironically taking advantage of the mainstream population’s difficulty separating facts from linguistic merit & advertising – “mainstream” equating “non-autistic,” ironic because they inadvertently admit a difficulty and lack of perfection within the neurotypical brain that Autistics don’t typically struggle with – being naturally logical creatures.

      And the attempts to discredit those who stand up against them should be a sure sign that they aren’t who they say they are, and that they don’t represent who they say they do.

      1. P.S I don,t have a website. I also plan to become president and fix a lot of the world and that includes removing the fake support group. I also have Aspergers.

  2. I found the argument a lot more persuasive than I’d expected. I know Autism Speaks are a problem, but systematically listing the ways that they’re a problem and comparing it to the hate guidelines puts the reality on stark display.

    Here’s another set of guidelines, from the UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO):
    “Hate incident: Any non-crime incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability.” Autism Speaks is definitely across this line, as that’s how they’re being perceived by those of us who are neurodiverse. (I really like the ACPO guidelines because they aren’t dependent on the offenders realising they’re being hostile, we get to decide that instead).

    And
    “Hate Crime: Any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability”. I can’t think of any AS activity that actually crosses this boundary, but a systematic presentation of material considered hateful by actual neurodiverse types is probably enough to justify calling them a hate group.

    1. I really like this view of a hate crime as well – that it’s defined by the perceived victim, not the victimizer.

  3. here’s the problem, HCShannon. We’ve been trying so hard to get $peaks to realize what they’re doing wrong for years and they haven’t listened to us at all.

    1. How about when I become president, I fix a problem, like putting an end to terrorist group, and show that they are wrong. P.S. I have Aspergers.

  4. Thank you for posting this, Amy! Members of A$ leadership are all well aware of how hateful and destructive their messages are to the Autism Community. There was no remorse or change after John Elder Robison sent in his letter or resignation. The only actions A$ has taken in regards to the outcry from autistic people have been ones of oppression, ignorance, and further hatred. I hope as organizations like the Golden Hat Foundation gain their own celebrity support that they will eventually speak out against A$. Only then might the greater public begin to expunge all of the misinformation A$ has been subjecting them to. Until then, knowing that ASAN, AWN, and fistfuls of other like-minded advocacy groups are actively boycotting A$ and encouraging sponsors to withdraw their support gives me some peace of mind.

  5. Yes, I am a doctor, and yes I have autism. If Autism Speaks was to judge me by how I looked and acted when I was a young child, they would put me in the same category they place every child with autism — a burden to parents who would be better off without them. While it is important for early intervention, as even Dr. Temple Grandin points out, the “intervention” should be done to help the child with autism to integrate into the neurotypical world, NOT to “train away” unacceptable behavior and to make us look and act more “normal” so that we can be valued more (something that reminds me of the main goals of ABA). So, in order to maintain and uphold an autistic person’s uniqueness while giving them tools they can use to navigate the world around them, I cannot express enough the importance of turning to the Son-Rise Program instead.

    As for me and MOST people on the spectrum, learning and navigating the world take place over time. We make our own rules in our head. We learn how to do things and to interact the way we can understand and relate. I outline how I did this, and continue to do so, in my book “The Doctor Is In.”. My book is not only an autobiography but also a “how-to” book for people living with autism. (It also talks about spiritual living and how to look at life objectively.)

    As for Autism Speaks, it would be best for this organization to disband itself and relinquish any duties to promote autism awareness to the people I consider to be the only true organization out there who is promoting accurate info and fair, balanced, and unbiased support for people, the Autism Society of America.

    1. I would go with this Organization here, the Autism Women’s Network. Or The Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
      Autism Society needs to get down the fence and really support Autistics, listen to us, support acceptance, drop the puzzle piece, stop insisting on person first language, among other things.
      ASAN and AWN are run by Autistics and there is no better insight than the one from insiders.

  6. I have to come to the conclusion that the only way autistics are going to defeat the hate group Autism Speaks is if we achieve something monumental The sooner that we can prove autistics can achieve something the better AND WE MuST DO IT BY OURSELVES I learned not to trust the NT criminal justice system, the healthcare system, the educational system or the political system. ONLY MYSELF.

    I am lucky to have a few NTs who accept me unconditonally but they are very few

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  8. There’s a facebook page call boycott autism speaks u should click & mabey with your support it might make difference or a better chance of 1

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  12. Michael McCroskery

    I have Asperger’s Syndrome and i don’t quite free with you. I have a program for myself called “all about the positive” and I recognize whatever good there is in Autism Speaks. It is people like you who will never give them a chance .I n fact, they are changing, Just not long ago they changed their stance on that vaccines do not cause autism.

    1. Your “all about the positive” views seems to make little sense in this case, considering how negatively Autism Speaks views you. A hate group should not be condoned just because they did one or two things right – which can barely be said for Autism Speaks considering how long it took them to revoke their harmful vaccine stance – which has been equated to “non-conclusive,” not “does not cause,”

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  18. Thanks for this enlightening article. My understanding of autism has been shaped by those that control the words and minds through the institutions that most of us must pass through. I have come to believe that modern psychiatry is a creation of the pharmaceutical industry and the elite to enrich themselves. I also understand that all the diagnosis’ and prescriptions are almost completely unnecessary and in cases of extreme discomfort, diet can add balance to our lives.

  19. I came upon this article while writing my own post for today’s #BoycottAutismSpeaks flashblog. I am still new to the autism acceptance movement and reading from other actually autistic people experiencing similar things to me and having similar opinions about things really helps. It helps cope with years of trying to be normal because I didn’t have a diagnosis and was told to just behave. It helps understand that I am not the only one. That I am not alone. It helps me to realize that I have a voice even though many around me don’t want to listen. Thanks for writing this and making it so very clear.

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  23. So with you on this one! I’m even reconsidering my whole blue profile pic on FB with my boy b/c I HATE Autism Speaks & what they stand for!!!! I kept my son undiagnosed because I knew what “they” would try to do (treat him like a circus animal/guinea pig/freak, forcing us to put him through therapies, some of which we don’t agree with). I didn’t want him to ever think he needed “fixing”. I mean we all struggle with things. I just look at it that way. I tell him his Autism is the reason why he struggles with speaking, but it’s also why he’s so stinkin’ smart & has this amazing memory & why he’s extra awesome. & I mean it. How many times I’ve bit back angry words when someone has made it out like Autism is a curse. My life is never dull, & I have been dealing with depression, & guess who has kept me afloat? My son. Why? Because he is a, sweet, innocent, hilarious, accepting kid. I still can’t grasp how parents of children with Autism can actually LIKE Autism Speaks. Ignorance, perhaps? I remember telling someone my views, and they told me I think like the “Autism right’s movement”—I admit I had to Google that. But they said it like it was a bad thing. Ignorance is a bad thing. Forcing people into a neat, little box is a bad thing. Autism, in itself is not a bad thing. Yes, the health issues that may come with it like gut issues, etc, by all means, do what you must to “cure” that like you would for anyone, but the quirks? The differences? Heck, no! & my son can flap away to his heart’s content b/c that’s him & he doesn’t care & I don’t care what others think. The problem isn’t him: It’s the world! Anyway, I could go on and on. I already have. lol Great article!

  24. I just want Autism Speak$, Autism One, Age of Autism, and their type to keep their greedy hands off our parents’ pocket books. For all those lies they’ve told about us, they don’t deserve a single penny. They’ve ruined America with all this bigotry, hate, ignorance, and lies. I thought America is a free country but NO! those people have to take away our rights as American citizens for their own greedy benefit. I’m so angry that we have to deal with this every year. Here is one thing I would like to say to them “We’ve had enough of your ignorance and LIES!”. It’s time to speak up snd say no to the ableism and cure culture. all we need is love and acceptance. we’re people not puzzles we don’t need a cure.

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  26. Autism Speaks proves that society is humanity’s addiction. Autism is a personality not accepted by society. Not a disorder. Autism Speaks is so stupid. Acceptance is the cure.

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