How to Boycott Autism Speaks

Four Parts:Doing Your ResearchBoycotting Autism SpeaksSupporting Autism AcceptanceWorking Well

Autism Speaks (abbreviated to AS or sometimes A$) is a highly controversial organization, run by non-autistic people, that seeks to eliminate autism.[1][2] Its goals and rhetoric have resulted in protests, led by autistic people, and many of their loved ones and allies. Here is how to do your research and speak out to help autistic people everywhere.

This article discusses some disturbing material, particularly in the section "Doing Your Research." Skip this section if needed.

Part 1
Doing Your Research

It's important to carefully analyze an issue before deciding where you stand. Here is how to do your research and find material.

  1. Image titled Woman Consoles Insecure Autistic Friend.png
    Consider your mental health. If you have disabilities such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental health conditions, reading about AS may trigger a downward spiral. If you are prone to this, proceed with caution.
    • Autistic people with self-esteem issues should especially be mindful. Reading what Autism Speaks has to say may worsen your self image.
    • Have a self care plan in case your mental health issues are triggered. This could be a warm bath, a good book, time with a loved one, making art, or something else. Do not research right before bedtime.
  2. Image titled Autism Speaks Search Results Controversy 2.png
    Be mindful of search engine results. Autism Speaks is a very large and influential group, so it and its supporters may dominate the first pages of search results. You need to know where to look in order to find more critical opinions.
    • When searching "Autism Speaks," add keywords such as "controversy," "bad," "eugenics," or "ASAN" (an organization that has written about Autism Speaks).
  3. Image titled Autistic Woman Protests Autism Speaks using AAC.png
    Place autistic voices first. Autistic people have a personal stake in their futures, their needs, and how they are treated by others. Make sure that your research includes people of all ability levels, from the independent people to those who need round-the-clock support, and everyone in between.
    • Read from Amy Sequenzia,[3] John Elder Robison,[4] Lydia Brown,[5] Ari Ne'eman of ASAN,[6] and more.
  4. Image titled Parents Fight Autism Hate Speech.png
    Consider parent and ally perspectives as well. Many non-autistic people are also concerned about the rhetoric and motives of AS. Their thoughts are also worth listening to.
    • Read from Ariane Zurcher,[7] Emily Willingham,[8] Deanne Shoyer,[9] Steve Silberman,[10] Jess from Diary of a Mom,[11][12] and others.
    • Some people, such as Carol Greenburg,[13] are autistic parents of autistic children.
  5. Image titled Jewish Man Sees Anti Autism Websites.png
    Read what Autism Speaks, itself, has to say. AS' rhetoric can give you a better sense of its attitude towards autism. Take your mental health into account.
    • Watch the video "I Am Autism,"[14] or read the transcript.[15] This video has a voice-over, calling itself autism, describing how it will destroy parents' lives.
    • Read the wording of the militant Call to Action, a letter that resulted in several resignations.[16]
    • Watch or read about "Autism Every Day." This video includes a scene of her mother talking about how she contemplated killing her autistic daughter, as her upset daughter listens.[17][18][19]
    • Consider its response to murder, which is often portrayed as understandable.[20][21]
  6. Image titled Autism Search Results Trigger Warning.png
    Be mindful of trigger warnings on articles. Some articles are more detailed and intense than others. Some discuss severe ableism, child abuse, torture, murder, murder sympathizers, eugenics, and other disturbing content. If you are a sensitive person, pause and consider whether you are able to handle it at the moment.
    • Autism Speaks does not use trigger warnings on its own disturbing materials. Be cautious if you visit the site or read about what it says.
    • The Judge Rotenberg Center, other abuses in ABA, and restraint/seclusion may be especially upsetting. You may wish to avoid these subjects.

Part 2
Boycotting Autism Speaks

  1. Image titled Jewish Guy Says No.png
    Keep Autism Speaks media away from your children (if you have any). If the TV or radio has an ad or episode about the group, turn it off. Keep blue puzzle pieces out. Don't let them see your research about AS. This can help keep them from absorbing attitudes from it.
    • If they ask, give an age-appropriate explanation. For example, "That's a group that bullies people, so I don't want to watch that ad, because it's not true."
    • Teens or adults may wish to get involved. If they're autistic, consider whether their self-esteem is strong enough. Supervise their participation if you have concerns about them being exposed to something too disturbing.
    • Be especially cautious during April, when AS is the most active. This month can be hard on autistic people.
  2. Image titled Woman Says No to Autism Awareness.png
    Do not participate in any events that benefit Autism Speaks. This includes "light it up blue," many autism walks, and many "autism awareness" events. Research an event before deciding to participate, to make sure that you are supporting a good cause.
    • As a shortcut, puzzle pieces and the color blue often suggest connections to Autism Speaks. This is not a perfect rule, just a red flag.
  3. Image titled Autism Awareness and Acceptance Posters.png
    Protest at Autism Speaks events. It is common for autistics, parents, and allies to protest at AS walks. You can make signs, write with chalk, and encourage people to learn about autism in a less stigmatizing way.
    • Protesting at these events is not for the faint of heart, because autistic people are not always treated well. Some AS supporters speak very aggressively,[22] and sometimes, they throw food.[23] Bring a support person if needed.
    • If you would be too stressed to show up, try making posters, or writing accepting messages in chalk before the event begins.
  4. Image titled Discussing Autism Speaks on Social Media.png
    Consider boycotting and writing to companies that support Autism Speaks. While AS is known for not listening, companies are different, and some (like Build A Bear) have withdrawn support after community outcry.[24][25]
    • A list of companies supporting AS is available online.
  5. Image titled Screenshot Boycott Autism Speaks.png
    Visit the official site of the boycott movement. There is a Boycott Autism Speaks website, in addition to various social media accounts. While you do not need to become officially involved, it may help you keep up to date with the news, if you'd like.

Part 3
Supporting Autism Acceptance

Autistic people still need support from society. Here is how to take action with groups that do speak for them.

  1. Image titled Screenshot ASAN.png
    Find organizations that support autistic people. These organizations will be run or co-run by autistic people, and have autistics at all levels of the organization. Here are some basic guidelines for a good autism organization:
    • Autistic leadership
    • Goal of support, not eradication
    • Includes support for autistics of all ages (not just children)
    • Unambiguous support for human rights; against abusive therapy and murder
    • Fights stigma; does not exploit fear for profit
    • ASAN, the Autism Women's Network, the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, and GRASP are examples that are widely supported in the Autistic community.[26]
  2. Image titled Young Woman Reads.png
    Learn about the neurodiversity and autistic rights movements. Autistic people such as Jim Sinclair have been advocating since before the turn of the century.[27] In order to support autistic people, it's important to learn what many of them have to say.
    • Neurotribes by Steve Silberman offers a detailed history of autism.
    • The social model of disability presents a more inclusion-based, accepting view of disability.[28][29]
  3. Image titled Happy Autistic Man and Woman.png
    Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month in April.[30] This month focuses on social support, accommodation, and respect towards autistic people, and is distinct from Autism Speaks' fear-based campaign.
    • Wear #RedInstead for autism acceptance.[31][32]
  4. Image titled Sad Girls Hugging.png
    Observe the Disability Day of Mourning on March 2. This day commemorates the disabled people, including many autistic people, killed by their caregivers.[33][34] Many disabled people fight back against the rhetoric that murder is understandable because disability is such a burden.[35][36]
    • This day reminds people why acceptance, support, and inclusion are so important.
  5. Image titled Autism Acceptance Month Table.png
    Teach people about autism, in an autistic-friendly manner. Help spread accurate and compassionate information. Instead of saying autistic people are broken, say that they need extra support. Instead of saying they are burdens, say that they have unique skills, and that every person is lovable and important.
    • Try sharing information like helping someone with sensory overload or handling someone's stimming. WikiHow articles may be useful to distribute.
    • Encourage autistic people and their loved ones to reach out to the Autistic community for help.
    • Try making a list of autism resources, to hand out to people who need it. Consider the Autism Acceptance Month website (which has a resource list),[37] the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, wikiHow, and other sites.
  6. Image titled Disabled Man Writing.png
    Support policies that empower autistic people. This includes enabling self-determination, fighting abusive therapies, providing resources for every stage of life, and pushing for the inclusion of autistic people in committees about autism.
    • Join or organize letter-writing campaigns.
    • Create and sign petitions.
    • Signal boost articles describing the policies.
    • Encourage others to get involved.
    • Be prepared for Autism Speaks to push back. For example, it blocked the Schakowsky amendment of the Autism CARES act, which would have helped empower autistic adults.[38][39]
  7. Image titled Laughing Woman with Cerebral Palsy and Man.png
    Collaborate with autistic adults and other advocates. They can help you find events to participate in, and guide you towards good organizations and good people.
    • Consider the hashtags #AskAnAutistic (where autistic people can answer your questions) and #ActuallyAutistic (where autistics may post, and non-autistics may read).
  8. Image titled Man and Autistic Girl Laughing.png
    Support the autistic people in your life. Be patient and accommodating towards their needs. Remind them of their capabilities, and help them feel confident and strong. Look for ways for them to adapt and shine.
  9. Image titled Woman in Hijab Says No.png
    Educate others about Autism Speaks, and encourage them to join more positive campaigns. People might get involved with AS without knowing the details of what it says and does.
    • You could use a script like "That's a scam" or "That's run by a group that harms autistic people. Would you like to participate in _______ instead?"
    • Praise their willingness to help, and encourage them to participate in a group alongside autistic people (instead of despite their protests).

Part 4
Working Well

  1. Image titled Girl Points in Confusion.png
    Assume ignorance before malice. People might share links to Autism Speaks articles, donate money, or participate in walks, without knowing exactly what they are supporting.
  2. Image titled Upset Woman Talks to Man.png
    Stay as polite and considerate as possible. Assume the best of people, and "take the high road" by keeping on your best behavior, even if they are not. Good manners are not required on the internet, but they are nice.
    • If you're too angry to do this, step away. Let someone with more spoons handle it, or deal with it later once you feel ready.
    • Be polite and firm with mean people. For example, "Leave my friend alone," "You are creating an unsafe space and you need to leave," or "It is not okay to talk to people that way. Everyone has worth."
    • If you don't know how to deal with a mean person, ask a trusted person for help.
  3. Image titled Upset Girl Walks Away from Man.png
    Know when to walk away. It's very difficult to speak rationally and be nice to a person who is determined to be awful. Manipulation, intimidation, yelling, et cetera, are not okay. If someone is making you feel terrible, stop talking to them.
    • Learn how to block people on social media. You can block someone for any reason you want.
    • Use scripts like "I need some air," "This conversation is bad for my mental health, so I'm ending it," "Don't talk to me anymore," or "You've violated this site's comment policy, and if you don't stop it, you will be banned."
    • Remember, if someone is determined not to change their mind, you talking to them won't help anyone. You're just wasting energy that could be used productively.
  4. Image titled Man Consoles Teen Boy.png
    Deal with difficult emotions. People may say very mean and upsetting things to you. They might try to argue that murder, abuse, eugenics, etc. really isn't that bad. They might treat you, and others, like dirt. It's normal and okay to get upset about this. Treat your feelings as real and valid.
    • Walk away if you get too upset. You can always come back at a calmer time.
    • Talk to someone you trust if you become overwhelmed by bad feelings. Don't bottle it up.
  5. Image titled Girl with Down Syndrome Enjoys Nature.png
    Take breaks as needed. You do not have to keep pushing if you feel frustrated or about to cry. Place your mental health first. Step away to talk to a loved one, snuggle with a pet, or take a walk in the sunshine. Or, spend time in a safe space or more protected community (e.g., an autism acceptance blog).
    • Ignoring your feelings won't help anyone. An over-stressed, overworked activist is not a very effective one.
  6. Image titled Man Shields Autistic Girl from Autism Speaks.png
    Support those around you, especially the autistic people who need it. Collaborate on projects, and encourage them to look after their mental health. If you see an autistic person feeling bad about themselves, say a few encouraging words or drop them a kind note. Boycotting Autism Speaks is a movement focused on supporting autistics. Reach out, accept them as they are, and show them that you care.
    • Autistic advocates may have trouble reading their own emotions. If you noticed that they are becoming over-stressed with activism, gently suggest a break to stim or do something fun.
    • Look out for the autistic people in your life, at all ages. Even if young children are kept away from Autism Speaks, they may still absorb negative attitudes about autism from the people around them. Remind them that you love and value them.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (36)

Article Info

Categories: Autism Spectrum | Disability Activism