As Suzanne Wright recently reminded us, for Autism Speaks, autism is something that only affects children and their families. Autistic children are ‘missing’, ‘gravely ill’, ‘stolen’.
As a friend recently wrote:
On the entire [Autism Speaks] “Autism Acceptance” page, here are all the phrases that refer to autistic people:
– Mother with Two Sons on the Autism Spectrum
– one of her sons, Rubin, who is on the autism spectrum
– her son Max who has autism
– Youth with Autism
– young adults with autism
– individuals affected by autism
– individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
– children with autism
– students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
– children with autism…children with autism [twice in same paragraph]
The unwavering message of Autism Speaks is that there is no such thing as an autistic person—that there are only normal children who have been diseased with autism. They reject the fact that autism is an integral part of autistic people’s existence, that autistic people are autistic.
These missing, stolen, broken children tragically never attain adulthood.
Wait… Oh that’s right, they do!
Image description: picture of a wooded park. In the foreground there is a small lake with a bench above it. Above the lake and the bench, a path runs up a small hill. A beam of light falls onto the path. The picture is labeled with text which reads: “The truth is out there…. autistic adults exist!”
Autism Speaks can’t of course acknowledge that autistic adults are out there because it would contradict the organization’s central message. But autistic adults are out there, going to college, getting married, having children and living happy and productive lives. And guess what? They have amazing things to share with us if we take the time to listen.
Like Amy Sequenzia, whose collected writings, both prose and poetry, you can find on her site Non-Speaking Autistic Speaking.
Or how about Mark Utter, whose film ‘I Am In Here’ I recently heard about from Ibby Grace.
And how about that Ibby Grace, wife, mother and professor? She was just in Michigan giving a presentation called ‘Autistic Activism in an Age of the Blues’
She’s also one of the people responsible for the blog, We Are Like Your Child, where autistic adults share insights in an effort to help non-autistic parents better understand their autistic children.
Our kids aren’t missing or gravely ill. They most definitely do need supports and accommodations in order to fulfil their potential – but that’s something Autism Speaks doesn’t have a vested interest in giving them.