I do not like Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks, as you all know, is probably the most well-known autism charity in this country. You may have seen their commercials, which generally go along the lines of “1 in 1 billion kids will grow up to be president. 1 in 91 will be born with autism.” Yeah. Them. I have a problem with them.
My first problem with Autism Speaks is those commercials. They are based on this formula: 1 in x children will succeed at [activity]. 1 in y (whereas y = a completely overestimated and inaccurate number–more on that later) will have autism. This creates a comparison. Generally in comparisons, one good thing is contrasted with one bad thing. Since most parents want their kids to grow up to be president, autism is reflected on as a bad thing. As you [probably didn’t] read in my last posting, “Regarding Third Party Outlooks,” I believe that autism is not a bad thing. It has bad qualities, but so does being president. Those commercials might as well be saying, “1 in 300 billion children are bananas, but only 1 in 200 are antelopes.” It is not fair to display autism that way because most of the time, autism has no voice.
Sure, there are parents of autistic children and teachers, but rarely is there somebody who can come along and correct them. This is obviously due to the nature of the condition and the fact that many autistic children cannot speak, let alone verbalize their thoughts.
My second problem with Autism Speaks is that they word things funny. The front page of their website reads, “Autism affects: 1 in 110 children, 1 in 70 boys.” This makes me weary for two reasons. The first is because “affects” could mean either the child has autism or knows somebody who has autism. It is very unclear. The second is because, no, autism does not affect 1 in 110 children. Autism spectrum disorders affect 1 in 110 children. While autism is only one condition on the spectrum, the entire spectrum includes Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, and others. And, not to downsize the importance of the others, but they are generally much less severe than autism (besides the more rare disorders–Fragile X Syndrome and Rett’s Syndrome, for instance). So now that Autism Speaks has created the impression that autism is a horrible awful thing, they are pegging it wrongly on many children who don’t really have it.
I prefer organizations such as Autism New Jersey. I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, but I am an ambassador for the charity, and very familiar with their mission. While Autism Speaks seeks to annhialate autism (I mention my problem with that in two previous postings, which I will put links to), Autism New Jersey provides resources for families affected by autism. They work with autism. That’s the way it should be.
P.S. I have opened a fundraising page on Autism New Jersey’s website. I will also post a link to that.