The Daily Illini

Autism Speaks doesn’t help autistic people

By Grace Hart

Autism Speaks is one of the most terrible and disgraceful nonprofits in existence. Pardon my bluntness, but as one of the many autistic people currently suffering through Autism Awareness Month, I see it as my social responsibility to inform you all of how appalling and harmful this charity has historically been to autistic people.

I will start with my own personal story. I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in June of 2017 at the age of 20. DRES gave me a brief fact sheet with some of the symptoms of the disorder and told me not to Google it. Naturally, I did not listen and found myself on the Autism Speaks website. The first thing I saw was a poem that read, “I am autism. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure every day you wake up and cry.” Ironically, I was so disturbed by what they said on their website that I cried for five days.

Only about 2 percent of Autism Speaks proceeds actually benefit autistic children and families. Most of their money goes toward lobbying, fundraising, and research to eradicate the autism gene. Their message perpetuates hatred and discrimination. It makes it difficult for people like me to find acceptance in a world that was already created without my specific needs in mind. It reduces me to a puzzle piece instead of a person. The only puzzle I see is how a charity so selfish and deceptive could become the face of the very people it oppresses.

If you really want to be an ally of the autistic community, advocate for inclusive policies, support self-advocacy networks like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and let us speak for ourselves.

Grace Hart is a senior in LAS.

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