Blue Buildings, blue shirts, blue merchandise, everything’s so damn blue it looks like an episode of the Smurfs. Now why on earth could everyone be wearing blue? Are you wearing blue because you just happen to love the color blue or, are you wearing it because Autism Speaks told you it would support a cause predicated on spreading the wrong kind of awareness about Autism? If your answer is the former then good for you, everyone is entitled to what ever color they choose. If your answer is the latter, have a seat! I’ll grab you the best seat ever because I’m gonna give you a piece of my mind like I blew my own brains out and lived long enough to hand you the fragments. Now you’re probably wondering why an Autistic person such as myself has a strong dislike for a organization that is constantly spreading awareness about Autism. My issue with the organization is that the kind of awareness they spread is detrimental to the world view and perception of Autism.
Now for those who aren’t familiar with the organization, Autism Speaks is run by Suzanne Wright, a woman who felt compelled to spread awareness when the Autism monster took her sweet innocent grandson and turned him into a shell of himself. Now of course those aren’t her exact words but, that’s unfortunately the vibe I get when I visit the site, watch disheartening propaganda such as “Sounding the Alarm” and reading Suzanne’s “A Call to Action” piece. Now my beef with the organization started at one of the lowest points in my life. During my college years I was learning to understand myself and figure out how to navigate a neurotypical world, one of the places I turned to was Autism Speaks. Not knowing any better I hoped to find a voice much like my own, instead I stumbled upon countless stories of doom and gloom that made me feel even worse about myself. Their facebook group wasn’t any different, countless posts of parents talking about their children as if they weren’t human, like their Autistic children were the worse thing to ever happen to them. When I decided to offer my own input, I ended up in a fight with a mother who claimed I was too high functioning to understand the complications of “Classical Autism”.
I should note that I wasn’t always what I am now. Growing up, I talked late, barely ate solid food and had severe behavioral issues. Where I am now is the result of lost sleep, patience, expertly crafted problem solving, and the list goes on. To tell me I don’t understand your pain because I seem too intelligent is just flat out wrong! The more I dug around those pages, the more I realized that Autism Speaks wasn’t a voice for us Autistics, it was a voice and outlet for parents who assumed they knew better than us what was best for us. To Autism Speaks, Autism is an epidemic that must be eliminated and dealt with rather than understood and most importantly, accepted. Now I should note that the organization isn’t all bad as they do raise awareness on one pretty important issue. Autism is the most underfunded disorder according to the CDC. Various Autism services such as early intervention, home care, health care for the issues that arise as a result of Autism, various supports, and schooling definitely need funding however, creating fear around a severely misunderstood disorder should not be one of those means of getting funding.
Now to get back to why I started this post in the first place, Today marks the beginning of Autism Speaks’ month long campaign to spread their twisted idea of “awareness”. Everywhere you go will be “lit blue” and people who don’t know better will get caught up in the madness. I personally hate this month because while the intentions are good, this month is more of a perpetuation of age old misconceptions. 1 in 68 children blah blah blah, epidemic blah blah blah, financial hardship blah blah blah, ruined families blah blah blah, late nights blah blah blah, vaccines blah blah blah. While all of these hardships are part of the reality of Autism, they’re not the entirety of it. Living with Autism isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean it’s the worse thing in the world, I could have cancer, I could be dead. This month, I implore all of you to learn more about Autism from people who actually have Autism. You don’t necessarily need to only talk to people like me, hangout with other Autistics, get into their world, learn to understand them beyond the epidemic, hardship, and burden that they’re painted as. Don’t just wear blue because Autism Speaks tells you it’s the cool thing to do, wear it because you truly support OUR resolve to be understood, accepted, appreciated and most importantly, loved. At the end of they day, all Autistics just want to be loved like everyone else and anyone who tells you that people on the spectrum don’t understand the concept of love well, send them to me and I’ll sit them the fuck down like my name is Chris Hansen. Stay classy y’all….