We are officially a month out from the dawn of Autism Awareness Month, the time when the world pauses to stop and discuss autism matters. It’s a time when countless people don blue and link to various articles from the prominent autism awareness group Autism Speaks. You’d think we’d be overjoyed at the kindness the outside world has for us in this month. People act with such good intent after all! I’d have to be deeply cynical to criticize that.
Nope. Let me admit what few of us are impolite enough to say: We hate Autism Awareness Month.
Let me be clear. We love the intentions. After all, most people who give to Autism Speaks or spread “awareness” genuinely want to help us. Certainly some of the awareness, at least in the form of education, benefits us. When I see someone wearing blue on 4/1 or the building downtown lit up in blue, I know that’s coming from a place of love and I appreciate it. I’ve never gone off on anybody who tried to support me.
The problem is with what that blue is linked to. The Light It Up Blue campaign is the brainchild of the aforementioned Autism Speaks, which I’ve discussed before on this blog. They are, regrettably, the best known activism group on this subject. They are also in no actual way helpful to the cause I fear. Instead of being filled with members of the autistic community working to provide treatment for our needs, the group largely consists of neurotypicals trying to raise money for a nonexistent cure none of us want by spreading the vilest rhetoric about how awful autism is.
They do not represent us. Except that by and large they do in the public eye. Companies like Dollar General, FedEx, Lindt, TJ Maxx, Toys R Us, and White Castle are sponsors. A number of celebrities endorse them, too many to count. They have aggressive media campaigns. Activision even announced plans to do a Skylanders toy in collaboration with the group.
All of this money that’s going to them is donated with the best intentions. And it’s not helping us one single bit. That’s the frustration we feel. It’s annoying to me that I can’t name a group to rival them off the top of my head. I had to do research for the links I’ll provide below. It’s also a complicated situation for us. We don’t want to be rude and tell NTs that they’re misguided and supporting the wrong group. We’re grateful for the moral support. We just want to see attention given to the right causes.
So if you are an NT reading this here’s what you need to know. First, don’t support Autism Speaks if you care about us. This link will give better information. Second, know that we don’t want a cure; we want treatment. A cure is impossible and would amount to the destruction of our souls. Third, feel free to show your support in April if you care. We celebrate it too. Not as autism awareness month but autism acceptance month.
Maybe if we fight hard enough we can reclaim it and get the right information out there. I have hope.
These are organizations I back:
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network