The Hypocrisy of Autism Speaks; A Searing Message to Donald Trump

Just as the Catholic Church is hypocritical about sex (particularly premarital sex), Autism Speaks seems to have turned into a hypocrite earlier this week during their annual Light It Up Blue campaign. I saw a couple of my relatives on Facebook plaster their profile pictures with a Autism Speaks filter that read, “Light It Up Blue for Love and Acceptance.” I was very skeptical about the organization’s change to their mission statement months ago, and the fact that members of my extended family chose to paint their Facebook profile pictures blue for the sake of autism awareness compounded my skepticism even further. “Autism Speaks seems to have changed their tone about autistic people, yet they’re still calling Code Blue on us. I don’t understand it,” I tweeted the morning of World Autism Awareness Day, which I call World Autism ACCEPTANCE Day. @LetsStimTonight, one of my followers, concurred with me as she replied, “I can’t trust their change of tone. If they took a moment to acknowledge the harm that they did, that they *were* in the wrong, and that those views no longer reflect their message, then maybe. Until then, I see them as the same ableist people with a more appealing mask.” This begs the question: What’s the point of a so-called “charity” like Autism Speaks vowing to do right by the group of people they claim to support only to turn back around and continue to demonize us for profit? It’s like a borderline obese man promising his wife to change his diet and hit the gym, slim down, and then two months later decides to eat a donut, a bag of Cheetos, and a hot dog, thereby reverting back to his unhealthy habits and pissing off his wife to the point where she files for divorce.

To compound matters further, Donald Trump (I REFUSE to call him President) published a proclamation on the White House website two days before World Autism Awareness Day that celebrates the contributions autistics have made to society and calls for a greater understanding of us, yet encourages further research into treatments and a cure for autism. This statement coming from the guy who has spread countless falsehoods about autism and its causes on Twitter. He even went so far as to say that a child can develop symptoms of autism after undergoing multiple rounds of vaccinations, therefore the government should put the kibosh on the vaccination program, or at the very least, require doctors to administer smaller doses of vaccines to their infant patients. And for the first time ever, Trump lit the White House blue per the suggestion of Autism Speaks co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, the latter of whom is deceased.

And now, a heartfelt letter to America’s most controversial president.

Dear Mr. Trump,

My name is Cristina, and I’m a 23-year-old autistic woman currently in her junior year of college. There are multifarious reasons why I refuse to call you President. Your stance on autism tops that laundry list. Before you were elected into office, I was extremely anxious about the laws you would write and pass that would strip every autistic person’s right to live their lives freely and independently without discrimination for their neurology. Judging by the damning tweets you wrote about autism and your Autism Awareness proclamation published on the White House webpage, I was right. You’ve tweeted countless times before your election that rigorous vaccinations have increased autism rates. As the daughter of a pharmacist, I’d like to tell you that is not the case. First off, autism is caused by a genetic mutation, NOT vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine. Anti-vaxxers like yourself believe vaccines cause autism due to the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, even though the compound has been banned from usage since 2001. Second, autism rates have increased not because there are more autistic people than ever before, it is due to advances in diagnostic methods. Whether autism has been diagnosed in early childhood, adolescence, or even adulthood–some people don’t even know they’re autistic until they hit their 40’s–autistic people may be eligible for benefits from Social Security and health insurance. For some autistic people, attaining Social Security benefits can be difficult, even with comorbid disabilities seen or unseen, such as anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, you made a proposal for Congress to slash $15.1 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services, which would make it even more difficult for us to get the funding we need to cover our health expenses. I have three more years under my mother’s health insurance plan, and once I turn 26, I’m going to have a hard time shopping for an affordable insurance plan or even apply for Social Security benefits simply because you think autistic people, with or without comorbid disabilities, aren’t good for it.

It’s one thing for autistic people to experience bullying by their neurotypical peers in public school, but for you, the most powerful man in the country, if not the world, to bully us? By proposing such laws that discriminate against us–dismantling the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–you’re turning the clock back 20 years, taking away all the rights and benefits we have fought so hard to attain. Rolling back protections guaranteed to us by the aforementioned acts can be detrimental to our overall well-being, even fatal. We’ve taken a lot of prejudice in school and at home (in some cases), but we’re not gonna take it from you. If you do anything that threatens our very livelihood, we will fight to have you impeached. That is a promise.

 

Sincerely,

Cristina Alexander

 

Advertisements

Eulogy for the Ableist

I know all of you religious folk are expecting me to read a verse from the Bible. As much as I would love to read such words of inspiration written by the hands of God, today I would like read a quote from a whole different source and explain why I chose such a quote for your dearly departed Suzanne as theologically as possible.

“Darkness sleeps in every heart, no matter how pure. Given the chance, the smallest drop can spread and swallow the heart.”
Anybody wanna guess where this quote came from? Anyone?
Since no one has the slightest clue who said this, I will tell you that the philosopher who wrote this originated from a work of fiction. Not a novel, but rather a video game produced by none other than Disney and Square Enix, called Kingdom Hearts. One of the main characters, Ansem, is the fictional philosopher in question who wrote the same words I recited to you earlier in one of his reports regarding his studies of the darkness of the heart.

Suzanne Werner-Wright, like most people, was born with a pure heart–a heart that saw no imperfections in anyone, even if they saw themselves or others as imperfect in any way. But as soon as one of her grandchildren became autistic, Wright struggled to prevent darkness from unleashing itself inside her heart. The more imperfections she saw in her grandson, the more darkness had taken hold of her heart and drove her to stomp out people with the neurology under the guise of charity.

Instead of providing us autistic people the supports and accommodations we felt were appropriate, Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.

Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of autism–high IQs, intense focus on fields interesting to us (be it STEM, arts and literature, video games, music, or even history), enhanced vocabularies–Suzanne scrutinized the complications autism brings–anxiety, meltdowns, and speech impairments–and referred our families to mental facilities notorious for abusive practices, like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and electric shock therapy, she believes are designed to eliminate our behaviors and, ultimately, cure autism.

Despite her best intentions, Suzanne NEVER advocated for the acceptance of autistic people. All she’s done in her last 11 years of life was encourage the wider society to tell us over and over again that being autistic is not okay, therefore we should be punished, or even killed if need be.

Eulogy for the Ableist caption
Black and red grunge texture wallpaper bearing the sentence, “Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.”

Take a look at me. I’ve been autistic for most of my 22 years on this earth, and I know a lot about the life of an autistic person ten times better than Suzanne has. Did I cause my parents’ divorce when I was almost 2? No. Have I ever embarrassed my family in public in any way? Maybe, but I don’t remember exactly what I did to embarrass them. Does the fact that I received speech and language therapy and acquired social skills from pre-K to 8th Grade mean that I’m no longer autistic? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I only attended one Autism Speaks walk in my sophomore year of high school, and I never went back. Suzanne’s “Call to Action” speech in Washington, D.C. two years later confirmed my decision to not walk for the organization since she deemed us and our families “not living.” Upon hearing this from John Elder Robison, who resigned from the Autism Speaks Board of Science, I plucked the two puzzle piece bracelets I got from the Autism Speaks walk out of my purse and threw them in the trash, ultimately renouncing my support for the organization.

I’m proud to be autistic, and I’m glad that I’ve met people who are on the same boat as me. Together, we are working and/or have worked to defeat every demeaning autism stereotype in Suzanne’s book. She said that we will never attend college and graduate with a degree; we are, and we have–because we have every right to an education. She said we will never leave our parents’ homes and find jobs we’ll be successful in; we are, and we have–because we have every right to live independently. She said we’ll never find love, get married, and raise children (if we so choose); we are, and we have–because we have every right to be in loving relationships.

About Suzanne’s claim that autism is like cancer–the joke’s on her. Darkness had spread everywhere in her body and consumed her before she even had the slightest decency to apologize to all of us for saying such lies about us. I understand that where she will go from here depends on the Lord’s judgment, but because she has promoted ableism against us all these years, I believe she does not deserve to spend eternity in Heaven.

If I ever have children and any of them turn out to be autistic–which is likely due to genetics–I will treat them with bountiful love and respect, and raise them to advocate for their human rights if anyone ever tells them their lives and their contributions to society don’t matter. I will never subject them to any abusive therapies and treatments Suzanne and other so-called “autism warrior parents” swear by to change them. Don’t agree with me? Then I have a special guest here to sing a song dedicated to you and all those who have supported Suzanne’s ableist endeavors.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Disturbed performing “Who Taught You How to Hate” from their latest album, Immortalized.

Good night, everybody.