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

 

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GameStop and Autism Speaks: An Unholy Union 2.0

It’s times like this when I wish I didn’t have to go on the Internet on my phone every ten minutes, with or without Wi-Fi, like everybody else.

GameStop has become the second video game company after Activision to form an alliance with Autism Speaks to raise funds for their Light It Up Blue campaign during Autism Awareness Month. At point-of-sale, employees at GameStop and it’s subsidiaries Think Geek, Spring Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Simply Mac will ask customers if they wish to donate $1 to the organization, most specifically their Family Services iPad Grant program, in which autistic children and adults living in poverty receive iPads. Only 4,000 iPads have been donated throughout the U.S. since 2012. (Really?)

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Courtesy: Gamespot

Upon hearing this news on Twitter yesterday, my anxiety levels shot through the roof. My stomach was in flames, and I felt like my heart and brain were gonna explode on me. I was too pissed off to even write about it.

I’ve been shopping in GameStop for as long as I can remember–playing demos, reading Game Informer, even talking to some employees about the latest games (mostly Sonic the Hedgehog, Kingdom Hearts, and recently Pokémon). Funny enough, I wanted to talk to some of the GameStop employees I know at the mall about this damning partnership, but they were either off or too busy stocking up on the new games that came out this week, so I left them to their devices until next time.

Aside from books, video games have always been a safe haven for me to run away from all the bullying I was subjected to in both elementary and middle school (and at some points in high school). The characters from every game I have played assured me that I can accomplish anything I want regardless of what offensive bullshit other people say to me, even if I take such bullshit to heart. Playing in the worlds of both Sonic and Sora (since Kingdom Hearts II) made me feel loved, accepted, and that I could beat all the odds. GameStop and other retailers, i.e. Walmart, Target and Best Buy, provided all that. Now, to have my favorite video game retailer associate themselves with an organization that dehumanizes the very group of people who call the virtual world a safe haven [without even so much as to conduct research on them and their cruel objective]…

I just want to scream loud enough to rip a hole in the space-time continuum. I’m heartbroken times ten.

Autism Speaks has hit WAAYYY TOO CLOSE to home this time. I won’t have it.

 

Skylanders and Autism Speaks: An Unholy Union

Looks like I’m not gonna be playing Skylanders, or any game from Activision, anytime soon.

I found out yesterday–on Leap Day, no less–that the Activision brand has teamed up with Autism Speaks for the Light It Up Blue campaign during Autism Awareness Month in April by painting a new set of Skylanders SuperChargers toys in white and blue, the official colors of the infamous autism organization. The Light It Up Blue editions of Splat and Trigger Happy, along their respective vehicles, Splatter Splasher and Gold Rusher, are now available wherever Skylanders toys are sold as part of the campaign.

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A screenshot of the Autism Speaks: Light It Up Blue edition of Splat in Skylanders SuperChargers. Courtesy: IGN

I could care less about the Skylanders franchise because I do not have the console system on which to play the game, but to hear of an alliance between one of the most popular video game companies and an organization that does not support autistic gamers makes me feel like I got stabbed in the chest just inches close to the heart.

Josh Taub, senior vice president of product management at Activision, contradicted himself when announcing the company’s partnership with Autism Speaks on the controversial Light It Up Blue campaign. Taub called autistics superheroes in Activision’s blog post, writing, “Like so many superheroes before them, they are often misunderstood or teased because of their particular abilities. They see the world differently, and even though their surroundings can feel outright hostile to them at times, their very presence makes the world a better place to those special enough to know them and support them.” It’s true, we autistic people do make the world a better place by using the abilities autism gave us to our advantage, but to say something positive about us and then turn around and join a fear-mongering organization in their efforts to further raise awareness and enhance the stigma about our neurology and eliminate us from the face of the earth through eugenics, ABA, and propaganda by painting your Skylanders products in their hospital-esque colors and selling them is beyond my comprehension. I suggest you disassociate your company from Autism Speaks and work with other autism organizations that actually support and work for us.

Autism Speaks, how fucking dare you extend your toxic stronghold of discrimination to the gaming community? There are at least 50% of gamers who are autistic, if not more, and I am one of them. Activision may not be one of the companies I purchase games from, but you still had the audacity to force a gaming company to support your prejudicial campaign by creating “special edition” products in your name. God forbid you do this to SEGA, Square Enix or Nintendo–three major video game companies I love–if you have not done so already. I will raise a lot of hell if you implore them to discriminate against their autistic fans, such as myself, by working with you.

That is a gamer’s promise.